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?