• Eric "Aspen" Marley

Coyote Poo and You: Mining Meaning From the Mundane

Last night I had a good idea and I wanted to share it. Usually, if I need to be understood in a precise way, I choose to write the concepts rather than speak them. The written word is pretty immune to the “he said-she said” rhetoric. We can always go back to it for clarification or update. Or, since I tend to reflect on some issues with regularity, the written word can be helpful to ascertain the level of flogging this particular dead horse has endured. It’s hard to beat the written word for these kinds of things.

But the written word has a flaw: it requires a certain level of patience and mental engagement by the reader. We speak faster than we write, generally. Moreover, the ol’ human attention span ain’t getting longer, these days. Besides, if the words are being spoken in person or in some kind of video format, there’s the added benefit of not only nonverbal clues but voice inflection. So, deciding whether to shoot a video or write an essay has a lot to do with the complexity of the concepts I want to present, how important it is to be precise, how easy they might be to explain, etc.

For the most part, for the writing I do, I need it to be precise. I write about spirituality, the nature of reality, the shifting of consciousness, practices related to such things – if you read me, you know all this. I don’t want these kinds of things misinterpreted.

But last night, I felt that I just wanted to connect – and when it comes to doing that, a human voice is better than writing. A short video seemed like a good idea. When I do this on FB Live, I get the added benefit of seeing a few of my friends pop in and throw up a “like,” or a heart, or whatever. (Not literally throw one up – no one has been so incensed as to regurgitate an organ at this point – but you know what I mean.)

So, I brought my selfie stick to the top of the mountain where I have internet reception with the intent to shout out a hello and to share a thought.

Well, we all know how plans go and what the Universe thinks of them, don’t we?

I don’t know what or who distracted me from my plan (sounds so “victim-y”), but not only did I forget to shoot the video message, I left my selfie stick on a stump near one of the two most sacred areas of the property, the old Sun Dance arbor. Today, when I went back up there to retrieve it, I found something very interesting.

Not to put it too delicately, something had pooped on it. Upon closer scatological reflection (something we do a lot out here in the wilderness), it was a coyote.

Now, keep in mind that this stump is about 12” high. Most coyotes don’t have a poop chute that’s arranged on their anatomy in such a way to make that a very convenient “shot” (depending on the vowel we use in that word, “o” or “i”). No, Mr. Coyote had to work at this one. With all the acreage in the world, with all the flat spaces, and all the dirt, this legendary western mammal found it quite necessary to defecate precisely upon a stump.

And not on just any stump; the one that held a selfie stick. Who does this?

It was clearly inconvenient to say the very least. In all probability, he had to do some kind of Cirque Du Soleil acrobatics to arrange said waste upon a log that was certainly above his normal trajectory for such an act. The question is, “Why, oh why, Mr. Coyo-tie – would’st thou poop on a selfie stick?”

On one level, I have no friggin’ idea. But that’s not the level I’m meant to live on. It’s not the level any of us are here to live on. If you’re like me, you live in a world full of meaning. Nothing happens by mere chance. In fact, one of the first tenets of my personal “religion” is that to believe in “coincidence” is to assume a complete understanding of all the laws of the Universe and a knowledge of all Beings, including the acts of unseen ones.

Why? Let’s assume something happens that appears to be coincidental. In my world, it can be the work of karma. It can be the work of spirits. It can be an answer to a prayer I made long ago, but that I forgot about. It can be the answer to someone else’s prayer. It can be the arrangement of a situation in my life that will teach, bless or test me. It can also be the result of something entirely outside my ability to comprehend: two aliens playing dice with my world to see who buys who a milkshake at the end of the millennium. It can be Steppenwolf’s Magic Theater. It can be a sign of something important, or a reminder.

Coincidence can also be said to be a mentally or spiritually lazy condition because it dismisses any connection between two events with a mere label.

“I did this, and that just happened at the same time. What a coincidence. So, what’s on TV?” No more thought goes into it. It’s a dismissive attitude; shallow, unholy, and without curiosity.

Moreover, my understanding of the nature of reality has changed over the course of my life so much that it’s become very fluid. I may learn something today that could shift everything, and I’m open to that. Truth is the footprint of God all up in here in Marley-land. I think a lot of people in this world can understand and have experienced the idea that things are not always as they seem to be in a very fundamental way – particularly over the past few months, huh?

The question is, what, oh WHAT does this have to do with poopin’ wild dawgs with odd aim?

It’s this: in my chosen paradigm, in the way I see the world, nothing is without meaning. Nothing is coincidental. We’ve already spoken about this. So, what might this strange thing mean to me personally?

To answer questions like this it helps to consider the way we see the world. I’m heavily involved in Native American spirituality. I’ve Sun Danced many years and I sit on the non-profit board for an organization that hosts and foments that ceremony, and others. But more than that, I see my general reality through the eyes of the northern plains Indian; their understanding of nature has become my own. Yes, I have other teachings and paradigms that influence my reality – Andean shamanism, the channeled writings of both Jane Roberts and my teacher’s teacher, David Kyle. Searching my paradigms, “the mystery of the misplaced poop” fits best in my Lakota understanding.

I’ve found that that’s how the Universe works; it works with us from where we are. That’s why, when I was asked to speak to hundreds of Mormon youth a couple of years ago (even though I left the Church in 2008), I had no problem doing it. I spoke about our Sun Dance, and how they are on a “Son Dance,” vis-à-vis their relationship to and understanding of the Son of God. Am I a Christian? Not in any regular sense of the word. But in order for me to teach Christian kids about endurance, prayer, and reliance on Spirit in times of crisis, I had to speak about what they know and understand even if I know and understand something different in many ways. We can’t consciously act from concepts we don’t know about. We have to start where we are. Nor can we teach from a paradigm that means nothing to the student. So, good teachers will find something familiar and create metaphors from that place that are helpful. The Universe does the same thing for us.

The question is, then, what does a coyote mean to the Lakota, and hence, to me?

In short, Coyote is a trickster. That means that what he does not only can’t be taken at face value, but it may have a humorous context that makes us look at our own folly. Coyote will push your buttons to make you lose your temper – so you can look at your temper. Or, maybe in a more directly helpful way, a teacher with archetypal Coyote-like traits (we might call that, “carrying Coyote”) will ask a man a question for which there is no set answer, just to make him ponder.

As I pondered what “shit on a stick” means, particularly from a coyote, I realized that this tool is one of folly, isn’t it? Yes, they’re helpful, but is there any human tool that illustrates our self-absorption more than a selfie stick? This event said to me, “Marley, quit taking yourself so seriously.” It also has hints of, “’stick’ with the written word,” or maybe, “be careful with technology.” It might be an acknowledgment, or a blessing (in the contrary way of Coyote). It may be, "stop leaving your stupid human tricks in my area." It’s up to me to ponder all this – much like the teacher who asks a question to make his student go deeper in the above example. This is how Coyote works.

The point is, we are multi-dimensional beings. None of us are here solely to do what our bodies are doing. To believe we are is to believe we have no will independent of our bodily and/or 3-D needs. This view denies Spirit, Soul, and spirituality. It denies karma and is devoid of both faith and wonder – prerequisites to any spiritual work or way of being. Tragically, it also embraces the hollow concept of coincidence; something that could never be proven to exist because we can’t disprove the existence of laws of which we are not aware.

When something “random” happens to us, it pays to take a look at it and ask questions. This gives life depth and meaning beyond the mundane. It’s also one of the ways to avoid living “the unexamined life” that Socrates warned us against. These events often provide tunnels into buried psyche; old wounds, stale beliefs. Once seen, we can choose to work with them, deepening our understanding not only of the overarching nature of reality but of our own souls and path. I can’t think of a more important work for us to do – particularly as we transition out of a 3-D world that has gone awry, and that has been awry for a very long time. That needs soulful healing and depth of meaning like never before.

A coyote pooped on my selfie stick. I think I can still hear him laughing as he tells his friends of his brave and subversive deed. It’s now up to me to continue to examine what it means to me and to my progression.

Thank you, Coyote. And nice shot!

(artist: Ben Hershey)

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