26 December, 2012

LATE POST: How Shamanism aids an Aging Brain

Near the end of November, I went to a conference on Behavioral Health and the Aging Brain. Although it was for my mental health job, I found myself looking at certain aspects of Neuropsychology and Neurobiology within a Shamanic viewpoint.

Many physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers spoke about the need to continually utilize the brain as humans age (especially past ~50 years or so). The field constantly emphasizes the need to learn new skills and hobbies, but this conference spent a large chunk of time focusing on Meditation (as increasing both quality and quantity of life) as treatment/prevention of mental illness and dementia disorders.

(I'm not able to directly link to the academic article used in the lecture, but here is a similar one from the magazine, Psychology Today ).

The academic article recommended a "prescription" of 5 hours per week of Meditation (any kind, as long as time is set aside for this new skill). The lecturer, from one of my favorite psychiatric hospitals (Sheppard Pratt ), stated that this prescription of Meditation, done consistently, can lead to the same sort of Deep-Brain stimulation found in more aggressive treatments of Dementia.

This blew my mind!

The field of Aging Psychology is now essentially postulating that ECTs (electroconvulsive therapies), trans-magnetic & trans-cranial magnetic therapies (TM & TCM), and other forms of Deep Brain Stimulation (read about it here ) can be prevented and/or replaced with a daily Meditation practice!

So, still with me? Now let's think about the deep brain work of Journeying, Vision Quests, Trance states, etc. How does this specific type of "Active Meditation" affect the Aging Brain?

Sadly, no one has done any brain scans of individuals who are actively Journeying (not yet, at least), but there are some small amount of data as to the biological changes of the Shamanic Brain: Biology of Shamanic states. But I like to think that Journey work can effect the same type of mental health and stamina stated above...

Although not everyone is interested or able to become a shamanic healer, I do think that with enough training, many people have the ability to Journey for themselves and communicate with some Spirits. How do you think Shamanism affects an Aging Brain (and we all have aging brains)? How has it affected yours?

LATE POST: Shamanism for Sunday School Kids!

Well, a month and a half certainly flew by! Get ready for numerous updates, cause I'm a bit behind!

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About a month ago, I was asked to help a dear friend with her Sunday School children. She was teaching a segment on Earth-based religions, and wanted to introduce the children to Shamanism by using a Guest Lecturer.

I felt very honored that she thought of me, and immediately started thinking of how to entertain a group of highly active, giggling boys for a full hour! I remember how I liked to learn at the age of 9-10; lots of visual aids and little-to-no lecturing. So I decided that I would have plenty of pictures on my powerpoint presentation, as well as tactile items, for the kids to play with.

The week before, I streamlined my powerpoint to include the very bare bones of Shamanism (what is known as Core Shamanism ) and put in lots of beautiful pictures of different cultures, different animals spirits, and different rhythm instruments. I tried using only public domain images from Google, but as Coyotes work best under time crunches, I just made sure that I at least cited everything!

I also packed my "Traveling Shaman" bag with my coyote skin, my rattle, my drum, a flute or two, and lots of stones. In my head, I figured that the kids would touch and play with the materials while we looked at pictures and talked about Spirits...

Of course, it was pure chaos.

The group ended up being about 6-7 young boys, between the ages of 8-12, and all were super-excitable and talked a mile a minute. At first, I was overwhelmed, but then I completely embraced the energy of the morning and split my concentration so I could talk to each of them all at the same time!

As I laid out the tactile materials, I realized my first mistake-- not setting up the computer and powerpoint first. Everyone was so happy to play with the stones, musical instruments, and animal skins, that it was really hard to bring everyone to focus on the pictures or the lesson. Thankfully, there were a few parents helping the boys to focus, but there was a healthy dose of, "What is that?" "A dead animal skin." "Cool!" "Can I have this rock, it speaks to me!" "How do you play this flute?"  "Did you make your rattle?" "Can we sing songs and pretend we are animals?"  "Coyotes are really cantaloupes."

Yep. I was there, and the first boy who loving stroked my fur was in a playful mood. We worked together to tell each and every person who came into the classroom, that My fur wasn't really fur, it was a Cantaloupe. I enjoyed watching him and Monika giggle every single time!
After completely giving up on any sort of lesson plan, we mostly played Q & A, and learned about Power Animals by playing with Totem Animal cards. I was wonderfully surprised as to which Animals the boys pulled, as many parents confirmed the synchronicity of each. For example, one of the most talkative boys pulled the Dog/Hound as his Power Animal, and he was sad at first (he wanted a dragon), but then spoke about all the qualities he shared with his own (real live) dog, and began to smile. Another boy played with the Golden Calcite almost the entire hour, and really felt a strong connection to the stone. The shyest of the bunch played with the flute and the drum, and was able to pull a tune out of the flute! And when he beat the drum into the correct rhythm, I was able to see a shadow around his shoulders just lift away, and he looked much more confident and comfortable the rest of the class.

If we'd had more time, I may have shown them what a Journey looked like, but as with all fun and games, it ended too soon. I was unsure if I had really taught the boys anything, and relied on the feedback of my friend and the parents.

As I was packing up, I very clearly heard Coyote saying, That was wicked fun-- let's play like this more often!  I smiled, and thanked him for his "cantaloupes", and enjoyed a wonderful lunch later that day.

10 November, 2012

Plant Shamanism: For the Love of Rosemary

I love the Rosemary plant.

Rosemary is a great friend of humanity, especially during the colder, winter season. Somewhere, in my many life experiences, I heard that Rosemary can help with depression (and SAD). Since then (I think it was during college), I've always kept a large stock handy in the fall and winter, when I feel particularly blah and lazy and unfocused.


Back in 2011, I learned to approach the Rosemary plant shamanically, with the intent to start & strengthen our relationship. After Journeying to her during my classes, I learned the following:
  • I have a yummy spicy hardy scent!
  • I can dispel Anxiety and Depression, and help to sharpen your focus so that you can Act with Intention:
    • I can stop the feeling of "being trapped in fear" when both depressed and anxious.
  • I am a brain stimulant, and can affect your levels of Serotonin.
  • I can grow in hardier soils, and I call to animals & critters which will eventually enrich the earth.
  • And I am a "conduit for Magical Intent."
Since moving to Maryland from NYC, I've added to the above list: House Guardian. I received a beautiful Rosemary plant as part of a house-warming gift, and she has taken on the role of protector and guardian of my apartment. A few months later, I learned that in old German custom, plants were often given this role: (there should be a link here, but I cannot seem to find the article via Google! Argh!).

So how can you begin a relationship with Rosemary? Talk with her. Ask to use her in cooking. Use all five senses to understand her physical presence.Grow a Rosemary plant in your office/workplace. Hang a sprig over your doorway. Keep some in your bag/pocket, and inhale the incredible scent when you need a "brain break." There's even Rosemary incense!

I enjoy cooking with Rosemary, and asking for her Healing as I eat. She pairs really well with Roast chicken, Beef stew, and sauces. If you are not much of a cook, then head to your nearest grocery store and you will see that Rosemary is used in crackers, breads, frozen dinners, veggie dishes, and even dips!

On this quiet Saturday, after cleaning my apartment from end to end, I asked for her help in relieving some of my own seasonal depression. And I baked some homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil bread:

GF bread = heaven




How will you start a relationship with Rosemary this season?

09 November, 2012

Introduction to Shamanism mini-class

This weekend will be an exciting one; I will be presenting a short "introduction to shamanism"class to a group of Sunday School kids at a DC church this Sunday!

Shamanism covers such a wide array of cultures, practices, belief systems, etc. that I'm not sure just how to shorten it for their attention span. I'm thinking lots of pictures, animal symbolism dictionaries, and rhythm instruments!

I'm hoping to figure out how to add PowerPoint slides to this website, so that you may download it. Any hints from more technical-minded readers?

Keep an eye on this space for the write-up!

02 November, 2012

The Removal of Emotional Pain

In writing a new client, I was asked about my specific shamanic skillset and training.

In my head, I giggled, because I pictured all of my fellow graduates in Avengers/Power Animals costumes! <--Coyote appreciates the hilarity.

Shamanic healers are trained to facilitate spiritual healing in a variety of ways. We can reduce pain, speed physical healing, assist with pregnancy issues, reduce symptoms of disease, etc. We can bring messages to loved ones, and receive ones for our clients. We can work with a variety of Spirits, especially those of the Land/home, and help settle the relationships between a family and their House. We bless and honor the community with which we work, and help facilitate important growth periods (and death periods). And we can call you on your bullshit, if you lie to yourself about who you are or what you do.

Each person I graduated with has exceptional skills in different areas above, and I love coming to them for my own healing.

But I am well-trained in spotting bullshit :)

My Spirits and I work together to remove emotional pain, and the emotional causes of physical pain.

In my belief-system, I understand pain, disease, and disorder to come from three different "bodies:"

My drawings are awesome.
Spirit-body:
  • The part of an organism* that can be related to Soul, Anima/Animus, Divine, etc. It resonates at a high vibration and frequency, and can be thrown out of "alignment" with thoughts, emotions, lack of spirituality, curses, etc.  This is the part of the organism that extends outwards from the physical body the farthest, and I use singing to try and bring everything back into balance. This is where disease starts (and if not treated spiritually, it can manifest emotionally and physically).
Mental/Emotional-body:
  • The part of the organism that is energetically powered by the mind and the heart. The human mind is especially powerful in causing physical disease through emotional states (similar to psychosomatic illnesses and causes). One of the most difficult symptoms of self-induced illness centers around Ruminating Thoughts, and our culture's lack of ability to Let Things Go in order to fully relax. If emotions start to take over, without proper coping skills or "venting" skills, then it can very quickly manifest into physical disease (and some even believe cancer).
  • Many Addictions begin with disease and disorder in this Emotional Body. Emotions become too painful, and are not evaluated/integrated, and so a substance is used to numb out the pain.
  • Sometimes, food allergies, pregnancy issues, and memory problems begin in this Emotional Body, and manifest physically.
  • This is the origin of Bullshit-- all the lies that we tell ourselves (and others) begin in this Body, because of difficult emotions.
Physical-body:
  •  The part of the organism most easily seen in regular, every day life. Numerous accidents, bumps, bruises, pains, diseases, etc. manifest in this Body but begin in other Bodies.
So where does your disease and discomfort manifest? Do you have a nagging pain and you don't know where it came from? Having difficulty with turning off your worrying brain at night?

Send me an email, and we will discover together what is out of alignment, and your own "Shamanic Homework" for a better life!

25 October, 2012

Further lessons in Coffee vs. Tea (by way of Acupuncture!)

My poor body.

In the past few weeks, I've had poison ivy, allergic reactions to medications (resulting in secondary infections, ugh), eczema from hand lotions (really?!), bloody noses, and extremely dry & chapped lips.

In addition to these symptoms, I've also been at extremely low energy levels. I have just enough to make it through the workday, and then I collapse onto the couch at home. Sometimes I can't even look at my computer for a few days, and my Archery exercises have dropped from 2-3 times per week to once per week.

What is going on with me?!

I crawled into my car and made my way down to one of my own healers, Niall,  for some much needed answers and a "body reset." 

In working with him, I discovered that skin conditions (and the excess dryness in my body) are related to Fire (in Chinese medicine). As he placed the needles at necessary points in my skin, I began to Journey, and ask my Spirits for healing. And this is what they had to say;

"...Hummingbird refills herself with Fire and Energy...longing for the wild solitude of the Woods...Chocolate!...take time for Silence...Release excess stuff so the Universe can refill...too much heat-- you need to explore an anti-inflammatory diet!...Red Quartz..."


(Yep, that is totally confusing, and usually how I hear the different voices in my head!)

But perhaps the biggest lesson that I learned in my self-healing work was the consequences of Coffee vs. Tea (if needed, read my previous plant shamanism posts). I have been using coffee to "refill" my Energy (spiritual energy, physical energy, mental energy), just like most other human beings! But coffee adds heat, and reduces water, and is inflammatory. My daily addiction was acutally causing many of the "overheated/over-Fire" symptoms I was experiencing!

So I've reduced my coffee way down, to only on weekends (7 days a week down to 2 days a week). And I've re-kindled my friendship with Green Tea:

Sacred Tea Plants, growing in China
 
 
Moderation is the key to Coffee's powerful Plant Medicine, and I need to remember that!

04 October, 2012

Plant Medicine and Food Allergies

As I discussed in my previous blog entry, I am learning about creating healing relationships with plants, and increasing plant medicine in my life (and my clients' lives).

I recently discussed the concept of Food Allergies with Howard Charing, during one of his lectures, and he gave a little bit of his philosophy on GMOs and the folly of messing around with plants and ecosystems. As that is a rather big topic to cover in just one blog entry, I will save it for a future article. However, he did highlight an interesting idea regarding food allergies: Howard stated that both genetic disorders (like Celiac Disease) and acquired food allergies point to a possible lesson from the specific plant.

"What is that plant trying to teach you? Why is it such a difficult lesson to learn? What function does that plant have in your life? What are you ignoring? Why are you afraid of working with that plant?"

Whoa! Tough medicine indeed!

A quick Google search shows that food allergies are everywhere, and are increasing at an exponential rate (not accounted for by population growth and better testing in labs). People can be born with food allergies, or become allergic to specific foods at a later time (sometimes after puberty, or a physical trauma, such as a car accident, pregnancy, etc.). In fact, 17 of the top 20 food allergens are plants!

What does this say about humanity's interaction with the Plant World? Sadly, not very good things (search for Monsanto, GMOs, pesticides, "The Happening" movie, etc.)...

To keep this light, and focused on self-healing, I decided to think about three plants that I interact with on a daily basis, and who give powerful medicine to the American public: coffee, tea, and wheat.

How many times have you heard, "Coffee is too strong for my stomach, but I need it anway!" or "I'm not complete without my iced coffee/tea in the morning!" or even "Pizza is my comfort food!"...? We've all said or heard something similar to this, especially if we grew up in the States. The magic surrounding these plants can lift someone out of a funk, or energize, or even create community among strangers (Starbucks, anyone?).

  1. Coffee: Ahh, the smell of freshly roasting coffee can stimulate the senses of just about anyone, whether you like the taste or not! I can think of a million different memes surrounding the necessity and evils of coffee, and most of my friends post them to Facebook daily :) America has created a very large and very specific type of "magic" around the abilities of coffee, and this "thought-form"* is unlike any other culture's. But what about the shamanic plant medicine of Coffee? What is the nature of the relationship it has with humans? What about your own relationship with coffee?
  2. Tea: Camellia Sinensis- the Latin name for one of my favorite plant medicines. This plant has been held sacred for years, in numerous cultures, and contains all four elements (air = steam, fire = heat, water = brew, earth = leaves). It takes time, patience, and focus to brew a perfect cup of tea, which are all lessons in and of themselves. However, the previous lessons are lost when the tea becomes over-sugared and over-processed, and just like another soft drink at McDonald's.
  3. Wheat: Comfort. That is the first word I think of, when I think of the smell of freshly baked bread, and in the States, almost all of our stereotypical "comfort foods" are made with wheat flour. But what happens to that loving comfort medicine when the wheat flour is over-modified, over-glutinous, and fried? How can the medicine hope to heal us then?
There are countless debates and worries about the genetic modification of food, and the chemical changes that occur during certain types of cooking, and I've always looked at those from a health perspective. But what about shamanically?

If a plant is offering a part of itself in relationship with humans, then that is the most perfect gift of healing. It can be difficult for the healing to take place if the plant has been modified or changed in a drastic way...

What plants are healing to you? And what plants do you have difficulty with? If you are learning how to interact with the world in a more shamanic way, then why not ask the plant itself?

*Though-form- This is a type of "created archetype" that is shared by a community, culture, age group, etc. The archetype gathers enough symbolism that eventually, it's presence/energy becomes part of the common knowledge of a society.

30 September, 2012

Plant Shamanism lecures

Recently, I have been listening to Howard Charing's online lectures on Plant Shamanism, and how to work with plants for personal healing and Earth healing.

It is incredibly interesting, and I am also amazed at how far technology has advanced! I am online in Maryland, and he is online in Romania, and many of the other students are from all over the world (South Africa, the UK, across the US, etc.).

In the past two lectures, I've listened to him describe how to begin relationships with plants. Most of his relationships are with plants from the Amazon, and they have wonderful healing properties. However, I am not making my way there anytime soon, and so I want to work with what's around me here in the Eastern US.

As a Druid, I am immediately drawn to trees. I have found that trees function as a "stress buster" for me; on particularly rough workweeks, I have an almost visceral need to take a walk in the woods to relax!

The Celts also had a great love of trees, so much that they based an entire language system on them! (See Ogham writings for more about the language of trees). 

In listening to the most recent lecture with Chris Kilham, he mentioned something about the bio-chemical exchange that happens between plants and humans, and quickly touched on the increase of neurotransmitters in the human brain. Sadly, I've been trying to research more about it, but can't seem to find additional information (I think a personal email is in order). Essentially, there is an exchange of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide between humans and plants, and increased Oxygen is important in increasing relaxation (that's why there are countless articles on Deep Breathing techniques to reduce heart rate, anxiety, fear, etc!).

But Chris also mentioned increases in Serotonin and Dopamine, caused by chemicals released in the leaves of trees and other plants. Both of those neurotransmitters are key in increasing happiness, general well-being, reducing anxiety & depression, and stabilizing mood. In fact, these two neurotransmitters are the most directly affected by psychiatric medications (see information about SSRIs)!

Essentially, modern science is aligning with shamanism, in a wonderfully circular way. Shamans learned through their relationships with plants that many trees interact with humanity to help us feel grounded, relaxed, and comforted. As we have increased our stress & reduced our interaction with nature, we've missed out on the benefits of sitting with trees.

Many of us have watched the news, and learned that prescription medications for anxiety and stress are at an all-time high, and that many parents and schools are trying to introduce "nature therapy", because of the worry that kids are more stressed out, anxious, and fearful than in previous decades. Science is trying to help us increase our serotonin and dopamine via medications, which is extremely beneficial to those with diagnosed mental disorders.

But why not add a "prescription" for a weekly walk in the woods? In discovering relationships with Trees, I have learned that they want to help humanity live better. Apple trees are especially fond of us, and their fruit is healing in countless ways (there's a reason for the old axiom, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away!").

How many of you think you might add a "Prescription for Nature?"




Note: For those of you who haven't already read my disclaimer, I am a firm believer in the complementary methods of shamanism with traditional medicine, NOT as a replacement for it. DO NOT read this article and replace needed medications with Nature Walks!

22 September, 2012

What happens on a Healing Appointment?

As I work with new individuals, I am often asked, "What should I expect on an appointment with you?"

Each shaman usually has his/her own routine, that can give a basic structure to the ritual (but also allow room for spontaneous changes/additions). Most of the time, I am able to follow this structure, but sometimes, the Spirits flood my brain with images and I end up doing something completely different!

After I welcome a new client into my home/office, I take care of a few hospitality issues (Water? Need the restroom? Nervous-type questions?), and we make our way into my altar room. I will have my drum, rattle, stones, plants, etc. prepared, as well as a soft mini-bed for the client to lie on. I'll also set up a few pillows for the friend/loved one who has come to witness the Healing, and give moral support for the client (bringing a friend is always welcome, and can take away a lot of the anxiety!).

Once everyone is as comfortable as can be, I begin by honoring all the Spirits that will bear witness to the Healing Ceremony, as well as those that are protecting it. I have songs for different types of Kindred (Gods/Goddesses, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits/Genus Loci), and invite Everyone that I think will help out the client's healing process. I then call to my own personal Helping Spirits, and merge* with one (or more!) of them.

Of course, I'm doing all of this with my eyes closed, which I'm sure makes for funny faces while I'm singing! But once I've set up this ritual, and I've reached that point of Grace & Sacredness, I'm ready to See What's Really Going On.

Sometimes, clients will tell me what they think is wrong with them, or what causes them the most stress. Other times, clients won't say a word. In the end, it doesn't matter which happens, as I'm directed to the areas that need specific healing for that specific day.

So, after all that prep, I open my eyes, and take a Look at the client both physically and in my head. Sometimes I drum over them, to help clear away the shadows that can appear to try and trick me. Essentially, I am looking over areas that are filled with pain or dis-ease, and removing the "spiritual gunk" that is there. Once I've removed all that is to be removed for that day (and it can be a completely different area than the client mentioned!), I return the client's power to him/herself, in the form of Soul and/or Power Animals. The returning of Power is one of the most important parts of the ceremony for this reason:

Nature abhors a vacuum-- if a shaman takes something away, but doesn't refill it, something Else will fill it. And it won't be natural...

After I have brought back the client's Power, I seal him/her up with stones, crystals, plants, etc. Anything that speaks to me in that moment, that will resonate and amplify the client's own personal power.

And that's about the bare bones of it! Sometimes, a Helping Spirit will hijack the Journey I'm taking inside my head, in order to deliver a personal message to the client. And sometimes I'll do things in reverse order, so that I can increase the client's power before I take away any shadowy-gunk. As many of my clients know, sometimes I will See something so powerful and inexplicable that it takes a bit of stuttering before I understand the message that's passing through me (but I'm getting better/clearer as I gain experience)!

Many of my Healing Appointments take place in my home, as all of my tools and materials are there, and I am centrally located to many people. However, I do also offer Skype (online) healings, as well as "Traveling Shaman" healings, in which I drive to you in your home. How do these differ? Is there any change in the effects?

Nope. None. Nada.

The magic of shamanic healing is not in the physical presence of the shaman, but in the ability of the shaman to petition the Spirit World for Healing on the client's behalf. As that petitioning happens in the Spirit World in my head, I do not need to physically be there, or to have it occur at a "sacred space."  The songs & invitations to the Spirits make any place sacred, whether it's someone's home, or the constructed space of the Internet!

I hope this article answers some of the questions that many of you may have, and feel free to email me with any more!

*merge- What is merging? A shaman merges with his/her Helping Spirits in order to stay protected when battling shadowy-gunk and searching for the client's Soul/Power. This work can be draining and dangerous without merging, as we are only human animals Journeying in a magical Spirit World!

03 September, 2012

A symbol is needed!

Calling all artists! Especially those who can draw better than me:


I swear that my ears really aren't that big...

Anyway, I'd love to create a symbol or image of some sort that I can put onto business cards, online articles, blog posts, etc.  Something more than just the serene gaze of a Coyote looking out across the distance...

It's got to symbolize the combination of hilarity and healing, as well as unique. Got any ideas?

27 August, 2012

Giving birth to the Great Project

It's almost September already, and I feel like this year has zoomed by!

I graduated from Gryphons Grove School of Shamanism at the end of April, took a month to catch my breath in May, and began my professional healing practice in June. I've had three excellent months of meeting new people, working with them on their private concerns, and solidifying my relationships with all the Spirits in my head, as well as meeting some new ones (see how I met Artemis!).

As I've continued to balance both my physical work of Psychologist with my spiritual work of Healer, my Spirits hit me with a profound question:

What do you want to do with your Training?

This question knocked my off my paws, because in truth, I hadn't really thought about it! I had just assumed that after graduation, I would become a professional healer, and work with those who found their way to me in Parkville, MD.

Not good enough, they said in my head. Too easy.

And they're right. It's too easy to just write a blog and hope that people find me in my corner of the world. It's too easy to just begin healing relationships with those the Universe sends my way for teaching. It does not honor the Gifts that the Spirits give when they work through me, because how can I possibly try to explain everything that clients should know in only 1-2 hours?!?

So I tried to figure it out. I pulled some cards, and then some Runes, and then some different cards, and then called all my fellow graduates for their advice, and spun around in circles.

I was avoiding thinking about it myself. On my own.

So I sat outside and I thought. And pondered. And even cogitated while ruminating during a walk (try to picture that in your head!). And I came up with a few different strong ideas.

I went back to the cards. Should I combine my Shamanic Training with a therapy license? Hell no! they said, as that would lead to all kinds of chaos and misunderstandings and legal confusion and malpractice crap. Should I write articles for blogs and maybe magazines about the interconnectedness of mental illness and soul loss? Getting closer, we like it... I heard in my head. Should I write a book? Ding ding ding she got it, before the Two-by-Four came out!

Holy sheisse! A book! I was so overwhelmed by the idea that I didn't touch the cards or talk to the Spirits for another three days!

When I thought more about it, and talked it over with a few different trusted friends, many were excited by the idea. I still felt very anxious and shy about it, and would find that my fingers would seize each time I thought about the enormity of the idea.

But the Spirits had some excellent selling points; This is not necessarily a book for others, this is primarily a lesson for you to grow some confidence, experience, and discover what you have to offer the world. You are no longer a student, you now need to learn how to be a teacher, and that type of Energy Shift is massive and expansive. 

Once you have finished writing a book, you will know what we want you to Say and Do.

Well, alright then. Here's to the birth of the Great Unknown Book Project!

25 August, 2012

Stick a needle in a coyote and what do you get?

... A surprisingly relaxed Coyote!

Today, I visited one of my favorite healers, Neighborhood Acupuncture. I've visited them every few months for the past year and a half, and have become good friends with some of the practitioners there.

Now, as someone with a few tattoos and regular blood tests (yay modern medicine), you'd think I'd be all right around needles. And for the most part I am; I don't enjoy it, but I can turn my head away and take a deep breath and think of something else for a bit. But although I'd always been interested in acupuncture, I would shake with anxiety every time I approached an office. And then we'd slink away, tail between our legs.

Maybe it was the mystery of it, or the unknown amount of pain it might entail, but I never had enough guts to just do it.

Until I met the practitioners at Neighborhood Acupuncture in Laurel, who explained the steps of an appointment exactly, and described the varying ranges of "uncomfortability" when inserting the sterile, thin needles. But perhaps the biggest selling point for me was the fact that I could look at a group of the patients, all with needles in them, and all of them zonked out in full sleep mode on their chairs!

Each walk-in appointment is pretty much the same for me; I walk in, give a few hugs, describe my symptoms (either physical or mental!), and take a quick restroom break (nothing worse then laying down in a chair and having to pee!).

The acupuncture chairs that this office uses are amazing. They start in a regular seated position, and can be tilted back and locked into place, so that your body makes a comfortable "V" shape. After I'm lying down, the practitioner will take my pulses radially (on the wrists, both sides) and say something wonderfully cryptic and wise, "Oh! You shaman-types are always in the Metal!", and begin opening the sterile needle packages and inserting them on different parts of my body.

The main parts that I always seem to get "stuck" are the forearms, shins, tops of my feet, and hairline/forehead. Sometimes, I'll have a few in my hair, too!

Most of the time, I can't feel the needles at all. At All. They are so thin, and they barely go into my skin, that all I feel is something similar to the lightness of a fly landing on my bare skin. But on occasion, there will be one or two needles that I can definitely feel...and they sting a bit going in (sort of like the pain that comes from stepping on a small stone when you're barefoot).

However, no matter how much I suck my teeth when the stinging ones go in, once they are in, the pain vanishes in 5-8 seconds, and so does a large amount of tension that was also there (tension I didn't even realize I had).

After the needles are in, the practitioner leaves the room, and I am zoning out to the soft lighting and soothing background music. Within minutes, I'm in sleepy-time land, and my thoughts sort of go all over the place. Most of the time, I can see my Helping Spirits next to me, but if I open my eyes, they pop out of my regular vision. But mostly, I just breath in and out, in a light nap, and try to release all the stress of the workweek.

I've had some profound "Aha!" moments, daydreaming in the acupuncture chair, although it may have taken 15-20 minutes of going through my day in my head to get there. I've also had a lot of "Duh!" moments (what Coyote et al call "Two-by-Fours"), too, in which I've found the answer to a problem because I've finally sat down and thought about it. 

And on other occasions, I've just enjoyed a nap, and felt relaxed and slightly "buzzy" from it, and woken up to find a Nature Spirit was relaxing along with me:
Yes, this is totally a spider hanging on the acupuncture needle that's in my foot!
I would recommend acupuncture to just about everyone, although I would caution that you check out a practitioner's credentials first. Neighborhood Acupuncture displays their awards and certifications right inside the door of the office, so that you may ask questions about their education and experiences.

Maybe I'll see you at my next visit!

12 August, 2012

A funny synchronicity about Artemis...

I've been practicing my archery skills for a little over ~4 months now (see my previous post about Red-Tailed Hawk!), and I've started to feel a bit of a poke in my brain from a Goddess of Archery...

Synchronicity, in a shamanic perspective, is one wonderfully obvious way for a Spirit or Deity to begin communication with a shaman. For me, it begins with with a lazy daydream or an idea about a particular animal or myth. I'll Google it, and then read a particular line or two that really make me think about either a deity's philosophy, or I'll start seeing a particular animal Everywhere.

I had enjoyed some of Artemis' mythology, and was interested in getting to know Her a bit better. But I wasn't quite sure if she was interested in talking with me. So I "set up" a way for the Universe to give me a really obvious sign. This set up has to have a few mandatory items:

1. A specific physical manifestation (either a picture in a book, words in a song on a radio, etc. Nothing too difficult, or else the Universe can't make it happen).

2. Time-bound (this is extremely important! With my Coyote-brain, we can only pay attention for 30 minutes max, or we start to think about other things. If a request is not time-bound, then the Universe could answer it when I'm not paying attention!).

3. An outlet, or "back-door", so that if the answer is "No", the Universe will just not make an obvious sign or omen.

So, to determine if Artemis and I should be better acquainted, I stated, out loud, at the beginning of my day, "I would like to find a statue of Artemis with a bow & arrows to purchase. I would like to find it by the end of my day in southern Maryland, and if it is not meant to be, then it will not be in any of the stores I visit today."

After hanging out with my friends, we entered a pagan shop, and I began looking at the shelves. Immediately, I find a gorgeous statue of Artemis behind a few Norse statues, and she has a bow & arrows!

There were no other statues of Her in the shop, nor of Diana or other women of the woods, so that was my "Aha!" moment from the universe. She wanted to get to know me as I was getting to know Her!
I love her antlers, howling wolf, and the fact that she is standing on the Moon!
Omens like this always have a bit of a "trick" to them-- I realized this as I brought Her to the cashier. I turned her over, and saw that she was $62! Oooooof! That was about $30 more than I had planned to spend today, but as I had asked, I made the commitment and purchased the statue.

I'm looking forward to the beginning of a new relationship!

What funny synchronicities have affected your life?

06 August, 2012

How a Coyote learns a lesson in Focus from Red-Tailed Hawk

One of the most difficult things for me, during Journeywork, is to maintain my focus on the images that are flowing through my head, and to follow them to their logical (or bizzare) conclusions.

Working with Coyote, who likes to flit about as much as I do, it's doubly hard. On the one hand, I've gotten very good at splitting my attention in at least five different directions. I can hear one animal in part of my head, see a shadowy intrusion inside a client, hear my teacher's voice singing her sacred songs, blink and visualize my hands into paws with claws, and listen to my client's questions.

However, on the other paw, when working with Bear, he is very specific about the level of intense focus I need for certain workings. It can be dangerous, if I am not paying full attention, and I can lose myself, or a part of a client that I am bringing back.

I am not the best person for fully focused mediation, preferring activities that keep both my body and mind busy on a task. So when I supported friends at an archery contest, I immediatley saw this as a way to learn intense focus. In a funny synchronicity, my mother told me that she used to practice archery for almost seven years! I took that as my "Aha!" moment (my Two-By-Four from the Universe) and purchased a bow and arrows.

Upon driving up to Lancaster Archery in PA, I saw numerous birds of prey fly by the car. They were all Red-Tailed Hawks:
from Pat's Backyard Bird Cam
Red-Tailed Hawks have famously focused vision and intense concentration. They also have the easily-recognizable screech used in countless ads and movies (the sound I sometimes make when I don't want to wake up).

I saw the same large amount of Red-Tailed Hawks driving back to Maryland, after purchasing my bow, and so I decided to ask for the Hawk's blessing of my endeavor, and of my bow. I painted a small image on the arrow rest, and have named my bow Red Hawk, in honor of the new relationship and skill I hoped to have with him.

I've been at the range for a little over two months, practicing this new skill. And it is hard. I am not using sights, only instinct, pure focus, and the visualization of the Red-Tail Hawk next to me. I'm not really hoping to ever hit a bull's eye, or hunt, as this is a purely meditative and magical practice.

But I have noticed an increase in my ability to focus, both at work, and at tasks at home. In my Journeys, I've found that I can bring myself back to my visions quicker (if I start to meander), and they are clearer and more grounded in my senses of taste, smell, hearing, touch, and vision...

Ok, now I'm taking the keyboard away from Monika-- she really just wanted to show off her "Katniss" impression!!!   <-- Coyote, duh.


Oh yeah!

23 July, 2012

Another step in my journey of Reiki Healing

Hurray and Huzzah! I received my Reiki IIIB healing attunement at Free Spirit Gathering this past month!

Full Teacher Level!




This achievement has been about 3 years in the making. I first heard about Reiki from my Senior Druid, back when I was a member of Grove of the Other Gods, ADF. I was having a bit of manic anxiety and high levels of stress, and she offered to give me a session. Immediately, I felt a tingling sensation over my shoulders and back, and could actually feel the calming, soothing energy flow out of her fingers and into my body. For the first time, I was able to actually feel something real!

During my first pagan festival, I saw that Reiki attunements were being offered, and I was a bit wishy-washy on signing up. Eventually, I swallowed my nervousness (Would I be able to feel anything? Would it work? I'm not Japanese, does that matter?), and went.

My teacher was very knowledgeable, practical, and logical. She was able to explain Reiki energy and healing in a very scientific, non-flighty way, which eased many of my fears. I received my first Reiki attunement, and as my eyes were closed, daydreamed a bit about what I might feel. Funny enough, I saw blobs of colors behind my eyelids. But mostly, I just felt a real sense of "Aaaahahhhhhh!" and well-being. Very content, and peacefully happy.

As I worked more with Reiki, and read articles on pain management and mental health effects, I wanted to learn more, and to be able to pass along those feelings of contentment to others. Each year, I saved enough money for the next step in attunement. And this year, I received my full Teacher-Level attunement!

What does this mean for my future? Well, I am currently re-structuring a Reiki Grid in my Home/Office/Altar room, so that those who wish it may receive continual Reiki energy in a passive, loving form (re-charged every 24-48 hours). I am studying my manual, in the hopes that I may learn how to give Healing Attunements during Healing Appointments (both in-person and remotely). And eventually, I'd love to teach others how to facilitate Reiki in their own lives, by giving attunements and classes!

Do you have any Reiki stories?


10 July, 2012

Stuffed Monkeys need healing, too!

A few of my more recent healing appointments have been remote healings, and so I thought it might be a good idea to describe what may occurr during these appointments.

Essentially, the only main difference between remote healings and in-person appointments is the physical presence of the client. I set up my room the same way, I set up the blankets and furs/pelts the same way, and I make sure that I have my stones, tools, drum, rattle, and other items.

But instead of having the client sit or lay down in the middle of my room, I use either a picture, or a stuffed animal to represent who I'm working on:


(I'm a big fan of monkeys, so I have many to choose from for remote appointments!)

And then I conduct the appointment, following the same guidelines learned in school or spontaneously given to me by my Spirits.

Because I am not directly interacting with my client, I may give guidelines over the phone/via email before the appointment, along with follow-up questions afterwards. I continue to give support, and the client works with his/her healing in the same way (as if s/he was in my room).

The greatest benefit of remote healing appointments is that they can be performed with a person who is not physically there. This is helpful for those with physical disabilities, travel restrictions, military personnel, young children, etc.  


28 June, 2012

Deer Antlers

Free Spirit Gathering was a wonderful experience. For the first time in numerous years, there was not an official Shamanic Healing ceremony in the Labyrinth, so me and many of my friends relaxed and worked on our own healing. I received my Reiki IIIB attunement, and observed a healing with Phoenix fire in order to facilitate a healing for a friend. Many of us also received acupuncture and energy healing from Neighborhood Acupuncture.

On the last day, we learned that the woods around the Labyrinth had been clear-cut and treated with heavy-duty pesticides. This was a bit of a shock, as the area always had such wonderful energy for healing and meditation. My friends and I walked to the Labyrinth, bringing gifts of milk, honey, wine, and song. As I asked for healing for the land, I spotted a two-point deer antler, shed by a buck a while ago. I brought it home, cleaned it up, and tried to figure out its message.

In a wonderfully psychic twist, upon arriving home and booting up my computer, I saw that my sister had emailed me a few random articles about the mythology of Deer! I read and learned that Deer, and especially Antlers, pointed to lessons of Transformation.

This summer has definitely been one of Transformation for me, as I learn to incorporate my shamanic training with my professional job and my private spiritual healing practice. One of my biggest lessons is to not over-analyze my intuition, and not over-speak during healing appointments. I try really hard to help my clients understand what I see in my visions during appointments, but I think that the more I describe, the less it makes sense, and the magic can sometimes be taken away with too much talking.

As I grow in experience and confidence, I hope that I will know just the right thing to say in order to facilitate healing, and that my own brain doesn't get in my way!

13 June, 2012

Healing Ceremonies for the Community

This weekend, I will be attending the Free Spirit Gathering, in Darlington, MD.


I first attended this festival a few years ago, while I lived in NYC. This place is where I had my first Shamanic Healing Ceremony. This place is where I met my Teacher, Caroline Kenner. And this is the place I return to, year after year, in order to "reset" my brain, get away from my normal, everyday life, and work on my own Healing.

Last year, I was a Senior Student of Gryphons Grove School of Shamanism, and worked with a few of my classmates and Caroline in performing daily Healing Ceremonies at the Labyrinth in the Woods. I really enjoyed the experiences, as I was able to trust my vision the more clients I worked with. I also grew in confidence, and learned how to trust my instincts when faced with things I've never seen before.

This year, I may not assist in as many Healing Ceremonies, as I am looking forward to my own growth and healing. I hope to join a Sweat Lodge, as my last Sweat was over a year and a half ago. I got a good purge during the Purge Ritual in April 2012 (see my write-up about it here), but I feel that a deep, powerful, soul-cleansing Sweat would help me reset and integrate some of my more recent life experiences and lessons.

I look forward to meeting many of you Readers there, and to give Healing back to the community that has been so supportive of me!

11 June, 2012

Cross-posting for a friend regarding the philosphy of Magic

June is quite a busy month! I had my very first private, professional healing ceremony, and now the floodgates seem to be open (the whole month is almost fully booked already).
I read a well-written article by a friend of mine, which discussed an interesting philosophical viewpoint of magic in a Druid context. As with all personal blog entries, I agree with some of his views, and not quite others (in the same way). But it certainly got me thinking about how Shamanism falls in between Magic, Therapy, and Divine Healing.

Enjoy!

(original article can be found here)

"To begin with a discussion of magic in Druidry, one must begin with a discussion of magic in modern Neopaganism and the occult movements as a whole.
Most definitions of magic trace their roots back to Aleister Crowley's: to him, magic was "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." Crowley commonly spelled "magic" as "magick," using the "k" to differentiate the occult from prestidigitation, which comes and goes in favor (currently, most Druids use the term "magic" without the "k," while other magical and occult traditions prefer the "k" in their spelling).
Modern occultists will often divide their magical work into two categories: thaumaturgy (typically described as magic done by the authority of the practitioner), and theurgy (typically described as magic done in partnership with authoritative beings, such as deities or spirits).
Most of the modern traditions of Neopaganism deal in classical magic that you might expect when you think about the Hollywood versions of the paranormal: spells that reside in cookbook-like repositories that work because they are magical or secret. These are the "double, double, toil and trouble" spells that we think of, and they are remarkably common.
Magic in Druidry is somewhat different than it is in other areas of modern Neopaganism. Instead of being focused on the authority of the individual for its power, it is focused on the idea of the deep relationship, that concept I referred to as "*ghosti." Here, the idea is not that we "command the spirits through our authority," but rather that we have built up a relationship that involves the exchange of gifts and favors that are balanced and reciprocal.
Within our rituals, we honor a being called the "Gatekeeper," who is asked to uphold our work in our rituals and to "open the ways" between worlds. Very commonly, you will hear a telling turn of phrase, which is, "Gatekeeper, join your magics with mine. . ." And with that, we do the magic that creates the center of the worlds and allows us to access the spiritual world more freely.
This phrase points to a specific theological point in our magic: we believe that we have a relationship with the deities (and other spirits) that allows us to work with them (rather than to lord over them with our authority, or to beg them to do work for us). It also says that we can do this work ourselves, without their help, if we so desired. . . but that we prefer to do this work with them.
The way we conceptualize magic is also a bit different than other organizations within the Neopagan community, as well: while most traditions cut themselves off from the mundane world (by casting a circle and creating a "temple between the worlds"), ADF ritual does not do this. Instead, it magically creates a "sacred center" from which all places, times, and things are accessible. You might consider it a "crossroads" where all things can be affected.
If any outer limit to the space is defined, it is often stated that "the grove extends to the edge of the light of the fire," or, if we put it a different way, those who can stand to view the light of the fire are welcome at it. This conception of being "at the center" is very much influenced by Eliade's work, and you will often find the notion that we can (and do) influence events by "overlapping" centers. A quote from Joseph Campbell comes to mind: "The center is everywhere, the circumference nowhere."
The most common magical work that is done probably falls into three categories:
  1. we work magic to open the Gates in ritual,
  2. we work magic to draw the Blessings of the Kindreds into Waters that we may receive blessings and empower individuals to do work on behalf of the Earth Mother, and
  3. we work magic to heal or empower the Earth Mother directly.
It is not common for us to do work for ourselves in public ritual, though we might do healings for others, or work to help others find jobs, or things like that.

I mention Eliade and Campbell above: one thing that we do that is very different than older traditions (we were, after all, founded in 1983) is to look at what we're doing with a critical, scholarly eye: our religion is a bit postmodern in its creation and development. This extends to both common liturgy and to magic. We read Malinowski with Crowley, or the Encyclopedia of Religion with the Corpus Hermeticum. It's religion with homework. :)"

What are your thoughts on magic? How do you think Shamanic Healing works?

01 June, 2012

"Hello stranger, can I ask you about your spirituality?"

I've had a bizarre week.

During my social hours, I've begun a new friendship*. I met this person through a group of friends, and so it was pretty easy to integrate her into the rest of my group's silliness and laughter. However, I've been having dreams and strange flashes about her all week!

 It first began when we were all trading embarrassing stories from our childhood-- things that seemed so traumatic back then, but are ridiculous with the hindsight of experience. She spoke about a particular experience when she was 13, and how she called for help for a situation, but didn't receive any. As she told the awkward finale, I immediately blinked, daydreamed an image of shadowy intrusion, and then blinked back to normal vision. I thought I might have projected the image, so I ignored it.

Ha ha ha, guess you can see where this is going...?

I dreamed about her that night, and she had somehow been injected into one of my mundane work dreams... paperwork, computers, plants, teaching classes, etc. Because the dream was so boring, I ignored it; didn't even write it down in my Dream Journal.

Again, she kept popping up. Random conversations, text messages that came through right as I thought about her embarrassing story, etc. It wasn't until she commented on my Gryphon pin (that I purchased in honor of my Shamanic School) that I got the "Duh!" moment from the Universe!

This woman may have a spiritual intrusion that is affecting her daily life, and she might benefit from a Healing Appointment.

But ugh, now I'm in a horrible dilemma. I just met this woman not too long ago-- how do I even bring up something like this in conversation? Do I just give her a business card, a laptop, and stand behind her, holding my breath until she declares her interest/disinterest? Do I not say anything at all, and wait for her to bring up the topic of Religion and Spirituality? Do I wait and wait and wait until my Spirits are so impatient with me that I end up calling her spur-of-the-moment and babbling about what I've seen inside my head?

Of course, those are exaggerations, and I would never do any of them, as they would make another person terribly uncomfortable. But I am finding myself trying to balance my fear of looking like an idiot (when discussing this type of healing with someone new) and responding to my "duty to inform" when I know I've seen something Real...

What would you do? How would you gently approach this topic?

*Note: I maintain strict confidentiality on this site, so numerous details have been changed to protect privacy. So even if you think you know who I'm writing about, you don't.  :)

23 May, 2012

How Coyote works best at rehabilitation clinics

Healing through Laughter: that's been my motto for the entire length of time that I've worked in the mental health and human services fields. However, Coyote is not usually the first Spirit that comes to mind when thinking about Healing...usually it's Bear (who is a great lover and healer of humanity), or sometimes Wolf, or even a variety of birds (Eagle, Osprey, Hawk, etc.). And while I enjoy working relationships with many of the above, Coyote and I work best in large groups.

Humor, as a social construct, is difficult to teach, and difficult to explain. Who can tell what one will find amusing, or the difference between "laughing with someone" versus "laughing at someone?" Throw in a thought-disorder and it becomes doubly difficult.

Coyote's tricks are usually played out as tricks upon himself. He becomes the safe person to laugh at/with, because he's already done something so idiotic, and failed, that he is the first (and loudest) person to begin.
by Kippenwolf, at Deviantart.com

This is both liberating and humiliating energy to work with; I have been able to help dissolve lots of tense, emotional outbursts by gently creating a safe place for a client to laugh. And not just a small giggle, but a full-out belly laugh.

On the other hand, I've had to quickly get rid of any pride, as I sometimes end up looking like an ass at work...

For example, our clinic is setting up a cook-out and game day before the holiday weekend. One of the games involves finding a piece of gum buried in a mountain of whipped cream, without using hands or arms. If any of you readers have worked in the human services field, you may know that very few people would want to play this game, unless "someone else" goes first.

Of course, I volunteered, eagerly, to be the "someone else."

As my fellow co-workers laughed with me, I was asked, "Why do you always want to look like a fool in front of the clients?"

And I responded with, "It's not always about looking like a fool. It's about taking that chance to do something silly and fun, and not caring what you look like. I'm trying to role-model an appropriate response to the emotions of anxiety, embarrassment, and social isolation. Because our clients will have to learn how to laugh at themselves in a way that makes them feel safe and secure."

If you think about it, it's not just those receiving mental health services that need to learn this social skill. Everyone does. How much stress is generated from worrying about how someone perceives you? Or ruminating over an embarrassing situation? How much uncomfortable energy is generated trying to control things that no one can control?

Laughter completely changes the energy of a situation, and can even flip the perspective of the person dealing with these emotions.

Laughing at one's self for situations out of one's control is a great skill, and not everyone learns how to do it right away. That's why it's important for Coyote's energy to work in this manner, to allow a safe place, a middle ground, so that laughter can be shared without the fear of hurting someone's feelings.

I look forward to winning the Bubble Gum race, and wearing my whipped-cream smile with pride!

06 May, 2012

Graduation!

Yahoo! I've graduated from Gryphons Grove School of Shamanism!

Coyotes smile for cameras

I received three different Graduation certificates (available under "Awards & Certificates" page), as well as my Lantern and Shamanic Elder beads. Caroline giggled, as she called me the "Youngest Elder" and fed me Elder berries!



This school was a life-changing experience. I started my education while still living in NYC, and traveled from Queens to DC and back at least 1-2 times per month. After over a year and a half of all that travel, I finally made the move down to Maryland, and had a much shorter commute (5 hours down to 1 hour!).

My dear friends and classmates have helped me through my Father's death, the ending of relationships, the changing of jobs, moving south, and adapting to a completely new way of life!

Although I have graduated from this school, my education is not at an end. I shall keep the focus of this blog, Tales from a Shamanic Apprentice, because I have so much more to experience. As I enter my Hermit phase of "learning in solitude" I hope to expand my knowledge of healing modalities, and figure out a way to combine my Spiritual Healing training with my Master's in Psychology and counseling techniques. I also want to increase my experience in Individual Healings, as I have worked with Caroline in numerous Group Healings.

But for now, it's celebration time! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

29 April, 2012

The subject of Fear in Psychopomp work

Last week, my Grandfather died.

He lived to be 82, and had a good death. He was able to die and then come back long enough to say his final goodbyes to many of my family at the hospital. I am so thankful for that, and I am thankful that a relative was able to perform his Last Rites.

His death occurred on the New Moon of this month (April 21st), which is a day that I have set aside for personal Shamanic Homework. As I am focusing on Psychopomp work (see previous entries), I found that I had a great amount of fear and grief that kept me from Journeying.

In previous times, if I was fearful, or lazy, or procrastinated too long in my Shamanic Homework, I would arrive in the Otherworld to a verbal lashing from my Spirits! The general Two-by-Four that hit me over the head repeatedly was, "How can you expect us to work with you when healing clients if you won't get off your ass and learn the work?!?"  Of course, after a few bites and Dismemberments, I went on to have some pretty incredible Journeys.

This time, I didn't want to do the work, because I didn't want to pop out into the Land of the Dead and end up seeing Grandpa when I wasn't ready at all. I wasn't really sure that I even wanted to be the one to actively direct him to my Spirits, and so I lit a candle, poured a beer, and asked that my Spirits meet up with him and Guide him without me.

Afterwards, I started to feel guilty, and tried to pull a few Runes and Tarot cards to see if my Spirits were pissed off again. I got such confusing omens that I eventually put everything away in a huff and ate some chocolate. I resigned myself to the uncomfortable feeling that surrounds death and grief and didn't think about my homework again.

During the Second Night of Grandpa's death (after Calling Hours but before the Funeral), I tossed and turned and couldn't quiet my mind enough to sleep. I also felt too afraid to really sleep, in case I dreamed a True Dream about Grandpa. I exhausted myself by reading the Hunger Games (wonderful books!) and entered the half-awake/half-asleep state right before the blackness of full sleep.

I heard his voice. He said my name.

I knew it was real, because everyone else in the house was asleep, it was 3am, I was half-unconscious myself, and I immediately felt the full-body tingle that comes with a Real Experience.

From all my years of training, I knew how difficult it was to Hear and/or See something in the regular physical world that was purely spiritual in nature. But I was too afraid to follow his voice and Journey. I said, out loud, "I love you Grandpa, and I miss you, and I hope that my Spirits are helping you, but I can't Visit you in this way just yet. I'm going to go to sleep now."  And I grounded myself by reading more of my book and concentrating only on the physical world around me. And I didn't hear him again.

Upon waking the next day, and all of the days after that, I have felt the grief subside a bit, and I find myself see-sawing back and forth on whether or not I actually heard him. I felt disappointed in myself at first, that I didn't follow the possible opportunity to speak with him so soon after Death, but I am proud that I recognized my fear and did not try to Journey where I was not yet ready to go.

The same ethical standards that I use in my psychological work help me in this spiritual work. I find I have a much better time of it if I do not engage in Dual Relationships (working for family and friends as possible clients). The extra anxiety, stress, fear, and intermingling of other emotions make it very difficult for me to evaluate my experiences objectively.

I know that I will visit with Grandpa soon, and I look forward to the future, for when I am ready and have no fear.

22 April, 2012

Ecumenicon Presentation

This past afternoon, I had the honor of presenting at the Ecumenicon Interfaith Conference. I was presenting on Shamanism, and how it can be used to help Substance Abuse clients.

Here's the short little blip that I wrote for the website:

Shamanic Approaches to Addiction; Terrapin; Saturday, 3:00 pm; This class will give a quick overview of basic neurobiology & psychology of addiction, and introduce shamanic/spiritual theories of addiction. Students will have the opportunity to explore direct knowledge of addictions through Pathworking/Shamanic Journeys, learn about co-occurring disorders of mental illness, hear personal stories from addicts themselves, and practice skill learned in-lecture.
Sounds pretty cool, huh? Well, after brainstorming my outline, I decided that there was no possible way to fit in all of the above-mentioned things into 1.5 hours, so I had to do a bit of tweaking. I mainly focused on specific counseling techniques, how substance abuse/dependence are defined in the DSM-IV, and how to use different techniques to both determine a focus for questioning (runes, tarot, pendulum, etc.). I had a hard time defining how to use Shamanic techniques to increase a client's ability to receive and accept treatment, as it differs depending on with whom I am working.

There was excellent dialogue between the attendees and myself as presenter, and many debates ensued about the ethics of diagnosing clients without the education and/or licensing to support one's instincts.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had a family emergency that took up the weekend of the conference (see upcoming entry soon).

19 April, 2012

Another Ancestor Dream

I was walking with my sister, Teacher and classmates into a grocery store. We stopped at a freezer to get something, and then we were under psychic attack (?). Caroline encouraged us to gather round, and began chanting the name of all the Egyptian gods. They appeared in the sky overhead! Isis, Nepthys, Osiris, Khnum, etc. And then I began looking for Anubis (saying, "Where's Anubis?" in my dream). I turned to my sister and said, "I love my religion! When we call for help, the gods really come!"  As I kept calling out, looking for Anubis, I was transported to a small village in very ancient times.

This village had about 40 people, in a forest-type place, and of course, I was drawn to the Dead. They were kept in stone bairns/cave-like structures. The bodies would be covered in white, on a ledge or table, with lit torches at the head and foot of the ledge/table. The stone caves had an inset wall, and I didn't smell any rot...

Children were playing in a cleared field in front of the Dead, and the emotional atmosphere was of normality. The Dead were part of life, not to be ignored or shunned, but no one was interacting with the corpses ( no Druids or priests, etc.).

I was then asked, by an invisible tour guide (or Ancestor?) to go to the Cooking Hut. A small child came with us. I smelled wonderful smells; a large nude woman was stirring a pot. The child (a young boy) inhaled the steam, smiled, and began to talk to the woman. I couldn't understand them, so I moved closer. As the woman stirred the pot, I could see the limbs and skulls of 2-3 corpses in the pot. They were brownish-grey, and combined with root vegetables, like in a stew. At first I was stunned, but not grossed-out. I wondered if my Ancestors treated the bodies somehow, so that they would not get sick. I was trying to figure out if certain veggies had something to do with the lack of prion disease...?

I also got the impression that the Eaters of the Dead (yep, that's a 13th Warrior reference that my Dream-Brain made!) did this for both survival and reverence, but that the corpses were just meat. The Souls/Spirits, once released from the body, could be spoken with/interacted with at special Stones.


For now, I'm sort of keeping track of all these Dreams as if they are from the some area of space and time. I feel like the imagery is a combination of Celtic/Germanic culture, plus other things that I can't place at all. This is also the second time that Anubis has arrived in my dreams by name, so perhaps he's guiding some of this?!?

What do you think of this dream?

02 April, 2012

Thoughts about a Purge-Ritual

It's taken me a while to post this (had to back-date this entry for the time it actually occurred!), as the Purge-Ritual really through me off my whole routine for almost an entire month.

A Purge-Ritual, from what I understand, is used for personal self-work. Deep self-work, with a capital D. I had been looking forward to this ritual for weeks, and I was happy that my fellow classmates were going to be with me, so that we could support each other.

Psychologically, I had felt as though I was stuck in my routine, of work, home, class, etc.  I was very happy to help with the Shamanic Healing Circle back at Sacred Space 2012, but I was out of practice, and psychologically, I was doubting my abilities, and having a hard time shoving my Ego out of the way to get the Work done. This was reflected in the healing work I had done for myself that day, and in the omens that I had pulled from my Runes and tarot decks.

One of the largest lessons that I learned (well, re-learned) immediately was the difficulty I was having doing self-healing, versus healing work for others. Why is it so hard to do things for me, and yet so easy to bounce up to help a friend/client? I was pushing myself out of balance, and becoming Ungrounded. I spoke with one of my Spirit Animals, who helped me understand that especially when working with my clients at work, I needed to be Grounded and Centered in my own Self. So many of those with mental illness have difficulty centering and focusing, and I can passively help with that through my non-verbal language and Energetically.

During the second half of the Purge-Ritual, my classmates and I helped each other by Drumming, Rattling, using Stone Grids, and Toning. I felt so much love and strength pouring through me, and my drum, that even though the Ritual lasted ~10 hours (I'm not even kidding about that), I was able to last through it all. I crashed into bed around 3am.

The next few weeks were absolutely ridiculous. My emotions were all over the place, and I felt Angry All the Time. And paranoid, too. I kept trying to evaluate what I was feeling, to see if it was tied to any memories of parts of myself that I tried to heal, but I was unfocused and impulsive. I didn't trust myself to explain what I was feeling to any of my friends/classmates, so I did the typical Coyote-thing and stayed at home, laid low, and waited for my emotions to even out again.

They finally did, and I discovered something about myself that I have struggled with all my life. I have a really hard time with rumors, gossip, and bad impressions. I become paranoid about them, and wonder how they will affect my life in some Machiavellian way. I blow up crazy scenarios in my head, and then I think that the only way to change someone's mind about me is to confront them and convince them about what I'm really like. This Purge-Ritual brought out some psychological traumas from my past, and helped me to evaluate them without becoming re-traumatized by the images and emotions. By laying low and not trying to impulsively work out half-made solutions, I was able to grow and heal from those past events.

This Purge-Ritual was supportive and deeply moving, and I hope to make it a part of a yearly practice.

21 March, 2012

More dreams about "Sea Eagles", and incredible synchronicities

Well, had another dream last night in which Sea Eagles were showcased. I don't remember nearly as much information as my last entry, but I do remember searching for feathers, finding some in a grassy clearing, and then the "guardians" of the clearing (who were Lions?!?) challenged me by trying to eat my face (they didn't quite, and then I woke up).

The feathers and birds that I saw in this dream had more of a mottled brownish/greyish color, and the feathers had both tan and dark brown/grey stripes. They were GIGANTIC- as in, almost three feet long, and very very skinny.

I am here at work now, taking a break from client reports, and began searching for more about Sea Eagles. I'm not always a fan of Wikipedia (as the information is only sometimes accurate and cited), but I was blown away by the images and writings on the White-Tailed Eagle . I scrolled down while reading, and as I came upon the Pre-History section, I almost fell out of my chair: "On Orkney Scotland, sea eagle bones have been found in 6000 year old burial mounds, suggesting that the birds were revered by the prehistoric people there, a belief strengthened by the Pictish stone carvings of sea eagles from Orkney."

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! W H O A !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never had such an intense "Aha!" moment from a dream image before! Holy freaking moo-cows!

I look forward to seeing what dreams come tonight!

19 March, 2012

Dreaming of Death and Skara Brae

I am running through a large house and hiding, trying to protect myself from another tribe's magic-workers. I feel anxious and sad when I am finally found, because I know that I am to be put to death. As I am taken back out through the house, I look for a way out, an escape from my captors. I can't seem to shake them.
We eventually end up outside, on a large boat. I am being guarded as we head back to the other tribe's area (the imagery is of hunter-gatherer society, very early, and very Celtic-themed).
One of the seers from the tribe that has captured me takes a bird to the Chief/Captain, saying that "it is a good omen for them." It is declared a "Sea Eagle" and given to me, after the seer snaps its neck. I cradle the bird to my chest (heart chakra?) and observe it not to be dead at all, but wounded/disabled so that it can't really move or fly. I feel that I have to hide the bird's "aliveness" from my captors. I start thinking of magical ways of escape, such as using the bird's life to sustain mine when they put me to death.

Funny enough, the bird in my dream doesn't fully look like a Sea Eagle, but a more like a large black bird with an iridescent sheen on its wings, bright yellow eyes, and a long, black bill (kind of like a hummingbird-bill). So what do I do? Do I concentrate on the imagery that fits better with the Grackle, or listen to the words of "Sea Eagle?"  Or do I do some "shamanic homework" on both???

Back to the dream:
We land on the shore of the other tribe's land, but it is a weird mixture of ancient paths and spliced images from museums/anthropology sites. I can see the guards walk me down a footpath with the rest of the tribe, and there are about 30 of us, walking towards the town center. But as I look towards my left, I can see ruins of stone middens being uncovered by archaeology students; in the same space but not the same time (?).
I keep trying to figure out how to escape, but the captors aren't telling me anything, they aren't even talking to me. I'm hoping to learn how they plan to kill me, so I can figure a way out of it. At this point in the dream, I understand that my death is to stop a feud between two Shamans/tribes.
As we approach the town center, I see a couple of magical circles/designs on the ground:
Yes, this totally looks like something from the ST:TNG episode in which Data wears many masks and becomes an entire indigenous culture's godforms...

I actually sit inside this wacky-looking magic circle thing (much cooler in my dream than in my poor drawing). As the tribe is talking (I can't understand what they are saying), I discover that I'm no longer desperate to escape, I'm now thinking about how I can die a "good death."  I'm going through Kubler-Ross' 5 stages of grief in rapid speed, and just as I reach a smidgen of acceptance, I turn my head towards the Chief/Shaman, as he/she is speaking to me now.

And I wake up.

Of course... the Dream ends without me knowing my fate, but reaching acceptance of Death as a Transition.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I talked with my sister over the weekend, and she's able to pick up on some of the images right away. She immediately links me with the site of Skara Brae, a neolithic settlement on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. And I am blown away as to the similarities within my dream images! If you scroll down to the middle of the article, you'll see some of the Skara Brae images, which coincide pretty well with my wacky drawing above (wavy lines and the Sun)!

It's enough to make me want to pay attention and research this cultural settlement more, and to actually do an Active Journey and ask about my Ancestors. 

Even if nothing else comes from the images, I'm trying to let my helping spirits know that I'm paying attention!

18 March, 2012

Broken jewelry at the Conjure Dance (or How Coyote gets my attention...)

Sacred Space 2012 was incredible. I was able to work with wonderful & special people during the Shamanic Healing Ceremony, and visit with friends & loved ones during my volunteer work hours at the Author's Table/Registration Desk, and really let loose during the New Orleans Conjure Dance!

The particulars of the Dance are better left for my more private journals, but the general summary is that I'm out of shape, my feet and calves were killing me for 3-4 days afterwards, and THREE DIFFERENT pieces of jewelry were broken (one right after the other)!!!


After a good night's sleep, filled with wacky silly dreams, I woke up the next morning with sore muscles and a pensive mood that lasted the rest of the Conference. What happened to my jewelry? Is this some sort of Two-by-Four message that I'm just not understanding? Sacred jewelry breaking during a sacred dance, that's gotta mean something, right?

So I began pestering my friends during the rest of my time in Laurel. I asked for people to pull cards for me, I tried to use iPhone divination apps on myself, I asked questions of trusted friends and random strangers at Starbucks... no epiphany. Had I offended my helping spirits in some way?!?

During a quick nap, Coyote looked at me and started laughing. I was spending all this time trying to get someone else to tell me what's going on, that I forgot His most basic lesson (Do it yourself, ya lazy bum!).

Essentially, my lessons were pretty darn straightforward (had I just taken a breath and thought about it, I would have gotten it on my own...figures). Firstly, I wouldn't have paid attention to anything anyone was trying to get across had only one or two pieces of jewelry broken; I needed all three special pieces to break so that I could come to a screeching halt and THINK.

I'm graduating from Shaman School really soon, as in April 1st. This marks an ending, an ending to something that I enjoy so much, I completely adjusted my life for it (left NYC, changed jobs, lost friends, etc.). And it's also a beginning; I need to actually work through my own Shadow issues of procrastination, laziness, and fear in order to Journey more on my own (i.e., psychopomp work), without the support of my dear friends and classmates, and to TRUST in what I'm seeing. It's very easy for me to cut off negative environments/people, but it is quite difficult to bring natural closure to an amazingly positive experience. As I've said in my Introduction/Profile, shamans train together, but do the Work alone.

This is also a time of the Hermit Path (yay Tarot imagery). I hope to grow exponentially in knowledge and experience, if I have the fortitude and focus to do it alone. It's not that I can't call on my friends, teachers, and mentors, it's just that most of my focus is going to be different from others, and while I will continue to need community, I need to learn stuff on my own. This will help me increase my confidence, for when I do work for clients.

Finally, this is the time for leaving behind the familiar for new horizons/lessons. I am very good at compartmentalizing and retreating from the world when I need a brain break, but I almost never go back into those compartments and Integrate my Life Lessons. I need to learn how to not just Pause, but Pause, Reflect, and Integrate. I need to start Listening to myself!

I look forward to this time of quiet, solitary learning, and I hope I can keep myself in gear and actually do it!

07 March, 2012

Sacred Space Conference this Weekend!

This weekend is one of my favorite spiritual conferences, Sacred Space, in Laurel MD. Many of my fellow students will be involved in a Shamanic Healing Ceremony during the opening day (Thursday).

Shamanic Healing Ceremonies at large conferences are set up as "drive-by" healings. If there are more than three-four shamans, then everyone sets up their equipment in the middle of the circle, and clients approach a shaman for healing. Everyone gets a healing at the same time, and so it can be a bit chaotic, but interesting to watch. If there are only a few students, and/or the shamans weren't able to bring many tools, then the shamans bounce around to different clients (who remain seated) and perform the healings there.

I enjoy these Healing Ceremonies, as I get to practice my skills, interact with new people, and introduce clients to a new form of healing that they may never have experienced before. Also, as the Ceremony is right at the beginning of the conference, I'm able to play for the rest of the long weekend!

There will be amazing classes, massage therapy tables, acupuncture, merchant tables (with pretty stones & crystals!), random hallway conversations, Meet-n-Greet with famous authors, and sleeping in comfy hotel beds (and not worrying about cleaning!).

I hope to meet some of you readers there, and begin a few new friendships!