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The Borrowing

Written by Joseph Carrabis

Do you have a role model? Someone you look up to and respect?

Sometimes when we’re in stressful situations, situations in which we’re not sure what to do or how to behave, we may think about our role models and ask ourselves, “What would {the role model} do in a situation like this?” or “What would {the role model} do?”

Asking ourselves such questions is part of our growth as individuals, part of our exploring our boundaries and limits. We may have to take the stage to sing a song or do a presentation, be nervous or anxious, and thinking of a role model who is comfortable doing these things, then taking on aspects and elements of their persona, gets us through with smashing success. Perhaps we know we’ve made a mistake and are afraid to confess, think about our role model and how they dealt with a similar situation, and get ourselves through it.

I know that I’ve often taken on aspects of my teachers when I’m working with people. Often I’ll take a moment before starting a work session to call upon my teachers, to invite them to be with me, and get comfort feeling their wisdom cover me like a warm blanket. Sometimes I’ll remember how a boxing teacher moved and mimic it during practice, and everyone (me most of all!) will be impressed at my skill.

And now for something completely different…
The Practice takes that “What would…do?” a bit further. It’s called The Borrowing (at least that’s the term I’ve heard used to describe it).

I have poor eyesight. You’d never want to get in a car with me driving. Susan has excellent eyesight. Sometimes I need to see some object in the distance or simply see something better and will ask her permission to borrow her eyes(ight) (one time Susan was at a conference in Florida. I described in detail a bar she was sitting in with some friends while I was sitting in New Hampshire). What happens is a combination of Going Wide (see references below), Levels of Awareness (references also below), PiggyBacking and half a dozen other things one learns when studying The Practice (there’s also lots of psychologic, neurophysiologic and neuroscientific explanations for it. Sometimes knowing this type of information helps people learn Borrowing, sometimes it hinders their learning. Figure out which you are and we can work from there, if you’d like).

I originally learned Borrowing working with many Teachers who, watching me struggle with some aspect of The Practice, would offer something along the lines of “Let me help you” or “Let me do it for you”. They would always tell me that what they were going to do was the easy part. They’d tell me I had the hard part then say, “Center, lower, breathe, relax.” (Funny that centering, lowering, breathing and relaxing is the tough part for beginners, isn’t it? Must be the world we live in.)

I would feel a strangeness. Not all the time, though. Depended a lot on my anxiety about what they were doing and how subtle they wanted to be. They could be so subtle that what they were doing would go unnoticed or perhaps only be thought of as a moment of confusion or vertigo or dizziness or a flush of heat or a touch of gas. It depended on what they were doing and how they were doing it. Sometimes I would feel as if I was moving, sometimes walking or flying and sometimes simply moving with no act of movement on my part.

The next thing I knew, I’d be seeing through their eyes or hearing through their ears. Sometimes they’d share the taste of something with me so that I could increase my sensitivity to poisons. Or their feelings of heat and wind out in the desert. Or cold in the arctic. GrandMothers Parvati, Apara and Paula, the GrandMothers of the Three Women’s Nations, shared the feelings of birth, menses, menopause, carrying a child in their wombs to term, giving birth, abortion, consensual and non-consensual intercourse and more with me.

What all were doing was letting me borrow part or all of them to do something.

You can borrow a cup of sugar, correct? You might as well Borrow the feel of that cup in their hands or the taste of sugar on their tongue while you’re at it. The only thing stopping you is you (and perhaps having some training helps. You haven’t lived until you’ve learned that what you call “red” isn’t the same thing other people call “red” and vice-versa!).

Something completely different, Part 2
It took a while for me to become comfortable Borrowing from my teachers. I learned quickly that you can’t Borrow from everyone (technically you can and Borrowing without asking is a violation of The Practice’s Principles as I understand them, so perhaps “shouldn’t” is more accurate). I learned that some people, if they accept what you can do, will gladly flood you with their pain, their sorrow, their agony and their hell in the hopes of being rid of it. Others welcome you to and gladly share their joy, their hopes and dreams.

Great stuff, that.

And one time, when I was practicing Borrowing with Grandmother Parvati and Utse (a Sami WisdomKeeper), I asked “Is it possible to borrow from animals?”

They both hugged me, kissed me and cried, thrilled at my understanding. Yes, it is. And if you think your red isn’t your friend’s red, wait until you see the world through your best friend’s (your dog’s) eyes. So vastly different it takes most people a moment to understand what they’re seeing.

Or smelling. And cats and dogs smell differently.

Or feeling. Imagine the sensation of spinning a web and climbing it.

Or tasting the wet leaves as a bull moose forages (I describe more of such things in Mani He: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires).

Some thirty-plus years ago I was taking a university course and we were given an exercise. Three of us covered our heads so we couldn’t see, hear or smell. All the other students got up and rearranged themselves (took different seats) in the room. Those of us with our heads covered were to “guess” where each student was.

The other two students got probabilistically realistic scores. I got a perfect score.

There were two profs, a man and a woman, and when my hood was removed the looks on their faces indicated confusion. Would I be willing to have a second go?

Sure, no problem.

Another perfect score.

Do it again?


This time the other students were taken out of the room and asked to wash off any perfume they may have had on. Some were also instructed to swap clothes with each other. Two of the smaller women were carried in.

I laughed and asked if they enjoyed the ride.

The professors were concerned. They’d checked my hood. It was quite secure. How was I doing this?

Easy. There was a spider up in the corner of the room. I noticed her when I first entered the room and offered her greeting. When the exercise started, I asked her if I could Borrow her eyes (all eight of them. Quite the panoptic view!) and she graciously consented.

There was uneasy laughter.

No, really, how did you do it?

I repeated my explanation. I was told, “Okay, you don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to, but we know what you’re describing isn’t true.”

So it goes.

Since then I’ve often Borrowed my dog’s and cat’s nose, eyes and ears. Sometimes and with permission I’ll Borrow the ears, tongue or skin of someone far, far away in order to understand what they’re experiencing.

As stated before, Borrowing is easy once you’ve experienced some training. More correctly, it is easier for me with the training I’ve had.

Next up, The Borrowing, Part 2 – Raven’s Gift

Going Wide Posts:

Levels of Awareness Posts:

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Joseph Carrabis

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