Raven's Gift

“...with the Raven-Headed One among them.”
- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, ‘Four-Armed Mahakala’

I enjoyed a short exchange with a friend not long ago. This is someone I have not seen in a while, but whose company was always rich and rewarding. Our back and forth took place via a series of email exchanges. At the bottom of all of her notes were a number of links; one of these took me to her blog.

The site is where she shares artwork and reflections on her healing journey. Raven Transformation was the subtitle of the most recent post. Beneath this, a charcoal-like image of Raven against a muted backdrop of repurposed mail wrapping. The words ‘Expedited Parcel’ were faintly evident on the latter. As for Raven herself - her head turned sideways, allowing one eye to meet my own. In her curved beak, an object.

I do not belong to a culture that honours Raven and her ways. I am not familiar with her stories or what my friend calls her “supernatural power”. But as I sat there taking her in, a river of images and associations, intimations and implications washed through my body. A sense of communication flowed between us. A sense of communion and exchange. A feeling of transmission and instruction delivered this:

Raven travels far. On tireless wings she soars well beyond the limits of ordinary sight, well beyond the horizon of the known. From on high she sees a landscape that others do not. Her eye catches glitters and glimmers, flashes and sky-bright reflections amidst the tangles and folds of the terrain below. She perceives treasures and possibilities in what others pass over or, with notable frequency, dismiss as waste, as trash, as undesirable. 

Banking black against blue sky, she swoops to retrieve these. Then carries them home in a flawless grasp. She brings them right to my window ledge where, with a sharp tap-tap-tap on glass, she announces her presence. Dropping what she has brought - blinking night-deep eyes - Raven waits to see how I will respond.

In the Dharma Ocean lineage, Raven appears in a chant Chogyam Trungpa composed entitled ‘Four Armed Mahakala’. Accompanying the latter as “the Raven-Headed One”, she works to preserve the integrity of the teachings, to protect the in-built integrity of our lives.

How is such protection offered?

One way is by disrupting our attempts to make the journey conform to our ideas and beliefs and opinions. “The body has no interest in our keeping things together and, in fact, inherently undermines our attempts to do so.” This is a fact Reggie reminds us of in Touching Enlightenment.

Raven offers similar sabotage in the shard of coloured glass, the sea-smoothed half-shell she brings to our attention. The sudden twinge in the lower belly, the inexplicable surge of anger, the mysterious image taking shape in our soma - all we might be inclined to ignore or dismiss and all are Raven’s gift. Potent reminders that this unexpected - always this unexpected - appearance on the window ledge is our path, our journey, our very next step.

Raven blinks her night-deep eye.

Waits to see how we respond.

- Neil