Warm up games for any group

Rutherford_Book-of-Games-a_978-1-84819-235-5_colourjpg-webThis extract from Leo Rutherford’s The Book of Games and Warm Ups for Group Leaders features games and exercises to get any group energised, comfortable with each other, and ready to work together. Many of the exercises are based on Shamanic principles and are suitable for workshops, martial arts groups, classes or any gathering of people looking to feel connected to each other.

Read the extract here…

Leo Rutherford has an MA in Holistic Psychology and runs Eagle’s Wing, a centre for contemporary Shamanism. He teaches Shamanic practice including the wisdom of the medicine wheel, Shamanic journeying and trance-dance, healing the inner child, sweatlodge, visionquest and other ceremonies, dance and playfulness. The Book of Games and Warm Ups for Group Leaders is available from the Singing Dragon website now.

A woman’s alchemy – by Lindsey Wei

Lindsey WeiSince the publication of my book The Valley Spirit, many things have evolved in my life. Some of the dilemmas I faced at that time have now been resolved and born fruit. The most pivotal changes have been becoming a wife and mother, sacred roles which I strived towards throughout the journey of The Valley Spirit. Now I know intimately an alchemy of a different kind.

The first alchemy I learned was the Daoist process of transformation to immortality. Known as internal alchemy or nei dan, creating another body within the body, a pure yang—pure light body. This path may take a lifetime.

The second alchemy I knew was becoming a mother. An experience fully of the flesh and a way of the Earth, yet also the essence of the Dao, this process too was creating a body within the body.

The path from pregnancy, to giving birth, to motherhood is undeniably an alchemy of its own. There is something very mysterious and brilliant about the way that a life can enter this world—and that knowledge is saved especially for the mothers. These little beings come out from the deep unseen caverns inside the body, a new soul breathes the air of this world, a new body that never was before is created.

In the early months of pregnancy, after gazing at all the pictures in the books of how the fetus develops, and feeling this sacred thing happen within me, I realized that this would be an in the flesh experience that is cryptically described in the practice of internal alchemy that I had been learning about and being trained for all those years in China with my Shi Fu.

Wei_Valley-Spirit-A_978-1-84819-131-0_colourjpg-webThe process of internal alchemy, nei dan, can be described in 3 phases: jing, qi, shen, or: essence, energy, spirit. Jing is flesh substances, such as saliva, menstrual blood and semen. Through meditation practices these are transformed into qi, a type of energy or “power”, that then, through self-cultivation becomes spirit—a complete sublimation of body and soul to enlightenment.

The adept sets out on the path and performs certain meditation methods to spark the seed of the light body within. He then nurtures the embryo through stillness, often this is a period of 100 days. However, he must spend a lifetime preparing his nature and self virtue. He waits until one day, when the time has come, there will be a trial where the adept must pass through many obstacles of desire and hardship. If he does, the light body within will be born, and the adept’s physical body will be shed like skin. He will then be in the realm of the spirit and live on forever.

A woman’s alchemy can be likened to this process as the transformation from pregnancy, to giving birth, to motherhood. When conception occurs from the love and movement of man and woman, or heaven and earth, light comes into the woman, watering the seed of life, and the creation of another body within a body has begun. Throughout the 9 months (270 days) of pregnancy, the embryo is nurtured, and this is a period of inner meditation.

It is a time of traveling inward, gathering and storing strength, or channeling most of it into the new being. The woman prepares her cave with the greatest care for the intense journey of the birth of her child. She is waiting in a place of intuition and insight into the unseen and eternal. She wonders if it is real, this child within her, who she cannot yet see or hear in this world. There is a glow surrounding her that other people can see clearly.

When the new body has developed enough, from the food and air of the mother, the birth begins of its own accord, nature takes control. The birth is a time of perseverance, demanding the courage and strength of the mother. There is the immense pain which is a hardship she must work through and experience, but once she does, she has reached the crossroads. The child is born and breathes the air of this world for the first time, now visible and tangible, out from the caverns of the unseen it is suddenly here, and the woman becomes a mother, one of the greatest transformations she will experience in this life. She holds her baby for the first time and experiences the enlightenment of unconditional undying love. This moment is filled with the way of the Great Dao.

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The rest is the journey of motherhood, or the polishing of the self through one of the most challenging and magical mirrors…children. This, to me, is the realm of the spirit, and all mothers, including myself must strive to remember that and live in the present moment. The mother perhaps no longer has the “time for herself”, for all of her energy is devoted to caring for the new being, her seed, what lives on after her, but she realizes that that is her “self”, her immortal self.

Perhaps the tasks of the home become her daily existence; folding laundry, sweeping the floors, preparing meals. Although these new tasks may feel lesser in this society, a mother must realize them to be no different than any other task, and that they are in fact deeply meditative arts if we can be mindful in the present moment as we go about them. Therefore, all mothers are alchemists. And the Dao is the Primal Mother.

Lindsey Wei is a disciple of Li Shi Fu in a traditional Daoist lineage which stretches back thousands of years. She divides her time between living as a renounced practitioner in Wudang Mountain and teaching a select group of students in North America. Discover more about her projects in China by visiting http://fiveimmortals.com. For more information on The Valley Spirit, see her Facebook page and book page.

© 2013 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved

Novels as journeys deep into the human heart: Marte Brengle remembers her grandmother, the novelist Evelyn Eaton

Marte Brengle is the novelist Evelyn Eaton‘s eldest grandchild and only granddaughter. She is also a writer, and manages the family publishing company, Logan Books. Here, she shares some personal memories of her remarkable grandmother and reflects on the personal significance of Eaton’s books, Go Ask the River and I Send a Voice.


Photo: “Four generations of women – Gran, my daughter Meghan, me and Mom – taken just a few months before Gran died. I think it represents all that was happy about our relationships.” (Courtesy of Marte Brengle)


Your grandmother, the novelist Evelyn Eaton, lived an enormously rich and varied life. How much did all this come through when you were growing up? Or are you still finding out about her?

I didn’t know a lot about Gran’s life until I read her autobiography in 1974. She told us some stories about her life, but there was a lot she didn’t talk about. My third novel is based on her life, my mother’s, and my own, and in re-reading Gran’s autobiographical books I have had to extrapolate and fill in the blanks a lot. I wish I had thought to ask her to annotate a copy of her autobiography, because as I’ve re-read it this past year I can see she put in some very subtle hints about the parts of the story she left out. In many ways, Go Ask the River is Gran’s story just as much as it is Hung Tu’s. The paralells are quite striking. I named my son after her father, since my son was born 60 years almost to the day after his namesake was killed at the battle of Vimy Ridge.

Evelyn’s books ranged across wide territory. The two in the Singing Dragon list cover very different worlds – the life of the Chinese Tang dynasty poet Hung Tu, and initiation into Native American Sweat Lodge ceremonies. Do you think that for her there was a connection between the two?

My grandmother was always interested in the supernatural world, and the ways in which spiritual beliefs shape people’s lives. She could see the supernatural quite clearly. I think she believed she was the reincarnation of Hung Tu, and also the descendant of Native Canadians, so she herself provided the connection between the two. She always said: “There are many paths to the center, and all of them are true.”

Her book about ancient China brings to life a completely different world, and as Chungliang Al Huang’s Foreword recounts, was based on a strange and intense experience she had while a war correspondent in China. And of course as a Native American Medicine Woman, she must have carried much information she could not talk about. Was this obvious in meeting her? What was she like as a grandmother?

Gran always seemed to understand me, and what was in my mind, far better than my mother did. Even though we weren’t together much (separated by geography), I always felt I could tell her anything and ask her anything and she’d understand what I meant even if I didn’t express it properly. She understood my brothers in the same way. To me it was obvious that she was deeply connected to the supernatural world, and it was clear to some other people as well. I don’t know how she was perceived by the world at large, but clearly she was a remarkable person and would have gotten anyone’s attention.

I remember in the spring of 1975, my husband and I took the train from our home in Kansas to visit Gran in California. Gran could tell the future with a pack of ordinary playing cards and she was very good at it, although it wasn’t something she liked to do because of the possibility of seeing something bad. I asked her to read the cards for me. At the end of the process, the person whose future is being told is asked to pick three cards while thinking of a question that can be answered yes or no (without asking it out loud). My silent question was “Will I have a child within two years?” Gran looked over the cards and immediately said “The answer is yes, and if you’re asking about a child, it will be a boy.” When I was expecting my first child, my doctor – who didn’t to ultrasounds, amniocentesis or any of those things – told me she thought I was expecting a girl, so I went through the whole pregnancy thinking I’d have a daughter. But, as Gran predicted, the child was a boy, born almost exactly two years after the prediction.

Did she continue to be interested in China and the Oriental arts throughout her life?

I think she did. She always had Chinese artifacts in her homes, and she burned Chinese incense in her writing room before she began burning sage. I inherited some of the embroidered silk panels she brought back from her trip as a war correspondent. They’re faded now, but I keep them on the wall as a reminder of Gran.

Do you know what took her to the immersion in the Arapaho healing traditions that occupied the last years of her life?

If you read her autobiography, The Trees and Fields Went the Other Way, you can see how she encountered Native spirit guides very early in life. She always connected with people, and I think when she moved to California it was only natural for the Paiutes to come to trust and accept her. It wasn’t an easy path, because they were quite rightly wary of revealing too much to outsiders (and indeed, the Sweat Lodge to which she once belonged has been closed to outsiders for many years now, as Eagle Man’s descendants think differently about the inclusion of non-Indians).

I Send a Voice is such a powerful account of the process of change and becoming. Did her relationship with the family change also during that time?

We were separated by great distances while this was happening – my family in the midwest and Gran in California. She didn’t talk about it much in the beginning, so we weren’t affected by her new understanding of the universe. After my mother and two younger brothers moved to California, they got involved in the Sweat Lodge and it was clear that it had a great personal connection for them as well. I attended one Sweat Lodge ceremony and was so overwhelmed by it that I turned down later invitations to join in.

What happened to her pipe after her death?

My mother inherited Gran’s pipe. She talked about giving it to other people several times over the years, but my brothers and I always maintained that it should stay in the family. My mother left no instructions about Gran’s pipe when she died, so it remains with my second brother, who bought the house Mom lived in and took care of her during her last days. My brothers and I have talked a bit about what should happen to it but we have never really decided one way or the other.

You are also a writer – how did you grandmother and her books inspire your own writing?

Although I had done a lot of technical writing and had written magazine articles, reviews and the like, when I first tried my hand at writing a novel it took me more than twenty years to complete it! The good thing about that is that I was a much better writer by the time I finally got it done. My two published novels are stories about people trying to make peace with their pasts. No high drama and flashy action, just human stories and human nature. My third novel is based on my grandmother’s life, my mother’s and my own. It will be a very long book, covering the time span from 1902 to about 1980.

Gran’s stories were also about human problems and human nature. With Go Ask the River, especially, she went deeply into the human heart. I did not start out thinking I was going to be a writer. I tried a lot of other things before going back to the novel I’d half-heartedly started. I realized there was a better story to be told than what I’d written, and I drew on some of the advice Gran gave me when I went back to work on it. She said you have to know your characters almost as well as you know yourself. I didn’t quite manage that, because my characters kept suprising me by saying and doing things that I didn’t consciously have in mind, but I did try to keep them, and what they said and did, as realistic and true to life as I possibly could.


Evelyn Eaton (1902-1983) was born in Montreux, Switzerland to Anglophile Canadian parents, and educated in England and France. She began writing while still in her teens; her first collection of poems was published in England in 1923 (the same year that she was presented at court) and her first novel in 1925. She became an American citizen at the age of 42, and was a war correspondent in China, Burma and India in 1945, then a lecturer at Columbia University from 1949 to 1951. Partly Native American (related to the Algonquians of New Brunswick, Canada) her later years became increasingly focused on Native American culture and mysticism. She wrote thirteen novels, five volumes of poetry, two collections of short stories, and seven other books. For many years she was a contributor to The New Yorker and other journals.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2012.