Letter to a Young Shaman – It is a rough road

1 12 2010

Are you asking, why me?!

If you have suddenly found yourself on a spiritual pilgrimage this is for you.

Welcome to the road. Shamanism is a journey without a destination. The same could be said about all of life but nowhere is it so evident. Whether you arrived on this road because of a trauma (which is very typical) or because you have finally admitted you have always been seeking some kind of spiritual understanding (also very typical) or an extraordinary combination of things has brought you to the road, you are now learning a new way of seeing and contextualizing your life.

The traditional methods through which a shaman was selected seldom apply in our society. We aren’t likely to be abducted by forest spirits or taught by our father. Somehow you have been bonked on the head by your life and need answers.

A shamanic practitioner of my acquaintance recently said he had retired from his shamanic practice. Another friend was disturbed by this and asked how could he retire? Since he didn’t chose to share more, I will give my own answer. I believe you can retire from your healing work but not from the spiritual practice. You can stop doing ceremony but you cannot stop endeavoring to live an authentic life. The practice of shamanism calls each participant to live impeccably. To live impeccably requires you to scrutinize all your actions to be sure you are doing no harm. This subject is worth further discussion, which I will hold for another blog entry. For now, I want to address the implications of this for a person embarking on the journey.

Living impeccably means you don’t get to whine about a difficult situation you find yourself in. For example, if you stay in a job that you hate you have to take responsibility for your choice. Yes, so your boss is cranky and demanding. You have the choice to stay there or look for another job. If you stay in that job you don’t complain about him. Those negative words you put out in the air about him have consequents and are a form of sorcery. If you thank those negative thoughts, that is a form of self-sorcery. This is a waste of energy and isn’t going to help at all in creating the authentic life you strive for.

I spoke with a young woman yesterday who has taken a big step toward living an authentic life. She left a satisfying job to concentrate of her goal of bringing balance to her life while juggling; a home-based job, the needs of an active family, and nurturing her spiritual growth.

Nurturing spiritual growth can seem selfish, indulgent, unrealistic, narcissistic and self-absorbed.  Yet, for many women ignoring this imperative results in depression, weight gain, apathy and a host of symptoms that leave her walking through life unable to appreciate it. There is usually little or no support as she attempts to satisfy this desire to grow. The nagging awareness that something is wrong remains as she struggles to meet her and her family’s basic needs.

Driven by her sense of unhappiness she fluctuates between the need for independence (personal growth) and societal dictates of being a responsible adult. This push-pull leaves her wondering why she thought this was so important.  She may long for the busyness and camaraderie of her past and face her quest for spiritual fulfillment alone.  The forces working against her are formidable and, make no mistake, there are evil forces working against her.

An energy war is taking place. The ego, in an effort to keep her safe, is leading the charge to continue in the “usual” way.  Ego is supported in this energy war by a society which places very little value on a spiritual life. From her early school days there was an emphasis on math and science in schools. Art, music, physical education where cut. She finds herself alone watching television in her home rather than spending time in nature or with others.  She goes to a church to celebrate the spiritual experience of a long-dead leader rather than have a spiritual experience of her own.  She meets the needs of her family and friends.  She has only an odd hour here or there for her personal spiritual quest.

While all these forces are at work outside of her, her sacred inner healer is locked away in a closet most of the time. It is no wonder the inner healer doesn’t respond instantly to support the woman in this energy battle.  The woman’s efforts to coax her inner healer out are feeble and infrequent. If she does coax a burst of creative energy out of her inner healer, the woman feels a bright glimpse of the joy and peace. But, any energy released is soon devoured in this energy war. The woman is left to retreat to staring out the window wondering where she will gather the energy to make supper. She watches as other women scamper breezily through life while. She sits on the sidelines wondering what is wrong with her. Perhaps, like the character in The Matrix, she wishes she made the other choice and could return to a time when life was simpler.

She needs to be reminded that she isn’t crazy, selfish, or foolish. She was called. Many people’s hearts are filled with compassion for the suffering of others. These people are called to take the treasure of their time and dedicate some of it to personal growth.  By restoring the sacred to the center of their lives they become able to provide service to others.

I vaguely recall reading a story of a mining tragedy. A group of women, unknown to each other, were called to walk through the streets of their town praying for the community though-out the night before a mountain collapsed on the town, killing many. Today many people in the United States are being called to heal their spirits and help balance our society.

Last year, returning from six weeks in South America, I arrived in Los Angeles and was herded into a long, meandering security line. As I scanned the people in line, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I thought they were concentration camp survivors because their energy fields were so depleted. I saw versions of “the Ugly American.” There was a man proclaiming loudly, “I’m an American citizen. You can’t make me stand in this line.” There was a family of refrigerator people (in “as big as”). This couple and their two huge teenage children carried mammoth McDonald’s Bags and literally stuffed French fries into their mouths by the handfuls. There were people with such large carry-ons that they appear to be moving houses. Yet, my overwhelming impression was of pity.  I admit contemplating jumping on the next plane out of the country.  But, I felt compassion for these people, my countrymen.  Nowhere is the need greater for a grass roots movement to integrating personal spiritual growth and compassion for the suffering of others.

If you identify with this struggle, take a moment to celebrate an important victory. You have stepped back far enough from the front-line of this battle to realize this war is bigger than you. You are now in a position to create a battle plan. Regardless of what it took to get you to this point, this war is turning in your favor. You may have lost battles because of what you thought were your personal failings and inadequacies.  Congratulate yourself on surviving what you have been through.

You are now ready to create a strategy to prevail in this energy war. Include in your strategy:

1.       Do something to memorialize your recognition that your struggle is important.  There will be difficult times ahead.  Create a touchstone, talisman, or shield.  Make and intensely personal and positive affirmation to hang on your bathroom mirror, or get a tattoo, or whatever will bring you back to this realization.  The important thing is to be able to touch the memory of how it feels to be in the flow of healing energy. Magically remembering this feeling can bring you back to it. This is what called you to this battle and it is the weapon you will use in this battle.

2.       Enlist the help of others. Are you keeping yourself in solitary confinement? You are not as alone as you think you are.  While it can be frightening to seek like-minded warriors, it is well worth the effort.

3.       Use all the skills you have to take action.  Everything you know is a tool you can use. For example, if you are good at making plans, set a five year goal and make a plan for this year that will start to get you there.  Leave room in the plan for things to change. If your skill is making cookies, take some to the assisted living center down the road with your prayers.

4.       Be open for synchronicity, the greater your movement toward right action, the greater is the universe’s response to it. Expect sudden opportunities and realizations. Don’t be afraid to change your plans. When you realize that something no longer works for you, examine why you are doing it.

5.       Realize you don’t know what this is suppose to look like. I am reminded of a woman who was constantly aware of spirits around her and kept asking them for a message. By suggesting that they might have been spirits who needed her help rather than where there to give her help, she was able to shift her expectations. Accept it that you don’t know what this looks like. We are all standing in a dark room feeling a part of the elephant and trying to guess what the whole elephant looks like. I can tell you, for sure, that we all have sticks in your eyes which prevent us from clear vision.

6.       Be humble and kind. This starts will self acceptance. You are a gentle person doing your best. Sometimes things will work and sometimes not.  You aren’t in charge of everything and you can’t force results. Accept this and forgive yourself whatever you deem yourself a failure.

7.       Bring your practice to every part of your life. It is the constant practice that slowly brings results. This may manifest in such things as creating rituals, listening to your children’s dreams, or letting go of friends who no longer complement your changing goals.

8.       Spend time in nature.  This is our natural habitat and great teacher.

9.       Be the change you wish to see by consistent and gently effort.

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Shamanic Divination

27 11 2010

When I first began my search to understand why I spontaneously knew some of the things I knew about people, I read voraciously. I became a scientist dedicated to learning all I could about metaphysical knowledge and the paranormal.

In my search I decided to pull the veil off anything that I feared. One of my early investigations was into Tarot. I purchased half-a-dozen decks, compiled a ledger of notes from various experts, and seriously applied myself to learning how it worked. Because, for me, it worked. Eventually I created and published a deck of my own.

When I was working on introducing this deck to the public I participated in a Psychic Fair. I found it unusually difficult to read a person in a room where, as I felt it, the energy of so many people was hanging out. I felt as overwhelmed as I had years earlier when visiting a family member in a mental hospital.

I hung an out-to-lunch sign at my table and began to visit with other readers in the room. I also observed the clients of various readers.

I asked readers whether they read from their intuition of from the strict guidelines inherent to each card. Generally, they claimed only to go by the traditional meanings.  This may or may not have been true. For me, tarot, or any other divination tool I have used, is only a way to open the channel for intuition. Having done shamanic divination or reading for over 25 years, I know that no tool alone is as effective as any of these tools in the hands of an intuitive and empathic reader.

I focus on shamanic healing rather than shamanic readings because a healing session not only puts me in touch with the client’s underlying issues but gives permission to do something about them. I don’t just say you have soul loss, I restore the soul part. I don’t just say your mother-in-law has put a hex on you, I remove the hex.  I don’t say you are suffering from loneliness, I work to heal the reason you put protective  barriers around yourself that cause the loneliness.

What I observed with many of the clients at that psychic fair was that they intuitively sought out the reader who would tell them what they wanted to hear.  Some seemed to pick a healer who would wallow with them in their shared woundedness.  I believe that each person selects the healer to work with who suits their current need. It might be a different choice on a different day or at a different stage in their healing. That tends to be me when you are ready to break your consensus reality.

I am happy when I meet a former client who has moved ahead to different healing methods. I know that my part in their healing was surgical. I often peel away enough layers of the wound to allow them to go to another for the delicate work of a psychologist or therapist. I sometimes learn that they have committed themselves to a healing or religious practice.

I see people as blocks of pain. Through healing, we break off this pain bit by bit as they can handle it. The spirits direct how much work can be done at any one time. When I have the blessing of being present at the release of the final big block of pain it is an amazing experience. It is overwhelmingly emotional and painful to let go of something so familiar and comfortable that has been with one so long.





What I do Best in my Healing Work

27 11 2010

My friend Patty, a shamanic healer visiting me from Canada, recently asked me what I thought I did best in my healing work. What a great question. It is one I will continue to contemplate.

I answered rather quickly, and without much thought. I said that it was probably the same thing I did best in ordinary reality.  I told her I knew who a person was when they were three years old, who they are now and who they will be when they are 90 years old.

Patty responded that this meant I was a seer.

I had never thought of this before. I don’t generally see anything so much as I just know things and feel their truth with every fiber of my being. I’m not a mind reader.

It happens that at my best moment I don’t feel any separation between me and another person. For that matter I don’t see any distinction between me and the air, the earth, or anything.  In animism there is a core belief that all things are imbued with the same energy. This is given credibility through the study of physics which tell us all things are made from the same energy particles. In meditation we become aware of the possibility to expand beyond our own skin. I guess that this is how I begin to know stuff I wouldn’t be aware of in my ordinary state of consciousness. Using the language of my youth, I call it the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever it is, it means that the healing I participate in comes from this place of shared consciousness.  I become a hollow bone through which healing passes. So I guess what I do best, is get out of the way.





Highlights of Aama’s visit

14 11 2010

Aama’s pictures and December Schedule of Events to post soon.

I was able to have some truly fabulous professional photos of Aama and the group healing taken. I will post the as soon as I get them from the photographer.

I will also be posting some upcoming events although because of the holidays they are fewer than typical. If you sign up to follow my blog you can be assured of receiving notices of these events.

Highlights of Aama’s visit

Aama has left me with joy in my heart. It wasn’t until yesterday that I had time to contemplate her visit. Here are some of my observations.

What a joy to prepare breakfast while she moved through the house and yard chanting mantras and lighting incense.  My humble efforts to use my Nepali Phrasebook lead to lovely conversations. And when that was put aside, without the necessity for conversation, there were lovely shared moments. We had a few minutes to walk on the Esplanade in Capitola where she expressed joy at the sound of the surf. We laughed as she attempted to copy my placement of my feet on the seawall as we sat on one of the benches.  With her short stature this was much more difficult for her. Communication does not depend on language. Despite her longing to return to her home after an extended trip, I loved her ability to be fully present.

From the moment I announced Aama’s forthcoming visit, many wonderful and generous individuals came forward to help. I feel so blessed and thankful to them all. You know who you are and I thank you. My biggest thank you is reserved for Larry Peters who has a lifetime of service to Aama and the other Nepali and Tibetan shamans who are now family to him. He is responsible for making this event possible. I also especially appreciate the support and help of Icasciana Barrs and Diane Wilson from Samadhi Life. I have had the great good fortune to attend one of the Grandmother’s gatherings and can only hope to have more such opportunities. I offer my profound apologies to any who’s needs were not met in the unexpectedly hectic schedule that surrounded Aama’s visit.

Tuesday evening’s healing session was such a joy. Those of you who were present certainly felt the joy, hope, and loving kindness present in the room. Despite long waits and uncomfortable seating, people were so kind and patient. My desire to provide more chairs was squelched in an effort to make the experience as much like it would be in Nepal as possible. I hope those of you with physical discomfort were able to accept it as part of the pilgrimage. It truly saddened me to see your discomfort.

Here are a few mental notes I made during the healings. I share them here in the hope that they might help your understand Aama’s healing process.

  • Some problems have physical causes, some karma or life patterns (astrology), and some spiritual. Aama treated the spiritual component which can also positively affect other causes.
  • Aama has the wisdom to know which problems she can help and which ones she can’t. That sounds a little like St. Francis, doesn’t it?
  • She doesn’t sugar coat bad news while leaving open the possibility of improvement.
  • If Aama prescribed that you do some sort of healing ritual, it isn’t as important that you do it perfectly as it is that you hold the proper intention, focus and humility as you perform the ritual.
  • Many of those present have their own healing gifts. It is up to each of them to discover how to use those gifts. Regular meditation is one of the best tools available to strengthen those gifts.
  • Great comfort is available to all through meditation.

A couple hours into the evening, a lady said to me,” when is she going to start doing healing?”  My eyebrows raised in surprise. I recognized her as a local healer and said, “Aama is doing healings with each person who sits in front of her. These are spiritual healings, not the energy healings you are more familiar with.”  That is a subject I will blog about at another time and only one of several subjects to explore as a result of this event.

At the end of Aama’s visit Larry Peters told me, “In Nepal there is great spirituality but little money. Here there is great wealth but we are hungry for spirituality. It is a good exchange.” I use Aama’s practice of accepting donations rather than setting a specific fee for shamanic services.  It requires a lot of faith in abundance to do so as the cost of living here is about 50 percent higher than it was in Portland. But that is nothing compared to Aama’s situation.

Tibetan refugees in Nepal experience none of the rights of citizenship we take for granted. Even though Aama was born in Nepal, she is still a refugee. She is Tamang, an ethic group from Tibet.  A refugee can never take a job from a citizen nor can a refugee own land. That means there are few sources of income available to refugees. Beautiful Thanka paintings, carpets, and jewelry are traditional Tibetan crafts that provide much of the income of the refugees.

Aama alone supports 14 people.  In addition, in the small refugee camps, as in many poor cultures, there is much sharing with the community. People know that if they don’t share, when they are hungry no one will share with them.  This shared experience draws people together much more closely than any coffee klatch.

I thank you all for your generosity to Aama.  Your money will go into the world and do much good. I also must say, that as an initiated healer in Aama’s tradition, I was able to observe much during the healings that might not have been visible to everyone. I can say for sure that the value received by many of you is much greater than the money exchanged.  So, dear friends, as Thanksgiving is almost upon us, I am holding a prayer of gratitude in my heart and looking for ways to share what I have with those in need.   I encourage you to do the same.