Dancing in the shadow

The self of my dreams came the day I found out that there was gold hidden in my darkness, that there was light shining in my bad behaviour, and that there was power hidden in the traumas of my past. Debbie Ford

One of the less obvious influences on Chakradance, often overshadowed by the more apparent influences of the Hindu-Tantric chakra system and shamanic trance-dances practices, is Jungian psychology.

While the Chakradance facilitator is all too aware that his or her role is to ‘hold space’ for the experiences of the dancers, a very Jungian concept, as is the use of mandala art to ‘contain’ the numinous experiences and energy of the dance. These Jungian aspects are often not obvious to the dancer.

I often refer to Jungian archteypes that people may encounter in their dance journeys, these will often manifest as visions of scenes that play out as interactions between archetypes like mother and victim, warrior and servant.

I have written about archetypes in these other posts. 

The experience of Chakradance is described like a ‘waking dream’ where the dancer lets go of their conscious, thinking mind and allows the unconscious mind to communicate through images, feelings, colours and insights.

This week another Chakradance facilitator posted about Chakradance as a way to interact with our shadow, a Jungian concept for the aspects of self that we are either unaware of or actively suppress because we are ashamed of that aspect of ourselves.

At a time when my shadow, in the words of Led Zeppelin, looms taller than my soul, and having just read a truly awe-inspiring post by a Jungian writer – see here – I felt one of those lightning bolt moments.  (Like a lightbulb moment but way more dramatic.)

Something’s coming up. Let’s see if it can articulate itself here…

Chakradance is a journey within. Using the chakra system as a map to consciousness, we dance beyond the everyday, five sensory awareness into a deeper experience of ourselves. With our eyes closed and our imagination as a guide, during Chakradance we experience our inner world as a waking dream. Many people see visions in their mind’s eye, encounter beings, ancestors, animals, different landscapes which all tell a story about the disposition of our inner self.

In the new Chakradance cycle, called Freedom, we have a different guide for each chakra who takes us on this journey. But I have found many people intuitively find their own guides in the dance as well, be they humans, ethereal beings or animals.

After participating in a Chakradance cycle, many people are surprised at the visions and experiences, not to mention the insights and transformations in their real lives, that they encounter.

It is so astonishing to uncover this unconscious aspect of ourselves, and to realise our conscious, day to day self is like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the multitudes we all contain.

So when we immerse ourselves into the sound and movement of chakradance, what will often arise is aspects of ourselves that we have not been aware of. This can be visions, emotions or insights that are experienced in a loving and beautiful way. Sometimes we are ready to shift and release less attractive aspects of ourselves. These might be long buried memories, strong emotions, or even aspects portrayed as menancing creatures who come out of our subconscious dark zones. 

Like a deep-water diver, encountering sharks or other prehistoric and primal creatures that we may be afraid of, our first reaction to these is often fear or repulsion. But just as sharks have a vital role in the ecological wellbeing of the ocean, so our own shadow has a purpose. 

This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed. D.H. Lawrence

For me, when I began my Chakradance facilitator training, and I was dancing and studying the modality intensely on a daily basis, I had a number of powerful experiences. The most profound for me was an experience in the Solar Plexus Chakra, which not only happened in the dance but also in my dream life. This showed me something was shifting at a deep level in my psyche.

I was awoken from a dream, quite literally, with a bang. In my dream, a large metal pot or cauldron blew its lid with a loud explosion. As a result of reading Jung and experiencing Chakradance, I was becoming more curious about the messages my subconscious communicates to me in my dreams.

After waking from this dream, I felt quite agitated and unable to go back to sleep. There was the strongest feeling that this dream was an important message from my subconscious and I intuitively felt it was somehow related to my solar plexus chakra. So after discussing this with my Chakradance teacher, I moved on to this chakra. During the dance, I had a very powerful experience.

The dance of Manipura (the solar plexus chakra) begins with a flame, and as the music intensifies, the fire increases, and I danced like wildfire. I became one with the fire, I was fire, flickering and wild. It felt incredibly liberating and powerful, and then all of a sudden my perception shifted dramatically.

The experience transformed from being elemental fire, to being ON fire – being burned, encased in flames – and all the powerful emotions that came with it. Horror, fear, panic. Even knowing it was just in the dance, the emotional reaction was profound. 

I had flashbacks to memories of being hurt as a child, and a great rage rose within me. Ending up like an animal in all fours, I growled and raged, releasing suppressed emotions held within me since I was a powerfless five year old unable to fight back against her abuser. 

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster. Carl Jung

Recovering in child’s pose, I found myself saying to myself, “that was then this is now, it is safe to be powerful now.”

As I incanted this affirmation, came a vision of a fiery cauldron burning away the hurts of the past, all those experiences where I was persecuted, shamed, or abused for expressing my power.

I would love to report that since then I have never been less than powerful in my life, but it doesn’t work like that. In my life aspects of my shadow, like that scared and angry child, the one who was unable to be powerful and speak up, are still there.

The difference is that I know she is there, and I can see when that energy emerges, when I get petulant or sulky, when I over react to perceived criticism or rejection. These days, I am more mindful, more aware.

And I have made a sacred place for her, where she can be safe to express whatever she needs to. It’s my way of integrating her, without annihilating her. Because she’s part of me. If she hadn’t taken on all that rage and shame for all those years I may not be here today. Today instead of wishing her away I try to honour her. She’s a feisty five year old who screws up her face when she’s not happy and I love her!

I have also tapped into an inner wellspring of power that I never knew I possessed. Now when I dance the Solar Plexus I embody the energy of a fiery God – Shiva Nataraj – or a powerful warrior and feel these numinous qualities flow on into my life.

We need more people who are not ashamed of, or embarrassed by their pain, but who can instead respond to their own and others’ suffering – as an unavoidable facet of the human condition – with love, patience, sympathy, nurturing and respect. True happiness, after all, does not exclude sadness, but rather embraces it within the living paradox which personal wholeness demands. Maureen B Roberts

So what is this shadow? And why do we have it. And yes, you do.

Renowned psychologist Carl Jung believed that on the journey to discover your inner secrets and mysteries, you will encounter the dark, hidden crevices within your psyche. He called this place the “shadow self.” It is also called the lower self, animal nature, the alter ego, or the inner demon – the place where the unowned side of your personality lives.

The shadow is the parts of ourselves that we may try to hide or deny. According to Carl Jung, it can be said to consist of energy patterns, known as selves or sub-personalities that were disowned — pushed down into our unconscious in childhood, as part of our coping strategies.

Jung created the Archetypes model, a concept to describe how our unconscious minds are fragmented or structured into different “selves” in an attempt to organize how we experience different things in life.

Your shadow self is the part of you that stays unknown, unexamined, and out of the light of your conscious awareness. It is the part that is denied or suppressed because it makes you uncomfortable or afraid. Whatever doesn’t fit your image of your ideal self becomes your shadow.

Jung asked, “Would you rather be good or whole?” Many people choose goodness, or more accurately ‘correctness’ as a means to belong in society, and as a result, are internally fractured. There is your persona, the part you want the world to see, and your shadow, the part that you don’t.

What we call civilized consciousness has steadily separated itself from the basic instincts. But these instincts have not disappeared. They have merely lost their contact with our consciousness and are thus forced to assert themselves in an indirect fashion. This may be by means of physical symptoms in the case of a neurosis, or by means of incidents of various kinds, or by unaccountable moods, unexpected forgetfulness, or mistakes in speech… modern man protects himself against seeing his own split state by a system of compartments. Certain areas of outer life and of his own behavior are kept, as it were, in separate drawers and are never confronted with one another. Carl Jung

Jung believed that what you resist in life tends to persist and even become stronger. If you resist your dark side, it becomes more solid. Hence by trying to be good and suppress our shadow side we actually make it more powerful.

As Jung often said what we refuse to face in ourselves, we project into others and onto life creating an external world that seems to reflect our own worst nightmares. We create self-fulfilled prophecies of the stuff we least want.

I think I first became aware of my shadow 18 years ago. Having hit, in 12-Step parlance, my rock-bottom through alcohol and drug abuse, I found myself sober in a 12 Step program. Suddenly I had no Dutch courage, no medicine, no anaesthetic, and no buffer between myself and reality. I had started using alcohol to numb my feelings at age 15 so at age 25 I had acquired zero emotional maturity or coping mechanisms that didn’t involve a drink, a fix or a pill.

I found myself sitting in cold and dank church halls and community centres – where many AA meetings seemed to be held – with hideously bright fluorescent lighting – “ve have vays of making you talk.” Even though I had spend much of my ‘drinking years’ in dank bars, the veneer of alcohol always made everything sparkle, it gave me a warm inner glow, and the dim lighting covered a multitude of sins.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Now I felt exposed, transitioning from a creature of the night to an attempt at daytime normalcy, I found myself squinting and blinking at the brightness of the world, like a mole forced out of her hole. Supermarkets were particularly painful. The combination of the bad Muzak, over-lit endless aisles of stuff and people was pergatory for me.

Especially the people. Early detox from alcohol is defined by it’s combination of the physical shakes and extreme paranoia. I was sure every person in the place was watching me trying to wrestle control of my hand to pick up a packet of cereal or extricate money from my wallet. If someone actually spoke to me, it all became too much, the walls would start closing in and I had to abandon all my shopping and leave.

It was a shock to see what a ‘shadow’ person I had become, more comfortable in the dark, shadowy side of life, invisible, afraid of the most ordinary things.

In the AA program I was forced to confront my ‘defects of character,’ another ways of describing the shadow aspects of my behaviour. For someone who had meticulously avoided any emotions, or difficult aspects of myself, this was a hideously confronting process. On a daily basis I was faced with the choice of facing my shadow or facing complete annihilation. It was not a happy time.

We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. Sigmund Freud

But, through this process I learned to be increasingly more comfortable with myself, all of myself, and embarked on a path of self-awareness and self-acceptance as I had never known before.

It was to be my first of many experiences, where I discovered that facing my shadow, no matter how painful or undesirable, brought untold gifts.

Eventually though I found myself again at a rock bottom. Having crashed and burned emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually not long after my fortieth birthday, again I was searching for answers.

As appealing as it was when I was happy, from this depressed state I found much of the New Age stuff very shallow. Wishful thinking, affirmations, faking it until we make it, are sometimes helpful to get out of the rut, but they cannot be long term life plans. True authenticity comes from facing the shadow. That stuff that lurks just beneath the surface that we push down with a myriad of avoidance strategies from sedation to excess busyness.

I am highly suspicious of any practice which focuses only on the light or positive aspects of our being. We are all made up of dark and light. A really simple way to uncover your shadow self is to see what really irritates you in others, what drives you bonkers. Is it disrespect? Arrogance? Greed? Inconsideration? Guaranteed the stuff you most resent in others is stuff you deny or repress in yourself. This is called projection, we literally use others as a screen to project our shadow traits onto.

Our journey of Self-Exploration is a bit like Dante’s Inferno. Before making our way out of “hell” we must walk through the depths of our inner darkness. Many religions symbolize these experiences well. Two famous examples include the case of Jesus who had to face Satan in the desert, and Buddha’s encounter with Mara (the Buddhist Satan) before his “awakening”.  Mateo Sol

We all do this, so there’s a couple of options, suppress it and keep frantically chanting OMs hoping that no one realises our murderous rage within, or acknowledge it. Take a look at it. Next time you judge someone else, either for the positive or negative – even jealousy often is us projecting our unowned good qualities on another person – witness that.

Be curious. Dive into it. Ask yourself, can I be disrespectful, arrogant, inconsiderate? Maybe sometimes these qualities are actually useful. Especially when used consciously.

When I stumbled upon Chakradance, something lit up inside of me. Here was the best of the New Age. A practice that combined ancient wisdom with modern psychology. It drew upon the Chakra system, shamanic dance and Jungian psychology. All practices which resonated with me. And best of all, it was music and dance! I had always found great freedom and liberation from my difficulties by pumping up the stereo and dancing myself silly. Chakradance gave me a framework to use this for my healing.

Any practice which takes us out of the conscious mind and engages with the unconscious, be it dance, creating art or music, meditation, immersing ourselves in nature, will help this more primal side of ourselves to emerge.

In Chakradance we dance into our unconscious, and then we create a mandala drawing so we can express all this beautiful untapped energy, and all the powerful images we encounter which help us to recognise these hidden parts of ourselves.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age. Walt Whitman

Because the shadow is often made up of primal instincts and urges we have repressed, as well as tribal and ancestral traits we have rebelled against, I feel that the base chakra is particularly relevant to this work.

When I was in India last year I took the opportunity to see an Ayurvedic doctor. In Ayurveda all aspects of self, mind, body and spirit are addresssed. So as part of the consultation, he discussed the state of my chakras. He felt that my physical and emotional symptoms indicated my base Chakra was weak – almost non-existant! – and needed activating. I have been practising the mantras he gave me and the chanting practice. When the Chakradance Reboot Your Base Chakra eCourse came up I immediately signed up.

I am a great believer in divine timing. As my shadow self seems to be bursting out causing me to act, think and feel in ways I find very overwhelming and challenging, I have this beautiful practice of Chakradance to ease me back into my body, to help me integrate all these aspects of self. Chakradance is gentle like that, it doesn’t force things to come up in the psyche, Jung believed that could be counter-productive. But when stuff is ready, it rises, and it feels so good to be able to dance through and integrate my shadow work.

In the base Chakradance we connect with our power animal. Dancing our power animal is one of the most powerful shamanic practices to revitalise and strengthen our spirit. Each animal brings its own strength, wisdom or medicine, and a connection to our primal, instinctual nature.

Mine is an animal who hibernates seasonally, and as such as we head into Winter here, I am reminded of the restorative power of cave-time, time to withdraw from the world, rest, nourish and replenish the body.

The work of the soul is not always sparkly and full of surrender-gasms. As Caroline Myss said the truly powerful and great spiritual moments are usually accompanied by great humility or suffering, as the metaphor of the birth of the messiah in a stable illustrates.

In my eyes, indisposed. In disguises no one knows. Hides the face, lies the snake. And the sun in my disgrace. Chris Cornell

During this time of increased shadow rising, I became increasingly depressed. Perhaps instead of something rising up, it was a place I descended into.

Weirdly my darkest nights of the soul coincided with the tragic suicide of my musical hero Chris Cornell. I felt that right there was my shadow, I so empathised with the darkness that took him on that lonely night in Detroit.

I drew on my love for my son to get me through, like a candle illuminating the dark I knew I had to survive the darkness for his sake. It sounds melodramatic I know, but when you are hanging on by a thread, you use whatever power you can.

Depression can be seen as a descent into shadow. It certainly feels dark, and as though every negative and undesirable aspect of self takes front and centre stage. However there is also a palpable shift in awareness as if a doorway into a previously hidden part of life is opened.

Depression is a wilderness where nothing makes sense or has meaning. As long as it doesn’t take me out completely, this mental blackout can be helpful. It often forces me to challenge what truly has meaning in my life, what has substance, what brings vitality and joy. And similarly to recognise that which does not.

Leading up to this bout of depression I had done some work with a spiritual healer that included soul retrieval. In fact I could pretty much pin the beginning of my descent to that time. I became curious about this link between soul loss, soul retrieval, shadow and depression so I began to read more about it.

Soul loss is the idea that parts of our soul or spirit break away during traumatic life experiences, leaving us less vital. In psychology this idea is known as dissociation, where a person may have no memory of the trauma or seem disassociated or overly detached from their current life.

In psychology they are not concerned with where these lost parts go, but in many shamanic traditions, there is an understanding that these parts have gone to places in non-ordinary reality or the ‘spirit world.’ Shamans are experts in tracking down and coaxing back these lost soul parts to be reunited the body of the person they were splintered from. This is soul retrieval.

Many years ago when I was studying shamanism in Bali, I had a conversation with a friend about this. As a psychotherapist he pointed out that the mind is always trying to find balance or equilibrium, and as such rejects anything that threatens this. Bringing back soul parts after many years, especially soul parts that were splintered off on account of trauma, must throw this balance of the psyche into turmoil.

I wish that soul retrieval were safe, simple, and filled with the white light of love and light that people think it is. But something cannot be powerful and safe at the same time. Mary Shutan

Interesting alongside this deep suicidal depression, I also had other old dysfunctional behaviours crop up. And I craved cigarettes so badly I actually asked a drunk guy for one, fortunately he said no. I haven’t been a smoker for over sixteen years.

What I began to intuit is that some of the soul parts that had come back were pretty dysfunctional when they left.

Whether you see these parts as repressed aspects of self or lost soul parts, the effect of bringing them back into consciousness is the same, they are strangers to the psyche who has been getting along just fine – or so it thinks – without them. Sometimes it is not a happy reunion.

And seemingly they had brought some of their old dynamics back into my psyche, throwing me into turmoil. In a way my shadow selves were ignited and fueled by this process, and I was left in a frightening shadow world where all I could see was darkness and hopelessness. Much like the teenage addicted and suicidal me.

You will have to stand someplace you’ve never been willing to stand before. Go to places you have deemed off limits. This is the time to take off the shell of your past and step into the rich possibilities of your future. Debbie Ford

Fortunately, weeks ago I had signed up for a Spontaneous Transformation workshop on stress and overwhelm. Spontaneous Transformation is a beautiful technique that addresses this very issue by dialoguing with these soul parts and helping them address the trauma in order to find a resolution, recognition and integration.

Through this daily practice and through Chakradance, I have found peace with myself again. And beyond that, these angry and hurt parts of myself actually taught me a lesson or two about how I could be kinder and support myself better in my life.

In India, the Hindus practise Aarti, which literally means an illuminating light in the darkness. I believe by bringing the light of awareness onto our shadow we can find gold there. Don’t throw away the treasure in your cave because  you’re scared of the dark – light a candle and see the gold in there.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Try Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul



 After enlightenment, now what?

In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors. William Blake

No one tells you about the doors you can open that can’t be shut. The doors of perception, of consciousness.

Well, except for Blake and Huxley, and Therese of Avila… And probably most mystics who ever said anything or wrote anything down. Yeah, except for them.

I guess it’s a little like childbirth, it is one thing to read about it, quite another to actually experience it.

But I digress, back to the doors…

For some people these doors of perception remain tightly and purposely closed.

Perhaps only when facing their own mortality will they begin to allow a crack in their absolute certainty, and wonder – is this all there is? This world that I experience with my five senses? This body? Is there nothing else?

Others may believe in an existence beyond what they directly experience as reality, but choose to learn through intermediaries, from scripture, and the priests of their religion, what these other realms may be, and what wisdom there is to be gained from them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with choosing to keep one’s perception of human existence entirely in the physical dimension, except our spirit isn’t entirely contained in our body, so if we do limit our consciousness in this way, we are invariably being impacted by forces beyond our knowing. 

It’s a little like thinking there’s a big old wall around your house, so that means nothing can get in. Except a tornado can, or lightning, or anything that can breach that wall, really.

It’s a little like driving the world’s most powerful, elite sports car, but never pushing it beyond 40 miles an hour.

Consciousness is a marvellous vehicle, but you have to learn how best to use it.

But then ignorance is bliss, right? Or so they say.

And for people who choose to follow an established belief system, they can undoubtedly gain wisdom through spiritual practice, but who is interpreting this wisdom? Who decides what practices they should engage in? Are these practices meaningful to them personally, in this day and age, in this culture and under these circumstances? Or is it a dogmatic, one-size-fits-all approach to spirituality?

Are modern interpretations of ancient texts enough on their own to enable spiritual growth? Even the great mystics and masters have always said “don’t follow me, find your own path to enlightenment.”

Now don’t get me wrong, there is great wisdom in spiritual texts, but surely it needs to be experienced, not passively absorbed.

There is much to be said, then, for direct revelation. Direct, personal experience of the spiritual realms. Especially when using consciousness expanding techniques that have been tried and tested over tens of thousands of years.

So why would we want to open these doors into other states of consciousness and venture into non-ordinary realms of reality?

Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow. William Blake

The answer can be somewhat hard to explain, but so far, this is my best analogy…

Let’s assume for a moment that there are many layers of reality, most of which are imperceptible in ordinary, five-sensory reality.

Physical, ordinary, five-sensory reality is what most people see, unless they are psychic or a mystic and then they may routinely see other subtler realities – or hear them, or feel them, or sense them.

Science, mainly quantum physics, tells us this is so. The ‘God’ particle, the intelligence inherent in what we used to think was empty space. The way ‘reality’ is a co-created perception with our own consciousness. All suggests there is no ‘one reality.’

  

The eye altering, alters all. William Blake

While the science may not yet prove the existence of other realms, it does suggest that there is much more out there to be experienced that we routinely do experience. 

The human mind functions predominantly as a filter, it only processes the information it sees as imperative to survival. The rest it ignores. 

There is evidence that the brain processes information according to pattern recognition and memory recall. That is, the mind sees what it already knows or believes to be true. 

Like those tribes of Polynesia who couldn’t see Captain Cook’s tall ships as they arrived. It was just beyond their perception. Didn’t mean those boats didn’t exist. They were just beyond the tribes people’s  comprehension of reality. So they were literally invisible to them. How much don’t we see because it is beyond our comprehension?

But we can train the mind to open, to comprehend, and to experience more. 

All people can access these subtler realms of reality in a shamanic state of consciousness. It is not restricted to shamans. It’s just a matter of learning to ‘see’ with consciousness, and not the physical senses.

In another tall ship story, a shaman saw only the disturbance in the waves caused by Christopher Columbus’ tall ships. Knowing something must be there to cause the water to behave this way, he focused his awareness until he could see the ships. Once he described the ship to the other tribespeople, they could see it too.

  

Humans have great difficulty perceiving what they cannot conceive. Maanna Stephenson

Experience what, you might ask? What can you perceive in a shamanic state of consciousness? 

Other realms, the transcendent worlds of spirit guides and power animals, the parts of our world we have filtered out; nature spirits, elemental spirits, the hidden folk, fairies, forest sprites… The stuff of folk tales. The interconnected web of life, infused with spirit, that surrounds us. That is us. 

But why do we want to access these realms, you say? What purpose does it serve? I’m sorry, but did you miss the part about fairies…

I’m kidding. We can access these realms for information, divination, and healing, at levels beyond what our temporal, rational minds can usually access.

  

Man’s perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception, he perceives more than sense (tho’ ever so acute) can discover. William Blake

Okay so here’s my analogy. 

Think Google maps – just stay with me here…

In Google maps, you can see your house, close-up in satellite street view, which is a valid perspective, in fact, it is very close to your own visual perspective when you look at your street. 

Then you can expand the view, and the whole suburb opens up. It gives you a better overview. In fact you can see the entire world from that perspective, if you keep zooming out. An impossibility with the naked eye.

Accessing non-ordinary reality is a little like accessing a Google map. It gives you a far greater overview and insight than you could perceive with your naked senses.

Except in a shamanic state of consciousness, this ‘map’ is alive with helping spirits who can actually interact with you and help you perceive beyond your limited local view. And there’s not just one map but many…

The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself. William Blake

Most writers, artists and mystics will describe the state of inspiration as being somewhat otherworldly, as if the ideas came through them, rather than from them.

Everything that can be imagined has a reality in some plane of consciousness. 

The worlds these creatives describe are often magical, mystical, yet sometimes dark and terrifying. 

In New Age vernacular, the world beyond ordinary perceptions, is often described in rainbow colours, and feelings of oneness with the source of all love and light. 

A shamanic journeyer knows this is spiritual denial. Yes, there are realms of crystal palaces where angels and light-wielding guides heal with rainbow light rays, in colours beyond anything you can imagine here in ordinary reality. 

But anyone who has truly journeyed with spirit knows much of her worth will not involve these realms so much as negotiating with confused spirits and navigating realms that make most horror movies look like a picnic.

I have a deck of Angel Tarot cards by a very famous New Age practitioner and this deck proudly claims to have no ‘negative’ cards and not to use reversed cards. (in the tarot a reversed card usually indicates a block or challenge).

Now I subscribe to the theory that even the most painful and difficult life circumstances provide an opportunity for growth and evolution, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend that bad things don’t exist. 

There seems to be a growing number of New Age thinkers who will tell you that you can manifest anything you want in this world, if you just focus on it, and if you can’t manifest it’s because you’re not focusing in the right way. 

Anything ‘negative’ that appears to happen to you is a manifestation of your own fears and all you need to do is bring down copious amounts of white light, think happy thoughts, and voila! All gone. Like magic. 

I have succumbed to this ‘magical thinking’ before – I mean who wouldn’t? it’s so seductive! – and I used an inordinate amount of energy trying to white-light everything that happened to me, and every one else, and it’s exhausting. 

It also breeds a certain lack of empathy. If you follow this theory to it’s logical end, any suffering is self-inflicted, and the sufferer has the power to change it, if only they would. 

And I know from personal experience that when you are suffering deeply, the least helpful and loving thing someone can do is suggest you need to think more positively. Pain and fear are our teachers too. 

Now while there are grains of truth in utilising the power of our intentions in manifesting – as I have already said, we have all kinds of untapped power in our consciousness. I found myself becoming terrified of any ‘negativity’ as if it was contagious, a rampant viral force obliterating my chance at attracting abundance. 

Carl Jung approached this natural avoidance of the ‘dark’ within us in his work on the shadow. The shadow is the parts of ourselves we deny and avoid. These consciously rejected qualities are forced into the unconscious. 

Bringing the unconscious into consciousness and facing these qualities is the way to truly integrate them. 

Denial and suppression actually creates an unhealthy power, where the very parts of ourselves we wish to avoid are ruling us from the unconscious.  

All those years I avoided the dark, in the mistaken belief that focusing exclusively on the light would make me strong, I was denying the true source of my power. 

Because that dark stuff really exists, it is here, and denying it doesn’t make it go away, it just feeds on our fear.

I know this because when I journeyed, in all naïveté and curiousity, to a realm of souls trapped in various forms of suffering, it terrified me so much my spiritual power began diffusing.

Very quickly I saw how my fear was both allowing my power to be diffused and drained – making me more vulnerable to the very things I was afraid of – as well as making these spirits more powerful. 

Right then, I learned a very valuable lesson about powering up and utilising my spirit allies and setting very clear intentions about where I was journeying and why. 

In the same way you wouldn’t wander alone and without purpose in a bad neighbourhood at night. You wouldn’t mess with these energies more that once, without making sure you were completely prepared the next time.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so we can fear less. Marie Curie

After settling myself, with my power animal beside me, I went back to this realm. I saw it from a new perspective. These were reflections of aspects in my unconscious that I was afraid of, that I suppressed. My projected shadow created the fear. There really wasn’t any need for fear, these spirits were suffering, they were trapped. I could help them or detach from them. But there was no need to fear. 

So, after that experience, why would I want to do shamanic work, you ask?

I’m not sure it’s a matter of want. I’d feel a little pretentious at this early stage saying it was a calling, I mean I don’t even know if I’m any good at it yet.

But I have no doubt I have been led here. That much has been articulated clearly. When I try for specifics my spirit guides go a little quiet and look away. There is always a limit to how much we are able to know without the knowing driving us mad. Slowly, slowly is their motto.

I guess it’s those darn doors again. They are open, I’ve seen what’s there, so I figure I may as well learn how to manage it as best I can. 

Shamans are not well paid, the hours suck and there’s no sick leave or pension plan. You work until you die.

One of my teachers says he never really sleeps, He is on call 24/7. At night as we dream, many of us travel to these realms, and the shaman knows to be aware.

In traditional cultures when a child was “called” to be a shaman – usually after a long illness where they experienced fevers and delirious states, or after displaying natural psychic abilities. Their parents would cry and mourn the loss, as the status of a shaman was not always a desirable one. 

Who wants to live next door to someone who talks to spirits?

So it’s not so much a choice or a want, but a path you find yourself on, and once you’ve opened those doors…

  

I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create. William Blake

So where am I going with all this?

Things have been a little quiet here on Seven Intentions. I haven’t written for a while. And as I sat to write of my experience of the last six weeks, I found it very hard to articulate it.

Three weeks ago, I returned from Bali where I was studying Core Shamanism with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Established by anthropologist Michael Harner, the course teaches practices and techniques from around the world, to modern shamans. I wrote about Michael in more detail in my last post.

This course appealed to me for several reasons. It promised to teach various shamanic healing techniques including soul retrieval, which was what had interested me in shamanism in the first place.

The weeks I spent in Bali were full immersion, in a place that feels mystical and magical, where the honouring of spirits and Gods is as much as part of daily life as eating and sleeping.

Waking each day to the sounds of the jungle, walking to a local yoga studio with a vista of rice terraces and temples, where even the yoga seemed more gentle and organic, where the teacher sang gently in Indonesian and ours souls drifted up on her notes.

Walking, swimming, eating fresh, organic food… And that’s before I even started my course in journeying to other worlds.

Living in Ubud is full noise, life and nature collide in a beauty that is raw and visceral, and cannot help but awaken the senses.

I think if I’m truly honest, one of the things that really interested me in this particular course, was a chance to be in a real life shamanic community. 

You see, I have studied shamanism for nearly a year with Sandra Ingerman, and prior to that I did my Chakradance facilitator training. But these were all online communities. And while they have been fabulous, and I have loved the people I ‘met’ there, I think I had begun to feel increasingly isolated.

  

You see, I’m a librarian, I don’t work in a therapeutic community (even though working in a public library, sometimes it feels that way). I’m a weekend practitioner. I have a few friends who work in various forms of spiritual healing, but we are all pretty new to it.

On returning home, the isolation became so profound to be a full-blown existential crisis. I felt lost. I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere. I felt like I didn’t  even fit in my own life.

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. Soren Kierkegaard 

My day job is becoming less meaningful to me; at the same time it’s squeezing me more and more financially. There’s a sense that it will be time to move on soon, and this is the period of letting go.

Despite my financial squeeze, I feel compelled to teach Chakradance in places where people ask me to, which at the moment happens to be Northern NSW and Ubud.

On the one hand, this seems almost impossible financially and yet my guides are telling me to invest in myself. “Back yourself” were their exact words.

Yet again I find myself wishing for a group of people I could talk to about this. Not everyone is open to a conversation that begins “So my power animal says…”

Now I’m sure compared to other more immediate crises, this all sounds very self-indulgent. The thing is I’m not used to riding out this stuff without a community.

For fifteen years, I had an identity and a community. I was a recovering alcoholic and I had my people, we were all in recovery, in 12 step programs, we spoke the same language, we used the same solutions for problems, and we ‘got’ each other. I had a hundred numbers in my phone that could call day or night and get ‘identification,’ that sense that I was heard and understood.

Over the last two years, however my language, my world view began to change. I began to experience things that ‘my people’ didn’t always understand.

In Jungian terms, I had reached a point in my process of individuation where I had to integrate. My unconscious rose up, I was forced to face all the things I had repressed in myself, and I experienced a deep and lengthy depression.  

This process necessarily involved letting go of my persona – my public self – and my established place in community, to allow a holistic self to emerge from within. Acceptance and validation from outside became less important than finding meaning from within. 

But I knew these were precious and magical gifts. The option to put down my gifts and walk away, in order to remain fully immersed in my tribe, just seemed like too high a price for belonging. Actually it was an impossibility. 

  

So I followed my gifts, they led me to Chakradance and Druidry and Shamanism. It’s been an exquisite journey; equal parts of joy and despair at times, but an increasingly lonely one. I found myself going within rather than trying to explain to others what I was experiencing. 

And for those three weeks in Bali, I had people I could talk openly with about other realms and spirit guides and I feel the absence of that.

So I realized this is a need for community. Maybe I need to create my own, I thought. Power animal nods, she doesn’t say a lot, except ‘slow down,’ ‘rest,’ ‘focus,’ and ‘be patient,’ but she lets me know when I’m on the right track.

My friend did a tarot reading for me, what came up was the need to not have rigid expectations of this community, to let it evolve. This community will not fulfill all my needs, and it won’t be about conformity. Once we have begun individuating the self, conformity is not an option. Yet surely we can still find like-minded people to relate with. 

I think there is maturity in realizing that other people cannot fulfill all my needs. I have these various communities and they all fulfill certain needs, but at some point we all have to face the dark nights of the soul alone. There are some places we cannot take our human companions.

Living a spiritual life may not be easy. It demands total authenticity. It brings you to dance to a unique song that only you can hear fully, and sometimes you dance alone because no others can hear the music. Debra Moffitt 

So without setting such lofty expectations on it, I thought why not create a circle of journeyers, so we all can talk through and support each other in our experiences.

So in answer to my question, after enlightenment, now what? Now the true work begins. The doors are open; I can shift between realms and access the wisdom and healing there. What do I intend to do with that?

Despite bucket loads of fear and self-doubt, I intend to use these gifts to guide others. It’s what I love and apparently, it’s what I do well.

The path to the true self requires a deep connection with spirit, and shamanic journeying has given me that in a more profound and direct way than I have ever experienced before. I no longer have to wait for ‘divine guidance,’ I can journey in consciousness and ask for it. Yes, the answer may be be ‘wait’ but it’s still an answer, a direct answer from spirit to me. How cool is that?

The sense of being in a circle is right, when I teach Chakradance, when I’m in sacred space, I feel truly happy. My spirit soars and sings and my power is up, I can feel my spirit allies with me. It’s hard to describe, but when it’s right, it’s so right.

Blessings. 

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. William Blake

  
Images:

Main image Odin Journeying by Joan Baxter

Full Tide by Joan Baxter

Shamanic Journey by Willow Arlenea

Eternal Harmony by Tania Marie

Wolf by Pixie Campbell 

The Road to Emmaus by Daniel Bonnell

Jesus Calms the Storm by Daniel Bonnell

The Weaver by Kim McElroy

Shamanic Journeying by Jennifer Baird

Shamans Journey by Love1008

Pleiades Star Goddess by Katherine Skaggs

The Shaman’s Blues

 The Doors - Full Circle - Cover 1

Before I sink into the big sleep. I want to hear the scream of the butterfly. Jim Morrison

Recently, at a party, someone asked me about the Shamanism training I’m doing in Bali. As I fumbled my way through a rambling answer, it made me think, I really need an ‘elevator pitch’ to answer these questions.

The truth is, shamanism isn’t really something I can explain succinctly as a concept, rather it is something I practice, something that is unfolding to me. It is highly experiential. It’s outside of the comfort zone of the modern western mindset. So far outside of that zone, it’s like it grew wings, and flew to Neptune. To explain it, I have to ask you to set aside everything you think you know.

That said, I think its worth exploring. What do I mean by shamanism? What is my practice? Do I even want to call it shamanism. If not, then what?

And how do I convey all that to people without sounding like a complete looney?

“Oh yes, I commune with spirits, and I don’t mean a martini”

Enter the eminently eloquent Frank MacEowen, to save me from my tangled tongue (and unintentional alliteration) to describe it to y’all.

Shamanism – the practice of entering into a non-ordinary state of consciousness and leaving ordinary reality to acquire knowledge, guidance, or healing energy. Shamanic spirituality is one way of listening deeply to ancient powers in the land and within the human soul. Frank MacEowen

the-doors-weird-scenes-inside-the-goldmine-24369-hd-wallpapers

Okay. Got it? Not really? Alright, I’ll explain it some more. But to be perfectly honest, I can describe it until I’m blue in the face, which would be entertaining yes, but you really have to experience it to understand. Here goes…

Essentially, shamanism describes the oldest living paths of spirituality and healing, dating back tens of thousands of years, found in cultures all around the world from ancient times up to the present day, and yet many people don’t know what it is or are confused about the practice.

Part of this confusion stems from the term ‘shamanism’ itself, which is used describe a group of diverse traditional cultural and spiritual practices, even though they are not all one and the same. However, the remaining practices that continue in the world today do share many common approaches to healing and living in commune with the natural and spirit worlds. Hence the use of a common word to describe them.

Anthropologist Mircea Eliade in his book, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, wrote that shamanism underlays all the other spiritual traditions in the world, and that the most distinctive universal feature of shamanism—but not the only one—was the journey to other worlds in an altered state of consciousness.

It all sounds rather fanciful to the Western mind. Journeying to commune with spirits? Why, just hand me that crystal ball and hit the smoke machine… Woo-woo!

Michael Harner makes the important distinction that shamans do not ‘believe’ in the world of the spirit, they actively engage there.

In shamanic cultures, where shamans interact with spirits to get results such as healing, it’s no surprise that people believe there are spirits. But the shamans don’t believe in spirits. Shamans talk with them, interact with them. They no more “believe” there are spirits than they “believe” they have a house to live in, or have a family. This is a very important issue because shamanism is not a system of faith. Michael Harner 

sonos1

While shamanic practices vary across cultures, there are many ‘core’ practices that are universal or near-universal and these constitute ‘core shamanism’.

Shamanism is a spirituality rooted in the idea that all matter has consciousness and that accessing this ‘spirit that lives in all things’ keeps the natural world, including us humans, in balance, healed, and whole. A shamanic practitioner seeks to be in relationship with the spirit in all things – a path to sustainable harmony not only with all humans, but with each and every plant, animal, and spiritual entity that is a part of our world.

The anthropologist Michael Harner, who established Core Shamanism, writes that “the word ‘shaman’ in the original (Siberian) Tungus language refers to a person who makes journeys to non-ordinary reality in an altered state of consciousness.”

Michael Harner says that using such a term helps people to understand the type of healing being undertaken, and avoids the often negative connotations of other culture specific terms like “witch doctor”. Although the term is originally from Siberia, there is evidence that the shamanic practices existed on all inhabited continents. So it’s essentially an umbrella term for similar traditions found the world over.

Shamans are often called “see-ers” (seers), or “people who know” in their tribal languages, because they are involved in a system of knowledge based on firsthand experience. Shamanism is not a belief system. It’s based on personal experiments conducted to heal, to get information, or do other things. In fact, if shamans don’t get results, they will no longer be used by people in their tribe. People ask me, “How do you know if somebody’s a shaman?” I say, “It’s simple. Do they journey to other worlds? And do they perform miracles?” Michael Harner 

the doors

A shaman is a man or woman who uses the ability to see “with the strong eye” or “with the heart” – according to different cultural interpretations – to travel into hidden realms. The shaman interacts directly with helping spirits to address the spiritual aspect of illness and perform soul retrievals, retrieve lost power, as well as remove spiritual blockages. The shaman also divines information for the community. Shamans perform a multitude of roles in their communities, acting as healers, doctors, priests, psychotherapists, mystics, and storytellers.

Shamanism teaches us that everything that exists is alive and has a spirit. Shamans speak of a web of life that connects all of life and the ‘spirit that lives in all things’. Everything on earth is interconnected and it is the shaman’s role in the community to keep harmony and balance between humankind and the forces of nature.

Shamanism is a system of direct revelation. One of the major ceremonies a shaman performs is called a shamanic journey. In a ‘journey’ a shaman enters into an altered state of consciousness and travels into the hidden realms that many describe as non-ordinary reality – like a parallel universe to ours.

The Otherworld is the interiority of place, just as the human soul is the interiority of an individual. This is not to say it is “inside”, but rather that it is hidden and invisible, and its depths cannot be penetrated by ordinary means. Jason Kirkey

Are_You_Experienced_-_US_cover-edit

The Australian aborigines call non-ordinary reality the Dreamtime. In the Celtic traditions it is referred to as the Otherworld. In these hidden realities there are helping, compassionate spirits who offer their guidance and also their healing help. There are also some not-so-helpul ones and the skilled shaman knows how to avoid those ones, with the assistance of their personal power animals or spirit allies, who act as guides in non-ordinary reality.

Tori McElroy writes that this specialised, sacred role of the shaman exists in many cultures, and the accounts of shamanic trance-journeys are remarkably similar around the world. The ecstatic trance seems “to open the human mind to archetypal experiences transcending cultural boundaries.” The spiritual realms are almost always experienced in three layers: the middle world, equivalent to the physical plane of the earth, the upper world, equating to the heavens above, and a third that lies below the earth, or the lower world.

Certain psychologies might tend to identify the Otherworld with our psyche; the inner realm of the human mind and soul, and that the going-ons there are reflective of our own processes. Other people might lean towards the more spiritual or mystical understanding of the Otherworld as an actual place, a spirit-world, inhabited by very real beings. What is actually important is that no matter how we understand the Otherworld, in all the stories in which it plays a part, those who experience it are transformed. Jason Kirkey

Each culture interprets these realms a little differently, but there are such strong similarities of experience it suggests that the pattern of imagery arises from the journey process itself, rather than from cultural expectations.

There is even evidence that the shamanic journey may have been part of the development of all religions, and although the practice has all but vanished in many cultures, remnants of it exist in myths and traditions. This is where core shamanism can assist in the reconstruction of these practices, for example in Celtic shamanism and druidry.

There are a variety of ceremonies that shamans perform. Like priests, they lead ceremonies to welcome children into the world, perform marriages, and help people transition at the time of death. They lead ceremonies to mourn the death of loved ones. There are important initiation ceremonies performed to mark certain transitions in a person’s life such as from moving from childhood into adulthood.

Donovan sunshine

Typically shamans use some form of percussion, especially drumming or rattling, to go into an altered state that frees the soul of the shaman to journey into the invisible worlds. Many traditions also believe that music, drumming, singing, rattling, helps to attract the helping spirits.

Because it is not an organized religion as such, but rather a spiritual practice, shamanism cuts across all faiths and creeds, reaching deep levels of ancestral memory. As a primal belief system, which precedes established religion, it has its own symbolism and cosmology, inhabited by beings, gods, and totems, who display similar characteristics although they appear in various forms, depending upon their places of origin. John Matthews

Indigenous Australian shamans use the didgeridoo and click sticks. Some traditions use bells. The Sami people of Lapland and Norway also use monotonous chanting called “joiking”. My mother heard a recording of women chanting and told me it reminded her of the way the women sung, usually as they performed group tasks, in Ireland where she grew up.

So why bother journeying? Shamans journey to assist their community and its members, whether to transition through stages in life, or out of the living realm, or to heal illness. Shamans look at the spiritual aspect of illness. An illness might manifest on an emotional or physical level but the shaman is looking for spiritual imbalance or disharmony, which can cause the illness and prevent its healing.

I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed. Led Zeppelin

stairway

Sandra Ingerman, my teacher and experienced shamanic practitioner, has found that most shamanic cultures around the world believe that illness is due to the loss of the soul. It is believed that whenever we suffer an emotional or physical trauma a piece of our soul flees the body in order to protect itself and preserve the integrity of the overall soul. The soul is our essence, life force, the part of our vitality that keeps us alive and thriving.

In modern Western psychology, this is understood as dissociation and post-traumatic stress disorder. In either case, a fragment of the psyche (meaning “soul”) breaks off to preserve the integrity of the whole.

The helping spirits who inhabit parallel worlds to the human world have a perspective that often cannot be seen by a practitioner in ordinary states. Therefore shamans work in partnership with the helping spirits in performing healing work, including soul retrieval, where these lost soul parts are coaxed back ‘home’. In many hospitals in the United States, Native American shamanic healers work alongside Western doctors to heal patients.

Inevitably when journeying, shamans become extremely connected to the spirit in nature, the the land spirits, and to the local plants and trees, and receive information about their potential healing properties. This is a more sensible explanation of plant medicine than simple trial and error. The plants themselves have wisdom and a willingness to share this with us humans.

To live life from this sort of truth would require us to acknowledge the needed reciprocity between this world and the Otherworld, inner and outer, humans and nature. However, this sort of recognition of the interconnectedness of all things is exactly what is needed to heal the perceptive split between these realities. To do this we need to cultivate the ears of sacred listening that can hear the profound music of the Otherworld and bring our fragmented soul back into the wholeness of the soul of life. Jason Kirkby

creamSo why do I find shamanic journeying so very appealing? I think it’s because I have been inadvertently doing it all my life.

Music is a doorway into the realm of the soul. Jason Kirkey

My dad is to blame for my passion for music, he ignited an insatiable fire when he gave me Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band for my 8th birthday. Now I wonder if I should blame my love for the esoteric on him for the same reason.

There is a song on that album called ‘Within You Without You‘. It was George Harrison at the height of his immersion into the Maharishi’s following. In 1967, The Beatles — along with actress Mia Farrow and musicians Donovan and Beach Boy Mike Love — made a pilgrimage to Rishikesh, India, the headquarters for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the bearded, long-haired guru who gave the West a somewhat toned-down form of Hinduism called Transcendental Meditation.

I knew none of this. I just listened to the song, the lyrics. It blew my little eight year old mind.

Can’t you see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you. George Harrison

This album also marked the Beatles descent into psychedelia, both in the form of psychotropic drug use and the ensuing art and lyrical shift that emerges as a result of opening that particular ‘door of perception.’ For a young child, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was not a great imaginative leap, akin to the journey down the chocolate river in the Roald Dahl classic. And yet that imagery left an indelible imprint on my mind.

st peppers

From there I leap-frogged into what I see now was a shamanic love of music. Music took me on a spiritual journey.

Eight miles high and when you touch down
You’ll find that it’s stranger than known
Signs in the street that say where you’re going
Are somewhere just being their own. The Byrds

I loved the psychedelic sixties. I emulated its art and fashion. Its mindset. I loved the sit-ins, the peace rallies, the flowers, the unbridled hope for peace and love, man.

And the music. Oh my. How I loved the music.

Holed up in my room, draped in batik fabrics, incense burning, posters of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison adorning my walls. I listened non-stop to The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Cream…

Led Zepplin and Deep Purple sang songs of Mordor and Taliesin, steeped on the Druid-shamanic tradition of Britain. 

The Byrds sang the words of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which describes the natural cycle of life and death, the ebb and flow of the seasons and of life itself.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven. 

deep purple taliesin

Jim Morrison channeled his Native American spirit in those epic songs that really took me places – “ride the snake, to the lake, the ancient lake, the snake is long, seven miles…” More recently, these lyrics came to me in a journey and guided me along to that very lake.

The Doors were perhaps the most unashamed to embrace the shamanic roots of their lyrical inspiration. Being named for the Aldous Huxley book The Doors of Perception, Jim Morrison was no stranger to journeying, and his songs can take you there.

The Doors of Perception is a short book by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1954, detailing his experiences when taking mescaline. The book takes the form of Huxley’s recollection of a mescaline trip that took place over the course of an afternoon, and takes its title from a phrase in William Blake’s 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Of course I found this book on dad’s extensive bookshelves, along with a beauty of a book by Colin Wilson called The Outsider which introduced me to many authors of his ilk, and of course the entire Beat generation of writers. Whilst providing a context for my own sense of outsider-ness.

There’s a whole other post in the connection between plant medicine and shamanism, but suffice to say the sixties were a hotbed of opening the ‘doors of perception.’ But like my own experience with psychedelics in my twenties, without sufficient intent and reverence for the plant spirits, it is easy to get lost there.

200px-DoorsofPerception

Did I love this music because it sang of my spirit’s yearnings? Or did the music shape me? Probably both.

I was a star-gazer, a collector of special stones, shells, and leaves, an animal lover. A nature child, happier up a tree or in the ocean than anywhere contrived by humans. Listening again to The Doors perform The End, I hear the undulation of the journey process.

Music is your only friend. Dance on fire as it intends. Jim Morrison

The surrender to the rhythm and vibration. Shamans dance to shake off the anchor of the ego that binds them to this reality. I danced to these songs by candlelight and incense smoke and lost myself to the lyrics of nature love, rocks, stones, flowers, talking to trees and animals.

 Do you believe in rock ‘n roll? Can music save your mortal soul? Don McLean

The songs and art, inspired as it was by Indian art, found a seeking soul and guided her home. It was a rocky road at times. My teenage years were a journey through hell. Depression and addiction marked my soul journey through the initiation of the shadow. I sought chemical escape, but without a guide or a clear intention, I merely lost myself. I emerged bruised, broken, and emptied out to be a hollow bone.

It was not long after our early human ancestors developed the capacity for language that music began to develop as well. There is something about music that connects us more deeply to each other and the world than language could ever articulate. Jason Kirkey

janis

You may think it’s a stretch of the imagination that the psychedelic music of the sixties led me to shamanism, but to a person of a shamanic culture this would not seem strange. Music, both as sound and a storytelling device plays a major role in shamanic cultures, especially in the oral transmission of stories in the European culture.

The presence of the spiritual in music is something recognized by all ancient cultures. Celtic mythological sources are full of references to music in relation to the spiritual and the Otherworld. Music serves as an archetype in the sense that it is a recurring mythopoetic theme or “image” pointing to a collective experience of the human soul. In Celtic mythology this theme is music as a doorway or threshold to the Otherworld, and the transformation towards wholeness that comes with such an encounter. Jason Kirkey

The first grade of druidry is the bardic grade, where the initiate learns to recite stories, poems, and songs as a way to convey knowledge and evoke a blurring of the boundaries between this world and the other. The Australian aboriginals have their song lines, where they literally sing the land. And the Irish had their place name stories called the Dinnsheanchas.

Ireland has a great store of traditional music and there is a great diversity of style and nuance. Each region has a distinctive tradition. One can hear the contours of the landscape shape the tonality and spirit of the music. The memory of the people is echoed in the music. John O’Donohue

animalf

So while it’s a stretch , it’s not a completely unfounded one.

In shamanism an important journeying tool, used to connect with one’s spirit allies, is a power song. My power song came after keening an Ani De Franco song repeatedly while the ocean’s waves crashed over me. I was utterly heartbroken at the time, and the complete annihilation of ego brought on by this devastation opened me up to the elements in a visceral way.

This experience could be seen as sacrilegious to some – a spiritual awakening via popular music, indeed! – or as a demonstration that music still carries at its essence the transformative power to shift us into another world.

Music plays the central role in Celtic soul-restoration, forming the most subtle net to help the soul parts reassemble. Caitlin Matthews

The music, the foray into mind-altering chemicals, was all part of my initiation into spirituality.

My dad, who has been such a powerful influence in my life, is in and out of hospital now. He has such strong will, but I know that won’t keep him going forever. In shamanism, there is a great many practices that address all of life’s transitions, inducing death. So this morning I listened to the most recent lesson from the Shamanic Journeying course I am doing online with Sandra Ingerman.

Words cannot express my gratitude that I will have these skills to assist dad. How beautiful that I have already done a power animal retrieval for him, I told him what his animal was and he grinned from ear to ear – he bears an uncanny resemblance to said animal. He doesn’t have a clue about this stuff, and yet at some level his spirit knew and was gladdened.

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? Led Zeppelin

HousesOfTheHoly

Now I can tell him that when his the comes there’ll be a loving spirit there to guide him across the boundary between worlds. It will be someone who has passed over that he loves and trusts. How beautiful is that? And I don’t say it from blind faith or wishful thinking. I say it because I have met these spirits myself. And because for tens of thousands of years, spirit has been helping us make these transitions, if we only knew how to connect with them.

Death as a rite of passage, a conscious transition, in comfort and peace. With loving guidance.

In the Celtic traditions, spirals symbolise so many aspects of life, and the circle is a metaphor in almost all shamanic cultures. Nature moves in cycles, seasons, days, shamanic cultures have always revered these cycles, for survival yes, but also the wisdom of recycling life, not becoming fixed or attached to anything, “to everything turn, turn, turn…”

As I share my Dad’s last years on this plane, I have reflected much on all he has shown me. He has always been a man who embraced all the abundance of life. Wracked with disability and health issues from birth, his irrepressible spirit saw him make a dream life for himself, travel, education, family and a heart-led career. He became editor of his own journal, the only option for a frustrated writer in the pre-blog world!

Now, it is my turn, all that he has shown me has contributed to who I am today. My responsibility is to be courageous, to not hold back on the burgeoning worlds I am experiencing. To be brave and open and trust that I can can use these otherworldly guides to navigate this transition.

byrds

So in answer to my own question, I guess I’m okay to call this shamanism. It seems a little arbitrary to name it anything, given that it has been a part of me long before I knew it to even name it. I have always bucked against organised religion, and naming this feels a step in that direction. However naming it also opens me up to a wonderful community of fellow practitioners. The important thing though, it not what I call it, but the very tangible results it produces in my life, and the lives of others.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you. Gaelic Blessing

Cead Mile Beannachta! (One hundred thousand blessings)

Images:

Album cover and poster art from 1960’s and 1970’s

Sources:

Sandra Ingerman, Walking in Light

Shamanism by Tori McElroy

Jason Kirkey, The Song of the Earth. Music and Healing in the Celtic Tradition

Shamanic Healing: We Are Not Alone
An Interview of Michael Harner by Bonnie Horrigan

University of Minnesota, What is shamanism? 

The spirit that lives in all things

copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born. Jack Kerouac

Ah! I needed to read that. Thanks Jack.

Last post I put some serious intentions ‘out there’ for my year. And now I’m back in ‘reality’ – pfffft! Whatever that means. And I feel like I’m stuck between worlds. The world of jobs and bills and traffic and the world of nature and spirit. How on earth do I practice these intentions in a life chock-full of distractions?

Was I being a little rash? I mean those intentions popped into my head, literally seconds before I wrote them down and raced to the beach, between violent thunderstorms, to do a ritual – out with the old, in with the new. Whooosh.

It was all rather spontaneous and spur of the moment. It was my last night at the beach. A night of the full moon, all dark and stormy, and I just had this urge to harness all that wild, electric energy to make my new year’s resolutions.

Later, after re-reading my intentions I thought, hmmm… I’m not sure where all that came from. Obviously, I was on a bit of a nature love-buzz.

But you know what? I’m just going with it. Those intentions came to me for a reason and I am going to just let that unfold. Even if it turns out the reason is to teach me to put some forethought into my rituals…

To refresh your memory here are my intentions as they spilled out of my pen that fateful night… (Drum roll please)

S_verine_Pineaux_1960_French_Fantasy_painter_and_Illustrator_Tutt_Art_29_Love myself
Love the (super)natural world
Love animals
Love people
Love my work
Love my space
Love my spirit

So there’s nothing too outrageous. I didn’t commit to chasing down Johnny Depp or becoming a bestselling author or bringing about world peace or anything.

It occurred to me late last year that my intentions, and the whole theme of ‘putting it out there,’ was rather outcome focused. It was all about bringing stuff in, manifesting great things in my life. And yes, it worked, undoubtably. But it also tapped into a part of my personality that is a little, ahem, shall we say, insatiable.

As the buddhists tell us, the greatest source of pain in our lives is the state of dissatisfaction that comes from our attachment to desire.

So when I came to the end of last year, despite its many great blessings, in a state of grief and pain, I knew I had to go within and see its source.

Now I do believe that pain has its purpose. Grief breaks my heart open, promotes compassion for other’s pain, highlights thought patterns that no longer serve me, and is a release of held emotion from my body. I don’t think we can or should avoid grief. I think we can certainly learn from its expression though.

Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance. Osho

On the night of my ritual to the ocean, I was driven by this pain to let go of my attachments, especially in relation to the ideals of romantic love and home. This was motivated by a nagging sense that somehow my intentions ‘hadn’t worked’ in these areas of my life just because I didn’t get the house or the man I wanted.

As soon as these ideas were articulated in my heart and mind, I realised the source of my pain. Being single and renting my gorgeous little place is not painful. It is the attachment to the idea that things should be different that creates pain. Of course, there was also some legitimate heart-ache and grief thrown in there too, but while those emotions will shift and move, attachments stay stuck and often become so embedded, like a veruca burrowing deep, down inside, causing more and more pain.

samhain copyright - Séverine PINEAUXSo I wrote out my list of letting go, my commitments to practice, and some new intentions.

Originally my intentions were going to be very specific. Like a shopping list of desires. “I want to go to Bali and study shamanism” “I want to go to Ireland and see the sacred sites” “I want to study celtic tradition and herb lore and sound therapy and tarot and …”

First it was becoming a long and exhausting (and rather whiney) list, second I could see I was setting myself up for disappointment again.

What if these things didn’t eventuate? Would that leave me with a sense of failure and disappointment? Would I become so fixated on these attachments that I would miss the appreciation of the gifts that did come my way? I suspected, yes.

As a student of druidry and shamanism, the consistent message that comes through these traditional practices is a reverence for the wisdom of the natural and spirit world, or what I have come to call the (super)natural world. Studying these traditions, we learn there is not a clear distinction between these worlds. Nature is inherently imbued with spirit and spirits. All things have the ‘spirit that lives in all things’ and nature is rife with the ‘hidden folk’ sprites, faeries, and other elemental spirits.

the lady copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

When I get attached to physical outcomes, I lose sight of this nuance and numinosity, that is such a gift in my life. Even in my grief and pain of the past few weeks, I was acutely aware of how the ocean held me, and the presence of spirit all around me in the rocks and sand and sea-plants and animals. As I hummed an Ani DeFranco song about heartbreak, suddenly the tune was alive with spirit and the words came – and I had my soul-song or power-song, a great gift in shamanic practice. This is a song I sing to connect with my power and spirit for the purpose of healing myself and all living things.

All this became a cacophony of voices reminding me of, possibly the key principle of all spiritual practice, “practice not outcomes.” The practice itself IS the point. The gifts are in the practice itself. Intentions are the focal points for my practice, not means of searching for goodies from the universe. Although great blessings do come from this practice, that should not be the incentive. I saw I had the cart before the horse.

So I am sticking with these intentions that came to me so intuitively. This time with the focus on the means, not the end. They are a commitment to practice. I want to reconnect with my study of the subtle energy bodies, the chakras, and the chakradance journey as a practice for integrating all that I am learning in my druid and shamanic studies.

This year I intend to take a slightly different process in exploring my intentions. Last year I aligned each intention with a chakra and examined them independently. This year I intend – who knows what will actually happen, or what wonderful tangents this will take me on – to look at my seven intentions through the perspective of a different chakra each week.

titaniacopyright - Séverine PINEAUX

I intend to look at each intention through lens of the seven chakras. As well as developing my sense – which I touched upon last year – of the correlation between the chakras other energy systems, in native Australian indigenous practice and the probable Celtic energy system of the ‘cauldrons’.

The cauldron is a great analogy for this blog, as this will be the melting and magic pot where all my practices come together.

These are my intentions, but spirit will guide me so it’s a fabulous journey of discovery, let’s see where it goes!

I am rediscovering the beauty of spontaneous ritual in working with nature instead of imposing our will and structure on nature. While there needs to be a basic structure to ensure practice and intentions, and a reasonably informed approach, there is always room for interaction and spontaneity. This is where the majority of my guidance comes from. A spark of inspiration in meditation and then I follow up with research.

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. e. e. Cummings

So, we find ourselves back at the Base or Root chakra – Muladhara. Intricately linked to our survival, our instincts and our primal, tribal nature. This chakra holds our ancestral memory bank. Our base chakra influences feelings of grounding and being supported. Most children, by the age of seven, have decided whether the world is a safe place, and this informs our vitality in the base chakra. However, we can strengthen our sense of security through energy work and affirming living practices.

broceliande copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

The base chakra energies are earthy, dense, physical. Feelings of being grounded and supported, like the roots of a tree… How does that manifest in my intentions? What can I do this week to bring the earthy, grounded energy of the root chakra into my intentions?

It feels to me as if there is a lot of shadow work to be done in this chakra. Inherited behaviours, thought patterns, beliefs, ancestral patterns encoded in our DNA that often lurk in the darkness of the soil beneath our roots. There is also the sense of a great unearthed ancestral wisdom of both our familial lines and the ancestry of the land itself.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses. Friedrich Nietzsche

In Chakradance we also draw inspiration from the natural movements found in the animal kingdom. Animal dances are deeply entrenched in shamanic ritual. Shamans believe that each animal can teach us the power of their instinctual energy through dance. Dancing the base chakra you may encourage a tiger, a snake, a dragon, or a bear, to join you.

As you intuitively choose an animal and begin to move along to the Chakradance tribal beats, an incredible spontaneity of movement is unleashed. As I danced the Base chakra journeying dance, a wolf came to me. I thought “how on earth do I dance like a wolf?” Through letting go of my judging, rational mind, I simply moved to the music as I imagined wolves in the wild.

Soon I found myself laughing and moving on all fours, then dancing with wild abandon. Wildness, that was the wolf’s message to me. To tap into that wildness that gets so repressed in our society of conformity and restriction of our instinctual natures.

Dancing into my roots, another part of the Base Chakradance practice, allows me to connect with the imagery and energy of the tree. Trees are a powerful symbol of the dimensions of life used in many cultures. In celtic druidry the ogham is a communication and divination system of tree symbols, based on the nature of specific trees. I intend to learn more about traditional druidic sacred plants and trees, but to also link in with local practitioners to learn and study our native Australian power plants.

l'ancetre copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

Dancing the base chakra brings a sense of wildness and strength, but also a sense of support and groundedness. I intend to bring a sense of groundedness into my work-life – I will be mindful, stable and practical at work. I will bring a plant to work to enhance the work environment.

I will create harmony in my space through decluttering and letting go of what I no longer need, handing them on for others to use. I will declutter the space through energy cleansing rituals.

Sandra Ingerman, a shamanic practitioner and teacher suggests that rather than viewing shamanism as a set of complicated practices to achieve personal spiritual advances, it is quite simply a practice based on an authentic desire and attempt to commune with nature and the non-physical world. The ultimate end in this, is that we can become of service to the planet and all the life interwoven with it.

And the beauty is, the practice is a simple as sitting under a tree, taking a deep breath of air, drinking fresh, clean water, enjoying an open camp-fire or candle flame, swimming in a river or ocean. Bringing our selves, as nature beings, to nature without any need to get or change anything. Just being. And then the change happens. We become a little more aligned with the heartbeat of the earth. We walk a little lighter on her belly, with our feet bare and our hearts full.

the seed woman severine

Tree Meditation by Natalie Southgate:
Begin by standing with your feet in line with shoulders, close your eyes and gently straighten your spine. Take a few moments to focus on your breathing…

Imagine you are in a tropical jungle. You are standing under a canopy of lush foliage; you can smell the moist, rich earth. Sink your feet down into the wet earth. Imagine the bottoms of your feet are gently opening and beginning to grow roots like a tree. Push your feet into the ground and imagine the roots travelling down deeper and deeper, reaching for the red core of the earth. Breathe in through your body, and down through the layers of the earth. You feel secure; grounded to the earth.

After a few minutes of grounding through your roots, begin to draw the pulsing energy from the earth up through the layers of rock and soil, up through your feet and legs and into your base chakra. Fill your base chakra with the red vibrant energy from the earth. You feel secure, grounded and energised.

la sylphe copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

Affirmations by Chakra Anatomy:

I feel deeply rooted.
I am connected to my body.
I feel safe and secure.
I am grounded, stable, and standing on my own two feet.
I nurture my body with healthy food, clean water, exercise, relaxation, and connection with nature.
I am open to possibilities.
I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to grow and transform.
I trust myself.

Bless!

Images by Severine Pineaux

Lost in connection

one-with-nature-2-anamak-photography

When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

So it’s Sunday night. And I haven’t yet written a post this week. Not even a word. I had intended to. I even gave it a half-hearted try, but no words came.

Probably if I have nothing to say, I should just be quiet. But it scares me. The thought that this blog might just fall away. Of falling back into the silent, isolated abyss.

It’s nearly been a year of weekly writing for me. I’ve published over fifty posts. At an average of 1500-2000 words – that’s a decent sized book in anyone’s language.

There’s been over 12,000 views of my blog. Wow! This from a girl who wouldn’t even show her writing to one person, prior to that.

So what? Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I kind of feel like I am now. I feel like I have connected with an audience, and that’s very special. So I don’t want to let it slide.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. John Lennon

elephantgirl

Because that’s what I do. In my pursuit of one thing I get distracted by the next thing and well, as my dear dad says, I lack ‘stickability’.

I mean I can’t tell you how many things I have started and not finished. Crafts? Do not go there! There’s half-knitted scarves, half-sewn dresses, a bag full of items that need to be ‘mended’. AND I’m twice divorced…

I guess with my last relationship ending and other things in my life seeming less that satisfactory, not to mention the growing ‘to be continued’ hobby pile, I need some evidence that I’m not a total flake.

So I made myself think, what do I want to write about?

I am spoilt for choice at the moment – I’m practising chakradance, studying druidry and doing an online course in shamanic journeying.

It’s hard to know where to start with all the things that are happening.

As well as practicing these three disciplines, I’m also working full-time, teaching Chakradance out of hours and and raising a teenager.

This week my normally manageable child went a little off the rails and I was left – alone – to do some pretty serious parenting.

It got me thinking about all these seemingly disparate things. My lack of stickability, my failed relationships, my aversion to serious parenting. As well as my fascination with all things other-worldly.

The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

from spirit of BOUNDLESS photography com

Here I am desperately wanting to connect with non-ordinary reality, whilst wanting to give ordinary reality a wide berth.

If it’s all about connection, why is it I prefer to connect with nature and spirit guides to the flesh and blood people in my life?

If it’s guidance I seek from the spirit world, shouldn’t I be carrying this across to my real life? Shouldn’t I be more connected to the world, to the people I love?

Connection is at the heart of all my intentions. A desire to be connected to a place called home, to be connected through community to like-minded people, to be connected to life through meaningful purpose, connection to my body in vibrant health, connection to the flow of life through abundance and joy, and the big kahuna, love, which is the ultimate connective tissue, really.

We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness. Albert Schweitzer

At the heart of longing for anything is it’s opposite. So this blog came from a deep sense of disconnection to all these things. A disconnectness so deep I was struggling to even hold onto life itself.

It has been hugely inspiring for me to hear shamanic practitioner and teacher Sandra Ingerman talk about her recovery from chronic depression as a reconnection with the beauty of life. She says that it is not that her depression has been cured or has gone away through shamanic practice, but the practice has opened her up to the inherent beauty and wisdom in all things, depression included.

AA034283

We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. William James

I found myself feeling a bit panicky, I mean it’s nearly twelve months since I started this blog and I still have no home of my own, nor a loving partner. As I have said my inspiration for this blog was Noelle Oxenhandler’s wonderful book, The Wishing Year, and she got all her wishes by the end of the year.

This prompted me to feel a little desperate in regards to finding a love, funny how the home thing I’m happy to let unfold, but the tick-tock of time brings me great panic in the love stakes.

I say to spirit “You know these are the best years of my life, I’m pretty comfortable in my skin, I’m still kind of attractive, I don’t want to waste them!”

Spirit just laughs.

The funny thing is when I’m truly connected to spirit I don’t feel this need. So that suggests to me that it’s an attachment of the ego. Which is probably not a good basis to approach love from, so I chase my tail around a few times and then give it up. Whatevs universe, whatevs!

No, I am being flippant. When really, my heart deeply yearns for someone to connect with at that truly intimate level. I yearn for someone to share my life with. To share my love with. To love out my days with.

I do think what this eleven months of intentional living has given me, more than a house or a man to love, is insight.

…A way to bring their suffering into a context in which healing could occur at a level that was soul deep. That kind of healing can only happen in a world that is both numinous and immanent. That is a world in which the presence of the sacred is available for intimate contact. Timothy Flynn

A Classic Black & White Nature Photography 4

And it is the kind of insight that Sandra talks about, the ability to see the beauty in what is, as well as what has been, and feel a sense of peace about it all. Well, mostly…

This insight reminds me that I am part of this great web of life, I am neither incredibly important, nor irrelevant, I’m part of it, just as every living thing is. And it is only by recognising this great connectedness to all that is, that I see my purpose as so far beyond what I do, think or feel. My purpose is embedded in my very existence and the way that interweaves with others, people, animals, rocks and waters.

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibres, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects. Herman Melville

I love the concept of journeying. It has this interconnectedness as its essence. It has emerged for me in Chakradance – which is a dance journey through the seven chakras. In druidry and shamanism, which both base their wisdom on both learning from human knowledge, but also connecting with spirit in various forms by journeying to the otherworld of non-ordinary reality.

Journeying works both as a practice, the actual journey we make with the music or drumming and the visualizing and the use of senses beyond the perceptive space of ordinary reality. It also works as a philosophy. To view life as a journey, as an experiential learning and growing exercise.

The terms “ordinary reality” and “non-ordinary reality” come from Carlos Casteneda. Ordinary reality is the reality that we all perceive together. It’s the reality in which we can all agree that there is a clock on the wall. Non-ordinary reality is the reality that is associated with the shamanic state of consciousness; that is, when the consciousness has been altered and you’re able to see what you normally don’t see in an ordinary state of consciousness. Michael Harner

Ancient Bristlecone Forest, Bishop, CA

When I view life this way, in the journey through life, all is meant to be. My great traumas, which resulted in great fragmentation of my soul and soul loss allowed my soul to learn, to return to me enhanced by the journey. Experience has made me compassionate, non-judgemental, and open-hearted. Recovering from suicidal depression has given me a great reverence for life.

As I said, the Chakradance practice is a journey. It is a wonderful practice for integrating and connecting all life experience. As I delve into these other realms, I find myself dancing it out. Unfolding in a space of movement and sound. Using rattles and clap sticks has deepened my dance – into a multi-sensory and extra-sensory experience.

In an attempt to keep up with daily practice of the three disciplines I am following, I have attempted some integration, for my personal use, of course, when I teach I am very clear to stay true to the Chakradance structure. It is important to learn the original structure of a discipline before we can incorporate our own personal spiritual journey within that, as these personalised practices may only be meaningful for us alone, in the same way each journey we undertake is personal to us.

I begin with a druidic and shamanic blessing of the space – there’s much overlap between the practices, then I practice energy work sometimes with some chanting, I go into my internal sacred space and meditate. Finishing up with chakradancing, chanting and playing my slapsticks and rattles. It’s busy and eclectic, but I’m settling into something that really works for me on all levels.

I have learned the importance of intention, so last night I set the intention for healing and guidance, particularly with some issues that have arisen with my teenage son.

As I danced through the chakras and made lots of noise with my instruments, I entered that state where the boundaries between the worlds blur.

With my eyes closed, I danced and made noise and began to interact with spirit.

7657526594_afbccd66b8_z

At the base chakra I encountered mother bear, who showed me the power of protective love. At the sacral chakras a water turtle showed me to go slow, be patient and steadfast, allow things to emerge over time. At the solar plexus chakra a young wolf showed me community and masculine power.

The heart chakra was the realm of angelic love and healing. At the throat chakra the reverent and peaceful blue-hooded priestesses imbued me with calm and peaceful communication. The third eye chakra took me to the realm of my upper world guide. A being of light who takes me to the furthest star to swim in a crystal pool of the bluest and greenest water where I somersault like a baby seal.

At the crown chakra, the beautiful druidess meets me and guides me to the energy that is the source of all things. Is she me? A higher version of self? I’m not sure.

Are these real spirit guides? Are they archetypes of my unconscious? Are they imagined? I don’t know. They come, they interact with me, they give me peace and guidance. They empower me. As Sandra Ingerman says, the only real evidence for shamanic healing is the results it brings in ordinary reality over time.

I might say something about spirits, because it’s a strange word to people. What is a spirit? In 1961, when I was with the Conibo Indians in eastern Peru in the Amazon, I was training using ayahuasca with a shaman, and we were working with the various nature spirits every night. I worked with the anaconda spirit, the black panther spirit, the fresh-water dolphin spirit, various tree spirits, and so on. They would come, we would see them, and so on. I came to realize that anything that you see in complete darkness or with your eyes closed is technically a spirit. That makes it sound like it’s just an image in the air, but shamans find out which spirits have power and which don’t. They discover what spirits can help in what ways. It’s very important to recognize that whatever you contact in nonordinary reality is technically a spirit. It’s a spiritual reality. Michael Harner

Garnet Lake, Thunderclouds

The benefit of connectedness goes beyond spiritual and mental wellbeing. Medical evidence now shows that a feeling of connectedness is a major contributing factor in both disease prevention and recovery.

According to Dr Vijay Sharma, women who say they feel isolated are three-and-a half times as likely to die of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer over a 17-year period.  In another study, the single most important factor in a cancer patient’s history was not exposure to a chemical, pollutant, or carcinogen, but the loss of a loved one within five years of the onset of cancer.

Men who say that their wives don’t show them love suffer 50% more angina over a five year period than those who feel their wives do. Male medical students who felt close to their parents were less likely to develop cancer or mental illness in later years.

Among heart patients, those who felt the least loved had fifty percent more arterial damage than those who felt the most loved.  That is as close a medical connection between love and heart as you can get.

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. Thomas Merton

Writing itself is a kind of connection. I had nothing when I sat down to write this. Then one idea came, and the words to connect that idea to writing, interconnecting with each other. I read other people’s words and connect to them, and then this great stream of interconnectedness pours out.

So with all the benefits of connectedness, why would we hold back from each other?

Moon1

For me the fear of true authentic connection comes from the risk involved in opening my heart, in being vulnerable and reliant on other people. Risk. Vulnerability. Heart opening. Sometimes it seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

So when my love tried to hold my hand and be heartfelt with me, to tell me things I didn’t want to hear, I wanted to pull away. When the time came to sit down with my son and have a difficult conversation, I felt a huge level of anxiety about it. Even thought it was difficult, I feel a new sense of closeness with him. He seems happier knowing that I’m a solid foundational presence in his life.

That’s the thing about taking risks, we can avoid them to save ourselves pain, but we can equally be denying ourselves the richness of a life built on connection.

Tonight as I finished this post. I acknowledged this interconnectedness by performing a peace ritual. My son came out to my studio, and the dog. It was a little chaotic, but real life is like that. Messy. Imperfect. My son lit candles while I blessed the space and called in the elemental forces. We said some prayers for peace. He did his first journey. When we came back inside he checked social media and said “Mum! they’re negotiating with the gunman.” “See.” I said “Prayer works.”

When we woke up this morning two hostages and the gunman were dead, may they rest in peace. May the souls of those affected by this event be restored to peace. I still believe prayer works, but the web of life is not a simplistic thing. When you have forces running contrary to one another, prayer can uplift the energy, and transform the actions of people, but so can fear and hatred have an opposing effect.

The important element is the way in which all things are connected. Every thought and action sends shivers of energy into the world around us, which affects all creation. Perceiving the world as a web of connectedness helps us to overcome the feelings of separation that hold us back and cloud our vision. This connection with all life increases our sense of responsibility for every move, every attitude, allowing us to see clearly that each soul does indeed make a difference to the whole. Emma Restall Orr

10674594-md

Affirmations on connection by Louise Hay:

I am connected to all of life.

I open my heart to all of the beings on the planet.

I help create a world where it is safe for all of us to love each other.

What is true of me is true of everyone. We are all learning to look within ourselves to find the wisdom to live harmoniously.

Each person is part of the harmonious whole.

Bless!

Images:

One with nature

Ashes Snow Love

Connection

Black and white stones

Deeper Photos

Lunar Nature and the Moon

Boundless

Shell

Garnet Lake Thunderclouds

Open Mind

Sweet-talkin’ the universe

We are always daydreaming. It is time for us to focus our imaginations on what we do want to create versus the chaos we are using our imaginations to dream into existence. Sandra Ingerman

Ah! Take a deep breath and everybody say ‘Aaaah!’ with me.

Ah. The storm has passed.

If you read my last post – synopsis is lots of crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth, some of which took place in the romance section of a public library – you’ll remember I was in the midst of a watershed.

I’m pleased to report that the feedback I received from many of you, alongside further reading I did, confirmed that yes, releasing emotions is healthy and no, I was not losing my shizzle completely.

One of the many pieces I read was by Sandra Ingerman, a shamanic practitioner and psychotherapist, who talked about mastering the difference between ‘expressing’ emotion and ‘sending’ emotion.

As a shamanic practitioner she believes in the life or spirit in all things, and the interconnectivity between all of life, from us human folk to the animals, trees, waters and even rocks.

As such when we ‘send’ out emotions, particularly anger, we can be sending some pretty nasty stuff out into the web of life.

If you don’t buy this, just think of the last screaming match you had with someone. When they launched angry words at you with great emotional force, did you feel physically attacked? Like a kick in the guts, a stab in the heart? These are all sayings we use to describe the very real effect of emotional energy transference.

So how do you release emotion without ‘sending’ it to other people or the natural environment as toxic energy?

jordan-phill-petrovic

The trick is transmutation.

Trans-what now, you say? Transmutation is basically changing one thing into another. Like the old alchemists turning lead into gold, we can transmute our heavy, dark leaden energies into energetic gold.

And it’s so easy, because all it takes is intention.

And it’s not so easy, because let’s face it, when you’re in the midst of a good angry rant, who wants to stop and transmute their anger into love?

When you do find yourself reacting to others and to life make sure you express your feelings while at the same time transmuting and transforming the energy behind your emotions to light and love. Express don’t send. In this way we continue to feed the energy of love versus hate, suffering, and separation. Sandra Ingerman

All I can say is, suck it up princess. If you want to heal the world one action at a time, this is one of the most powerful practices you can engage in. It takes practice, but like all spiritual discipline, the intention combined with the attempt to practice has an effect way before perfection is achieved. Which is lucky, because I for one, am not going to be perfect at practising this in my lifetime!

Another development that emerged from my existential crisis last week was equally powerful.

As you will know from reading this blog, I have been actively engaged in a journey of manifesting my intentions for the past 11 months or so.

Two of the key practices that have emerged for me are chakra energy work and shamanic journeying. I had a profound realisation this week as I was ‘working’ on healing a physical condition of mine.

I was in the bath – I often practice in the bath with sea salts and essential oils, it’s incredibly healing. An awakening had been slowly dawning on me that when I practice energy work I have the demeanour of a greedy child. It’s always ‘heal me, fix this, shine your light here’. It felt like I was accessing the divine and then asking it to do stuff for me. It felt selfish and grasping.

pink-forest

As I read Sandra Ingerman and a truly wonderful book called The Celtic Way of Seeing by Frank MacEowen, I sensed the true depth of what a shaman told me months ago. She had said that when I was in that state of deep meditation and connection, my spirit would be naturally called in and healed.

This week I have begun to practise just being with the energies I work with. I haven’t asked for any particular healing or tried to ‘force’ the light to go anywhere in particular, I just let myself be in it. The change was palpable. I have felt as if I am literally pulsing with energy. I have also spontaneously wanted to share this energy outwards with others and nature.

The Taoist tradition, the second principle is called ‘wu wei,’ and in Chinese it means literally ‘not doing,’ but would be much better translated to give it the spirit of ‘not forcing’ or ‘not obstructing.’ This means that the activity of nature is not self-obstructive. it all works together as a unity and does not split apart from itself to do something to itself.

In energy and shamanic practice, we can access this state of unity and of unified energy, and I’m realising that just allowing myself to be in that field is all that is required. I don’t need to suck it all in and fill myself up with energy or direct the energy to parts of my body, or any of that stuff. I just need to be open to my connection with this field of energy, this web of life.

Throughout history there have been cases of spontaneous healing which are believed to be a result of harnessing this energy.

Whilst this may seem trivial to many of you, I have had a particularly painful veruca on my foot for many years. It gust keep growing deeper into the tissue and many attempts to cut it and burn it out were to no avail.

A few months ago I set an intention for it to heal. And then I forgot about it. It hadn’t been painful and in truth the only time I though about it recently was when I was seated in a meditation group and I briefly worried that the person next to me would see it – it was an ugly thing.

Anyway, in my bath on the weekend I was massaging my feet and I thought ‘hold the phone!’ I couldn’t find the veruca, I searched one foot, then the other. It was completely gone. I mean so completely gone that I can’t be sure which foot it was on.

And in that moment I had this feeling that anything is possible. And yet I can’t MAKE it happen. I just turn up in the energetic space of non-ordinary reality and just, well, to sound all bumper stickerish about it, let the magic happen.

That said, intention is vital in journeying practice. So I’m not talking about blindly stumbling around in non-ordinary reality. What I’m finding is that my ego-mind has no function in non-ordinary reality. So I set an intention, for me at the moment it’s all about exploration and being guided, and then I let go into the experience.

This awakening has manifested in a beautiful way in my Chakradance practice.

I have been teaching for about six weeks now. Words can’t describe how much I love it, how I feel that I am home, that I am living my destiny when I teach in my beautiful studio.

When I dance with a class I need to hold the space, so I don’t journey to non-ordinary reality as I would if I was dancing alone. That’s not to say I don’t tap into that energy.

I have incorporated the shamanic practice of honouring the four directions, father sky and mother earth, and all the spirit helpers, before I welcome my class.

As such when I am running the class I often feel the presence of ancestral guides, both of the land – I call upon the traditional custodians of the land as part of this blessing of the space. And my participants have connected with the energy of loved ones who have passed on during their dances.

The energy of love created in a group of Chakradancers is profound and powerful. Although it’s not an explicit aim of the class, the nature of a group of people dancing into their spirit-selves, inviting their ancestors and guides to be with them, well, it just creates a powerhouse of loving energy.

As such I have taken to emphasising the practice in the dance of using our arms and hands to send this energy out into the world.

In my mind’s eye I visualise my family, my neighbours, the surrounding suburbs, then the city and the world and entire universe receiving these ripples of loving light energy that we are generating in the dance.

It probably sounds impossibly hippy-dippy to those who haven’t experienced it, but I tell you, I have some very grounded and sensible people who come to my classes who will testify to this experience.

Sandra Ingerman says when you feel power in you, it is meant to be used. Chakradance creates a lot of power, incorporated into the dance is the idea of releasing this power, emanating it into the world. 

ethiopia-and-sudan-phill-petrovic

In her book Medicine for the Earth, Sandra discusses how the transfiguration into light that occurs when we slip into states of non-ordinary consciousness heals both the participants and the environment. In her
water experiments, groups of people reduced the Ph level of water, but more significantly improved health conditions in participants so much so that the University of Michigan is now doing research on this phenomena.

The bottom line for me is that twelve months ago I couldn’t get out of bed. My body and spirit was so depleted that I just dragged myself through the days out of a sense of duty to my family.

Twelve months later I’m a dancing dervish, filled with vibrancy and passion for life, all life, not just mine, but everything that makes up this beautiful web of life we share.

There are some people who will tell you that Celtic shamanism is about power. I say it is an ancient way of falling in love with the world around you, and within you. Tom Cowan

In his book The Celtic Way of Seeing, Frank MacEowen talks about the healing power of ‘love-talking’ to nature. This is a practice that has come to me quite intuitively as I spend more and more time each day connecting with nature.

Ever since I read the evidence on the effect of grounding, walking barefoot on the ground, I have made a commitment to spend more time in communion with nature. Now it is a craving I feel, I can’t wait to get outside and get barefoot, I drive to waterways and forests just to feel that bliss of my body being restored to a natural state of rhythm and harmony.

The old Irish practice of geancannach – which roughly translates as ‘love-talk’ – it is both an ancient form of poetry called a ‘praise poem’ and a daily practice to express our love of life. Frank MacEowen writes that his mentor Tom Cowan suggests a practice of walking around in nature saying ‘Beautiful… and beautiful too…’

Beautiful is the sky at sunrise, beautiful too is the soft morning breeze. Beautiful the sound of swaying oak branches in the wind, beautiful too, is the sound of the chirping wren. Frank MacEowen

Again, this might sound vacuous to some of you. But I attended a library seminar this week where some very powerful evidence on the effect of words, particularly poetry on a variety of physical and mental illnesses was demonstrated.

Words have power. So why not try sweet talking the universe, for five minutes a day, and just see what happens?

syrian-desert-phill-petrovic

Affirmations on sweet talking the universe from The Celtic Way of Seeing:

I observe the beauty all around me

I mindfully spend the day in love consciousness

I take the time to notice the natural world around me, be it a tree, a feather, a plant to an insect

I give myself permission to connect with the flowing music of nature

I see myself accompanied by the lineage of enlightened warriors behind me, supporting me to manifest my most bold, creative, and enlightened self

I learn to manage the abundant energy of the universe so that I may embody the spirit of prosperity, taking care of myself and others

Bless!

Images by Phill Petrovic

Ocean sized

il_570xN.608946460_q7gm

Wish I was ocean size
They cannot move you
No one tries
No one pulls you
Out from your hole
Like a tooth aching in a jawbone… Jane’s Addiction

Last week I was a Chakradancing shaman-priestess of the Goddess. This week I am a librarian huddled in the Romance section of the library in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Why? Heartbreak, disappointment. You know, the usual suspects.

I thought, nay, I was dead-sure, that I was training in shamanic ways in Bali in February. It was all a happening thang until work said ‘no’ to me taking leave at that time. And then, I just lost the plot. I mean emotionally, I didn’t go postal and shoot up the library or anything. My rage is within.

As such, I really haven’t wanted to publish a post until I ‘felt better.’ I’ve been procrastinating, not wanting to write what I was feeling. I was in such a positive frame of mind last week. This week, not so much.

Feeling that I’d be contradicting my “I’m not broken” statement by, well, having a breakdown, I just wanted to hide away and not write anything.

But then the clouds cleared enough for me to realise that being unbroken is not the same as being unaffected by life. Of course disappointment and heartbreak will affect me deeply. Of course I feel devastated when things I have proclaimed to love and want don’t come to fruition for me.

That’s not broken, that’s the opposite of broken. That’s real.

It ain’t easy living…
I want to be
As deep
As the ocean
Mother ocean. Jane’s Addiction

So I realised this week that I have some odd ideas about how I ‘should’ be – and how I ‘should’ react to things. Just because a relationship isn’t working doesn’t mean I’m not devastated when it ends. People, many people, told me when my marriage ended that I was “better off without him.” And perhaps I was, didn’t mean it wasn’t the most painful experience of my life.

People also tend to say “it’s not meant to be” when we miss out on opportunities that we have set our hearts on. It may be true, but it doesn’t diminish the sharp stab of disappointment.

I was made with a heart of stone
To be broken
With one hard blow
I’ve seen the ocean
Break on the shore
Come together with no harm done… Jane’s Addiction

il_570xN.492804725_42yu

And if, like most people, you’ve weathered your fair share of loss, grief, and disappointment in your life, that latest hurt is inevitably going to feel like one more cut, along with the other thousand you are in the process of healing from.

So after beating myself up for crying at work, crying in the shower, crying in the car, listening to Adele very loudly, and crying some more, I finally gave myself a break.

Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us. Brian Jacques

And I thought, so what if you’re overreacting? So what if it’s not meant to be? So what if it’s not the right time for you to study shamanism in Bali with a man you love dearly? So what if there’s plenty of fish in the sea?

It hurts. It really hurts. So pump up Adele and sing along as loud and with as much tears and snot as you need to get through this and honour your feelings.

And what I found when I surrendered to the feelings of loss, sadness, disappointment, rage and grief was that they were like waves. They’d come in and ‘whoah!’ Whoosh off I’d go. It would feel intense, overwhelming, literally like I was dying of pain. And then. It would subside.

It reminded me of my dear friend, G. I reached out to her in solidarity in the late stages of my pregnancy. I knew her, but not very well. But I had no friends who had had babies and I was scared. She had traversed that magical, mystical rite of passage into motherhood with such grace.

When I asked her what labour was like, I think I said. “Is it painful?” And she laughed. She said. “It helped me to see that it came in waves. So I’d ride the wave and it would get really intense and then it would break and the next wave would build.” That made the pain manageable.

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea, I am the wave of the ocean. Amergin

il_570xN.492752164_7sm7

I’ve used that analogy a lot since then. We also rang each other everyday during our divorces. On any given day, one of us would be an absolute cot-case and the other would be doing a bit better. That’s why friendship works, don’t you know, because we are not all crazy on the same day!

We were like wounded soldiers leaning against each other for support, staggering away from the battlefield. Sometimes we’d miss each other’s calls and just a simple text “the storm has passed” to let the other know we were okay.

I find it fascinating, these analogies of storms and waves. Jung believed water, particularly the I ocean was an archetype for the subconscious.

Nature is the only place I feel sane this week. I’m practicing being in nature with all my senses. Closing my eyes. Hearing the sounds. Feeling the breeze. Smelling the earth. Tasting the air.

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” Sylvia Plath

Sensing removes me from thinking and brings my focus into the present moment. It’s also incredibly lovely. We miss so much when we are stuck in our heads, thinking, ruminating.

Nature is ever expansive. When we observe the horizon and the vastness beyond, when we listen to the sounds the go on infinitely beyond the audible. When the smell of flowers and leaves and salt-sea air fills our noses and mouths with scent and tastes that stir the deepest most ancient recesses within us. Everything expands. Our vision, our senses and our spirit.

In nature, our spirit pulses and resonates to this throb and thrum of life. The mental chatter becomes just a small part of a greater cacophony. Thoughts drift away. Emotions are soothed. Our bodies calm down into the steady, strong heartbeat of the earth.

The hard thing, I think. Is trying to decide what to do when my head starts hurting, and my emotions rage out of control. Take this Bali trip, for example. I was so sure it was ‘meant to be’.

There are many tangled threads of want, need and desire. I want to do shamanic training, Bali is the closest place to do the training I want to do. I’ve been wanting to go to Bali for years. I haven’t been away without children for 15 years. My ex has been to Asia at least 10 times in the last 5 years. The most recent time was for his honeymoon a few weeks ago.

My ex getting married rocked me more than I had anticipated. It was not the usual kind of jealousy – I don’t want to be with him. It was just the reminder that in the five and a half years we have been separated he has travelled extensively, bought a house, and gotten married. And I, well I haven’t.

Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

il_570xN.546484178_94t0

My love was going to Bali with me. So it seemed like such a golden thing. Shamanism, love and Bali sunsets. So when work said no to leave, I was gutted. All these different disappointments came into play simultaneously.

I kind of lost the plot. I needed to cry and all I could do was crouch at the back of the library pretending to shelve the romance novels. And cry. Yep. Pretty pathetic.

I mean I thought, to myself, ‘you could quit your job.’ I really thought about it. I mean if this was my destiny, that would be the right thing to do. But I have a child. Taking those kind if risks seemed crazy. And what if it wasn’t my destiny? What if it was just my wilfulness?

There are no easy answers. My friend also says God’s will should be effortless. Meaning it should unfold without angst. Do I believe that? I used to. I’m not sure what I believe anymore.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on. Mary Oliver

So I didn’t get what I wanted. Instead I’m trying to get to a different shamanism course. I applied for a great role at work, and went to an interview. Because life goes on. It just does, so I may as well too.

And I’m teaching Chakradance! It is the most wonderful, nurturing experience. I really feel like I am a shaman when I lead a class.

Last night in the third eye Chakradance, where we dance our dreams into reality, I saw myself in a – fabulous feather outfit, complete with head-piece – leading a huge group of people in a dance journey, standing on a lush green hill. And I just couldn’t stop smiling. It’s okay. It’s all okay. It’s going to be okay.

il_570xN.492752164_7sm7

Just now I received an email from the Shamanic teacher. He lives in Bali, he does courses there year-round.  ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.’ Whispers the universe.

So why do I create such big waves in my life? Why can’t I just be calm? Why can’t the ocean be calm all the time? Because things need to be churned up sometimes, a good shake up allows the detritus to rise to the surface and be dumped on the shore. It’s part of the cycle.

Divinity is in it’s omniscience and omnipotence like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun nor ended. Hildegard of Bingen

It reminds me of that scene in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin’s character has just discovered – after losing his job – that his wife is pregnant with their fourth child. He’s sitting at his kid’s school concert, which goes haywire, and he begins to feel as if he’s on a roller coaster. At first he’s panicked, but then he remembers his grandma saying “Life is like a roller coaster, just hang on and enjoy the ride.”

Surfing the waves is like being on a roller coaster, it’s out of control and terrifying but simultaneously exhilarating. A calm ocean is peaceful, but there’s no movement.

In this way, experiencing emotional suffering can be a healing opportunity. Events can trigger an emotional response, say sadness, anger and grief, these emotions may be stored in our subtle body, our energy meridians and even our physical body, and as they are stirred up by this fresh experience we can release them.

So re-feeling of the old pain of our lives is a vital opportunity to address old patterns, thinking and emotions and to let them go.

To do this we must honour the feelings, we must let go of judgement and criticism. For me this means not berating myself for being over-emotional, over-sensitive, and over-reactive.

The reality is I grew up in a home where expressing emotions was discouraged, then I spent the next twenty years suppressing my emotions in various ways, of course I have a surplus of emotion ‘stored’ in my system. I’m I the process of a massive emotional detox. The truth is, in our culture, if you have embarked on a spiritual path, most of us are.

sunny day laguna beach

Our culture doesn’t support emotional expression very well. We don’t have appropriate rituals and support for trauma. In traditional shamanic cultures, if someone suffered a loss or trauma, after three days the whole community would gather and the shaman would perform a healing and soul retrieval.

Can you imagine? Every car accident, assault, medical procedure, break-up, loss, grief, trauma you have suffered in your life, being acknowledged and healed at that time, so your body didn’t have to bear the accumulation of this pain.

But that’s okay. I don’t live in a shamanic culture, that doesn’t mean I can’t use their wisdom and practice to heal and release these emotional wounds.

As such I have been journeying this week, going into a state of non-ordinary reality to seek guidance on how best to work through the things that are coming up for me.

Gentle nurturing support is what I received. Guidance to take baths and ground myself in nature. The body and spirit will process this, given time and the space to do so. By honouring the work of my soul, by listening to what emerges for me in my life, I get to release off baggage and clear space for my true spirit to emerge.

This is what Frank MacEowen, in his book The Celtic Way of Seeing, calls “the conscious process of soul refinement.”

Affirmations about nature from bmindful.com and healingwithcrystals.net.au:

My spirit is nourished by spending time in nature
I am blessed to have the richness of nature around me.
When I commune with nature, my own blessed spirit is renewed.
Today I will spend time alone in nature.
I live naturally in all ways.
I live in harmony with all that is around me.
I am completely refreshed after communing with nature.
I accept, release, and allow space for the exchange of energy.
Natural diversity inspires wonder and awe in me.

Nature is always in flux. Waves crash on the shore. Leaves fall from trees. Nature always letting go and coming together anew. Let go. Rides the waves. It’s okay.

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. e.e. cummings

Bless!

 

Art by Robin Mead Designs

You’re not broken

Spirit-of-Fire

We are the sum of our ancestors
Our roots stretch back to blue-green algae
They stretch to the stars
They ultimately reach the void
This history is inscribed in our psyches
Silence and solitude enjoin us to remember
Our whole and great body. Joan Halifax

You’re not broken. You don’t need fixing. There’s nothing wrong with you. If you could just sit with yourself, and feel your true nature, and love yourself as you are. If you could love yourself so much that all the fragments, all the broken off pieces of yourself would come flooding back to be in the majesty of your being.

Find what is natural, not what is normal. Panache Desai

I am fascinated at the moment with the Arthurian Legends, the priestesses to the Goddess, the knights, the shamanic magic of Merlin, I am currently reading at least different three books about it.

The ‘Mists of Avalon’, as with all Arthurian Tales, present many archetypes of woman. The difference in their fates appears to be an issue of power. Those who felt abused by life ended up in the convent finding peace in God’s forgiveness. Those who acted in the service of the Goddess stayed powerful and active in the world. Then there were those who were destroyed by a selfish desire for power.

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole. C.G. Jung

Shamanic_Soul_Retrieval_Reiki

Is is possible that we can reframe trauma to be seen as a service to the Goddess? Not the inflicting of the trauma itself, but the life force that keeps us going on, striving towards wholeness. Or if you prefer a less religious version, as a pathway to individuation of the Self.

For me, when I feel hopeless and broken this idea brings great comfort. It is becomingly increasingly apparent to me that I have reached a fork in the road where I can see myself as damaged and in need of constant healing, and suffering in irredeemable pain. Or I can walk the path of power, that there is nothing wrong with me, that all this pain and healing and awakening has led me to a place where I can guide myself and others along the path to wholeness.

When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing. Rabindranath Tagore

mending

As is my want, I am reading several books at the moment. It is a strange practice that walks a fine line between powerful cross-pollination of ideas and total confusion.

I have picked up Vagina:A Biography by Naomi Wolf where I left off – namely at the part where it ceased to be an “oh wow!” journey into the wonder of the female sexual nervous system and forayed into some – truly frightening – anecdotal evidence of the degree and longevity of the effects of sexual trauma on physiology and psychology. Not to mention on mental wellbeing, sexuality, and creativity.

Simultaneously I am reading Jungian and mythological accounts of the Arthuriam legends, and about shamanic soul retrieval.

The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness. Madeleine L’Engle

As such there is a melting pot of ideas in my mind – which fuelled by some celtic inspired rituals to the triple goddess has inspired me to purse this nexus of goddess power/shamanic soul retrieval and psychic healing from sexual trauma, and all it’s associated long-term issues for a person’s mind, body and spirit.

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. Thomas Merton

Naomi Wolf travelled to Sierra Leone in 2004 at the height of the civil war. She visited a camp where literally hundreds of women – who had suffered brutal sexual trauma at the hands of soldiers – were housed. Jimmie Briggs – founder of the anti-violenece organisation ‘Man Up’ – wrote that the victims of sexual trauma seemed more affected in some ways that any other trauma of war, he says, “It is as if the light has gone off in their eyes.”

grilmirrorwolfWolf also writes about a condition called Vulvodynia – a condition I suffered from for many years during my late teens and early twenties, undiagnosed beyond being told “it was all in my head.” Turns out it was in my head, not psychosomatic as the doctor suggested to me, but a condition of the nervous system, which affects the pelvic nerve, causing painful sex as well as affecting general wellbeing.

Wolf writes that sufferers of this condition also present as if the “light has gone out of them.” Often expressing a lack of will to live.

Wolf hypothesises that damage to a woman’s pelvic nerve has an effect on their neurological function, affecting vitality, depression, and even their will to live.

Why do we describe a distraught person as being ‘beside himself’? Because the ancients believed that soul and body could part, and that under great emotional stress the soul would actually leave the body. When this happened a person was ‘beside himself. Dictionary of Word Origins

I wonder if it’s possible to heal these women, whose “light has gone out of their eyes”, even those who have been so damaged by rape and sexual trauma that the very fabric of their being has been torn?

This description of the light going out of their eyes, speaks to me of soul loss, and I say that as someone who has experienced trauma and depression and a loss of hope. I also speak as someone who has found healing and path to wholeness again.

As twee as it may sound – to those who haven’t experienced the journeying practice – I wonder can shamanic healing and dancing life into their souls through Chakradance and moving meditations help these victims of trauma? I believe it can. I believe Chakradance can be a gentle, loving, and self-managed soul retrieval process.

So what is soul retrieval?

Shamanic journeying varies slightly from culture to culture but it is a system of healing that has been continuously in use for over 40,000 years.

Shamans divide the spiritual cosmos into three worlds; the Upper World, the Middle World, the Lower World. A missing soul essence may be found in any of these worlds. Shamans most often use the beat of the drum to take them into an altered state of consciousness and carry them in spirit flight into the hidden universe of these worlds. Once there, they meet with their helping spirits, power animals and spirit teachers. It is the spirits who then lead the shaman to the places where lost soul essences are found. Working hand in hand with their spirits, the shaman retrieves the lost soul and carries it back to the person who is awaiting its return. The soul is sung back, blown into the body and welcomed home in a beautiful ceremony. Beth Beurkens

shaman

Journey work is done by entering a meditative or trance-like state, a theta brain wave state, through the use of repetitive drumming or other percussive sounds, singing, chanting, bells rattles or dancing. In this state we can journey to non-ordinary reality, to the realms of spirit, where we can communicate with guides, power animals and reclaim lost parts of our spirit.

Being able to engage with the realms outside of what we call our life is the role of the shaman. Our vast Universe and our expansive life is made up of layers upon layers of energetic realms. It is within these realms that energies can get lost, trapped, bogged down or wounded. Our soul, when faced with tremendous pain, suffering, loss, trauma or fear, can often retreat in an effort to protect, to hide or to grieve. The roots to our soul loss can go deep into our life story and often we find it challenging to trace them to the cause of our unbalance on our own. Lisa Meade

Soul retrieval, one aspect of journeying, addresses the idea of soul loss. The idea being that those of us who have experienced trauma, particularly early childhood trauma, especially where our physical body was violated or threatened, may have had a soul-splintering experience, where parts of our soul literally fled to the far reaches of the universe, and stayed there.

Soul loss deepens when we fall into depression or addiction or make compromises with the world as we understand it, giving up on our big dreams of life. Lacking the courage and confidence to make that creative leap, or to trust ourselves to love, we wimp out – and part of our bright spirit, disgusted with us, goes away. Robert Moss

Sandra Ingerman writes that in psychology this state is called disassociation, but little attention is paid to where the self goes, or how to get it back. Rather it is viewed more as a psychological pattern of coping with trauma.

The main symptoms of soul loss are issues with personal power, difficulties with healthy boundaries, loss of vitality, or even loss of the will to live.

When we talk about soul we are really talking about light. In returning the soul parts and lost vitality to the client we are really returning light. Sandra Ingerman

One of the many techniques a shaman uses – in addition to singing, chanting, howling, yipping, dancing, stomping, waving leaves around, and smudging you with smoke and essences, it’s a very noisy, vibrant experience – is to blow the spirit into your being. As a passionate devotee of yoga and the Vedic wisdom that ‘breath is life’ I really like this idea.

If you’re not familiar with the practice of shamanic soul retrieval watch this explanation and demonstration by Daniel Leonard:

Try this soul retrieval practice for yourself on Tai Carmen’s blog post on Soul Retrieval – you’ll have to scroll down for the practice, but the whole post is worth a read.

When you pray, you visit the kind innocence of your soul. This is a pure place of unity which the noise of life can never disturb. You enter the secret temple of your deepest belonging. Only in this temple can your hungriest longing find stillness and peace. John O’Donohue

dreaming-with-horse-spiritAffirmations for wholeness by Trina Brunk:

I welcome all my feelings. I am willing to receive my soul’s communication through my feelings. I am whole and my feelings are part of my wholeness.

I give thanks for the blessing of life and all the loving support I receive from my forebears. I give back what is not mine.

With every breath I easily release attachment to emotions. The emotions of others have no effect on me. I experience balance and wholeness on all levels of my being. I am at peace.

I release my attachment to being right. I trust the flow of life and I effortlessly, joyously allow it to carry me. I empty my mind and enter the silence and here I am blessed, replenished and healed.

I no longer defend against knowing what I know, seeing what I see, experiencing what I experience. I accept my wholeness. In my undefended innocence I am whole.

Forgive me my blunt assertions in this post, forgive my contradictions. I mean no offence to those who suffer – all these ideas are nascent and unformed. They spring from a hope and a desperate desire to believe there is the potential for wholeness for myself and all people who desire to be restored to their true vitality, no matter how great their suffering.

Bless!

 

Sources:

Soul Retrieval by Sandra Ingerman

Soul Retrieval by Tai Carmen

Vagina: A biography by Naomi Wolf

The Shaman’s Way by Michael Harner

 

Images:

Spirit Of Fire

Shamanic_Soul_Retrieval_Reiki

shamanic-soul-retrieval

dreaming-with-horse-spirit

mending

women in mirror

 

Finding love in the right places

integrtion

If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud. Émile Zola

On reflection, what I write about is love.

This may be blatantly obvious to you, dear reader, but to me, as the writer, not so much. Even the posts with ‘love’ in the title, well, I thought I was writing about a different idea of love, inviting one aspect in, whilst putting my hand up firmly against the other kind.

And yet, there it is, bold as day. Threaded like gold through all my intentions, all my chakras, all my posts, glimmering at me.

It makes me smile, and think of Jungian shadows at work. The part of my psyche that is hidden, unconscious, and yet ever present. The poor, hapless, conscious mind often has no idea what is driving it, like a marionette, the unconscious pulls the strings, and makes us dance to its beat.

Love. The one intention I had the most reservations about, the one I purposely put last on my list of seven intentions, so I could ‘deal with it later’, is the very one I keep coming back to.

Love crops up, in every chakra, in every intention. I keep turning it over, looking at it from a different angle. Holding it this way and that. First at arm’s length to get a good, safe look at it, only then drawing it closer to my heart and soul.

In the end, these things matter most; How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go? Buddha

Dancing through the chakras from the base up to the crown, love continues to emerge as an underlying theme in my body’s energetic system.

At the base chakra, I understood the importance of loving awareness of the body as a way to ground ourselves in the world. In the sacral chakra, love extends to others in the form of our interactions and emotions.

In the solar plexus chakra, love tempers our power to be a light for ourselves and others. In the heart chakra, love is generated, and flows freely, when the heart is open and released from the hurts of the past.

Eastern spiritual tradition identifies each of the seven chakras with specific challenges that arise during the quest for spiritual consciousness. Jule Klotter

In the throat chakra, our expression is pure and true, and right-speech flows, when it comes from love. The third eye chakra is the cognisance of the love that is our divine knowing, our all-seeing inner wisdom. And finally, the crown chakra, is our connection with all that is, the love of the divine.

Unintentionally then, I have faced my fears about love, one chakra at a time. And well, something rather lovely has happened.

Romance is, in its divine essence, a temple space… A sacred opportunity for souls to jump past the confines of the narrow self, to take quantum leaps forward into new and uncharted emotional possibilities. Marianne Williamson

A few posts ago, I wrote about the Mr Darcy/Elizabeth Bennett-style love connection. For those of you who don’t know what that is – geez, read Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, already! – or for now, just think Bridget Jones.

Mr Darcy’s is the love of a man who appears proud and serious, but beneath that seemingly impenetrable exterior, dwells a massive heart, full to the brim with love, just waiting for the woman with whom he can have the true mind-body-soul connection, that he so desires. Elizabeth Bennett is that woman.

The world does not turn without moments of grace. Who cares how small. Colum McCann

When I wrote that, I had a man in mind – the man whom I have loved quietly for the longest time. Last week, this man found my blog, read it, and felt compelled to contact me. It seems he has quietly felt the same way. There were reasons why we couldn’t be together before, but not now.

The unfolding of this connection is incredibly romantic, and a powerful testament to the spirit of this blog. Despite wishing to avoid the whole love thing, to hide my sense of having missed out with the romantic love stuff, I didn’t shy away. I faced it head on, wrote about my doubts and fears, and set the intention to have what my heart desires, and looky-here, it found me. He found me.

It seems apt at this point to do a bit of reflection on where this blog has taken me over the last six months. Have my intentions actually manifested into anything more tangible in other areas of my life?

Doubt everything. Find your own light. Buddha

jacaranda

Aside from this beautiful budding romance, what has this blog and these intentions brought forth?

My sense of community has expanded, this blog has allowed me to indulge in my passion for writing and connection with other people, and my health has improved as a result on this intense focus on creating a fulfilling and abundant life.

Writing this blog has enabled me to continuously ‘put myself out there’, but what does that actually mean?

It means, to illustrate one example, that when I decided I wanted to teach Chakradance, instead of listening to my doubts, I simply put my intentions out to crowd-source the money for the course, and the support came flooding in.

You know you have found your calling, when you would rather do it and fail, than not do it. Alexander Kjerulf

So, six months into this little experiment of mine, to whole-heartedly pursue all my heart’s desires, I find myself bursting with abundance in my life. Love, passion, purpose, joy, community, and health. Sometimes all this abundant love almost feels overwhelming, and that’s where the process of integration is vital.

Chakradance has been invaluable to me in this way. It’s all very well to ask the universe to unleash its abundance, but it has to be able to flow through me or I may explode with the intensity!

As I have completed the seven chakras in Chakradance, this week’s dance was a dance of integration, before I move into the business side of the course.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. Buddha

Chakradance is a dance for the soul. It reconnects us back to our true essence by connecting us with the soul’s wisdom.

In traditional shamanic cultures, it is believed that disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addictions, arise from loss of connection to the soul. Where there is conflict between our inner and outer lives, our conscious and unconscious selves.

The common ingredient in every single dysfunction is an issue of power. Our physical body is a construction of spiritual power and that we are, each of us, scheduled to evolve through levels, stages of empowerment and our body is a complete reflect of exactly what lessons we learn and when. Caroline Myss

The soul is constantly communicating with us and telling us what it needs to be healed and whole, through our bodies, our feelings, our relationships, our dreams, our creativity.

In the dance, and dance is a wonderful analogy for our whole lives, we become inwardly focused and allow our body and mind to communicate with us, through sensation, emotion, and vision. In this way Chakradance can be like a waking dream, where the unconscious is invited to communicate directly with the conscious self.

As I wrote in my last few posts, archetypes are images, with which the unconscious communicates to the conscious mind. The visions and images that come through during the Chakradance are not illusions, but messages that contain powerful healing information for us, if we attune to them.

Obviously Chakradance is not the only place this happens, it happens in meditation, creative expression, dreams, in daydreams, in music and art that transports us, and in images that reoccur in our daily lives. However in Chakradance we practice awareness and attunement to these messages, and actively encourage them though the moving meditation of the dance.

The journey becomes part of the sacred quest, in which we find our true core. Archetypes can be seen as spiritual symbols, and the magic and power they hold is only as great as the significance we attach to it. Source Unknown

In preparation for the integration dance, I went back over the mandalas I had drawn for each chakra. In the sketchbook was the mandalas from the last year of me dancing Chakradance, since I first bought the DVD. As I flicked through these drawings, full of light and joy, or stained with pain and struggle, I felt teary at this beautiful expression of the journey I have been on, and the accumulated wisdom that is growing in me.

It was a different experience to reading a journal, theses drawings capture an essence of being, a snapshot of an inner moment in our unconscious mind. And as such, are ripe with wisdom as yet unknown to us.

That’s life. It hurts, it’s dirty, and it feels very, very good. Orson Scott Card

white tiger

There comes a time when you must harvest the fruit of your life. Otherwise you will rot on the vine. David Whyte

You see, when I first bought the Chakradance DVD to practice, I was in the midst of my (extreme) raw food challenge – see my blog  one hundred percent raw. Afterwards I had a massive crash, which ironically propelled me into this journey with my intentions.

This blog began from hitting rock bottom – physically, emotionally, mentally – and believing that was as good a place as any to set a path for the journey back up and out into the world.

Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already? Ernest Hemingway

The seven intentions I set then morphed nicely into the seven chakras and they proved to be a wonderful energetic blueprint by which to work through this rebuilding and reconceptualising process.

As I flicked through the images, I remembered being in those different emotional, mental, physical spaces. And I could honestly say that I could never have imagined studying to be a Chakradance teacher.

This dance of integration, which Jung would called individuation, the process of integrating all aspects of self. Each energy centre represents an area of human life. To live a holistically healthy and balanced life, we need to understand the area of life that each chakra represents. We need to explore each chakra and allow the energy to balance and flow, and then allow the flow between the chakras.

The lower chakras represent our physical, material reality, the higher chakras (from the heart up) represent our higher transcendental nature. Obviously these need to balance or we are too materially focused, on people and stuff, and neglect our inner being, or we are too spiritually focused, neglecting the reality of our humanness and need for connection with others.

I want to feel all there is to feel… I mustn’t forget, I’m alive, I know I’m alive, I mustn’t forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that. Ray Bradbury

My back was really sore as I started to dance, so I intuitively did a shamanic ritual on myself. As with many of my powerful experiences during Chakradance, this would have looked very strange indeed to an onlooker, but felt incredibly right to me.

It began with the smudging of dried leaves, and blowing the smoke over and around my body, and then ‘whacking’ myself (gently) with a branch of eucalypt leaves.

This intuitive healing was very focused on my base chakra and sacral chakra. It felt both intuitively guided and primal. I got up and danced, shaking my whole body vigorously and then started screaming, it was to a man who assaulted me when I was little, “get out of me, get out, get out, get out, get out of my energy field!” It was really loud and powerful. I’m surprised the neighbours didn’t come banging on my door.

Once free of this energy, I danced around – feeling really cleansed and light. There was a big shift around my energy, especially the sacral chakra. Then I had a really clear vision of me as a Chakradance teacher and Shamanka. It was a vision of power, of the power we can access when we do what we love for the service of mankind.

Do anything, but let it produce joy. Walt Whitman

Ever since I saw the shaman a few weeks ago, I have been shifting energy from my sacral and base chakras. As I read and contemplate the shamanic idea of soul-retrieval, it seems to me that it is less about getting “fixed” or “rid” of anything and more about integrating everything.Untitled 2

We each inherit many, many ills we did not create. The path to personal power requires that we know what we are called to heal and what we are not called to fix. Starhawk

The shaman told me that a part of me died that day when I was little, and my lover tells me that when my soul is retrieved the ‘who I am today’ will have to die. This ability to remain open to integration of all aspects of self, of spirit, is no lightweight hippy concept. This is serious stuff. It’s not easy to let go of who we think we are, to die to self, especially in order to re-integrate with parts of the soul that were frightened away.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable, and therefore not very popular. C G Jung

It is necessary though, unless I want to live a fragmented life, and I don’t, I can’t. This Chakradance journey has illuminated to me the beauty of the integrated spirit, and the wisdom that my chakras have to show me, the wisdom that comes from all aspects of my experience, including what I term traumatic.

It is important to understand that soul loss is a good thing that happens to us. It is how we survive pain. If I was going to be in a head on car collision the last place that I would want to be at the point of impact is in my body. My psyche could not endure that kind of pain. So our psyches have this brilliant self protect mechanism where a part of our essence or soul leaves the body so that we do not feel the full impact of the pain. Sandra Ingerman

Caroline Myss writes that the shamanic journey is a death of self. It is a death of the lower chakras, and allegiance to the world of human law, and a birth into the higher chakras and allegiance to the world of spiritual law.

She believes that most of our energetic loss happens through the lower three chakras, especially the second chakra which is connected to our relationships to anything outside of ourselves: people, money, and stuff.

To ‘die’ in this area of our energetic body means to release these energy dynamics, to stop needing the allegiance of the tribe (base chakra), other people – friends, family, colleagues, money, and sexual (sacral chakra), the power that comes from ego-play (solar plexus chakra), and to move into a relationship of power that is individual and heart-centred, expressed cleanly (throat chakra) and channels the divine: through the third-eye and crown chakras.

As always, when I write about deeply personal, heartfelt things on this blog I feel afraid, exposed. What if it doesn’t work, what if I look like fool? And that’s a possibility, but I see that love, in all its forms, is a risk. A beautiful, terrifying, but essential risk. To live otherwise is like trying to go fishing without getting your line wet.

Live like a hero. That’s what the classics teach us. Be a main character. Otherwise what is life for? J.M. Coetzee

cat and crow

What you do with your life is less important than how you live it: encased in shells of fear or wide open, actively receiving God’s immense weight of love, ravished to your heart’s core by deeply feeling every moment’s divine intensity and presence, offering your love to enlighten the hearts of all those all those around you. David Deida

Yes, the risks may be great, we may not be loved in return, we may not find a way to negotiate the ups and downs of life, people change, and people die.

That’s no reason to not try. Loving is a leap of faith, and as the Zen proverb goes, ‘leap and the net will appear.’

This last year I have watched my Dad go into a home and lost a dear friend to despair. I have experienced a complete breakdown of mind, body, spirit, from trying to live life from a state of will not a state of love.

Love is here and now in its myriad, blessed forms and I choose to embrace it.

Life is short and precious, and all too quickly I will find myself in the wintertime of my life, and my hope, my intention, is that my only thoughts are, in the words of the iconic Hunter S. Thompson:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” Hunter S. Thompson

Affirmations for integration and oneness based on the Oneness affirmations by Louise Hay:

I am connected to all of life.

I open my heart to all of the beings on the planet.

I open my heart to all aspects of my self.

I seek awareness of the parts of my self that are lost or hidden and I set the intention to integrate all aspects of my soul.

I am healthy, whole, and complete. 

Bless!

 

Sources:

Nourishing the Energy Body by Jule Klotter

Chakra Integration

Chakradance

 

Images:

Chakra Meditation In The Redwoods by Laura Iverson

Jacaranda Sunset Meditation by Laura Iverson

White Tiger Meditation by Laura Iverson

Om Tree Of Life Meditation by Laura Iverson

Halloween Sunset by Laura Iverson

http://fineartamerica.com/art/all/laura+iverson/all?sort=recentlyadded

 

Journey into the soul of the world

theodor-von-holstThe Wish 1840

I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died. Steven Wright 

When I first encountered the Tarot a few years ago, it was absolutely in the spirit of fortune-telling. I was struggling in life and love, unsure of what direction I should take, and nudging the big 4-0. A friend did readings, so I thought, why not?

Despite the many glorious myths, the use of the tarot has a fairly humble history and dates back to the mid 15th Century, where it had its origins in a pack of playing cards.

mamas cardsMy grandmother, an avid card player with a multitude of beautiful decks and ornate card boxes, owned a deck of ‘fortune-telling’ playing cards.

Knowing her, I imagine they were merely a quaint conversation starter, but I do remember being fascinated with them as a child.

I would choose the fair woman for myself, and hope to be dealt out in the same pile as the fair young man, my childhood sweetheart. That meant he was thinking of me.

As with all things occult, from ‘Bewitched’ to ‘I Dream of Jeannie’, to the ‘Witches of Eastwick’, there were plenty of glamourous role models to testify to the delights of extra-sensory powers.

Remember that the Tarot is a great and sacred arcanum – its abuse is an obscenity in the inner and a folly in the outer. It is intended for quite other purposes than to determine when the tall dark man will meet the fair rich widow. Jack Parsons

Oops!

I had no idea of its true power. Since then I have been consistently amazed at the messages and guidance I have received through readings, and yet, still not quite making the connection that this wisdom was not inaccessible to me, outside of a professional reading.

Having made no pains in this blog to disguise my issues with personal power, it should not surprise you, dear reader, to learn that I have been slow to really acknowledge and integrate my own agency when it comes to the world of the psyche and healing.

As a direct result of my forays into understanding archetypal patterns, the light bulb finally went on.

Ah! So that tarot, a deck of archetypal images, is a conduit between my subconscious and the collective unconscious. A conduit I can tap into all by myself.

Then I remembered a fabulous article my friend wrote many years ago on the use of the tarot in psychotherapy, called ‘Can the tarot be ‘real’? – a psychotherapist explores the modern relevance of an ancient tool’.

In this article he asks the question, why do people seek out tarot readings for fortune-telling and love predication and then enlist psychologists for their “more weighty” issues? In other words, why don’t we take the tarot seriously as a psychotherapeutic tool?

So how does picking a random card from a tarot deck work? How could it possibly be meaningful as more than a parlour game?

John_William_Waterhouse_The_Lady_of_ShalottIn my last post I wrote about archetypes, those symbolic images which pervade our stories and culture which Carl Jung linked to his theory of the collective unconscious.

The tarot practitioner, in full awareness of potential for the unconscious to communicate through the archetypal symbols in the cards, asks the seeker to hold a question in their mind – an intention, if you will – and shuffle the cards.

The link between the unconscious and the chosen card can be explained by the principle of synchronicity – the communication, via the medium of the collective unconscious, between mind and matter.

I wish the tarot could be taken out of the world of entertainment and invited into the world of psychotherapy. I too found that a very different sort of person typically saw a tarot reader or fortune-teller from the one who would enlist the services of a therapist. Need the world of academic psychology spurn the experience of mystics and sages? Need the tools of the ancients be useless in the hands of the doctor? Finn McMillan

The interpretation of the personal meaning of the card for the seeker is another matter, and one where the skill and experience of the tarot reader is vital. The reader will use their intuition as well as teasing out the intuitive connections of the card for the seeker. In a most similar fashion to a counsellor, except with the added tool of the archetypal symbol of the chosen cards.

For example a card may have a generic meaning, but may also spark a very personal reaction in the seeker, images in the card, such as animals or other natural elements or colours may be meaningful.

The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.  Clarissa Pinkola Estés

As with most things, I developed quite a fixation with the tarot and divination, despite warnings it should not be used frivolously, I, well, used it frivolously. And also like with most things, I tried it out as an external source of power, I tried to manipulate it, doing multiple readings with multiple card decks, until I liked the answer I got.

Eventually I twigged that it was a tool to investigate my unconscious, not a magic wand, or an idle plaything. It would illuminate my inner guidance and wisdom, but it would not tell me what to do. It may ask me the question of why I continually look outside of myself for answers. Or why I feel the need for definitive and divinitive answers at all. And that is a mighty good question.

All cultures across time have gazed upwards to heavenly bodies and downwards to the earth to seek answers to the big questions of life.

Chinese Taoists read patterns on tortoise shells, which evolved into the I Ching. Vikings consulted the runes. Ancient Roman shamans observed the entrails of slaughtered animals and grains that hens pecked, for divinatory messages.

From indigenous cultures various forms of inner journeying – the Aboriginal Dreamtime or the Native Americans vision quests – to Yahweh’s instructions in the Old Testament for using a sacred set of dice to make decisions in his name, divination is an intrinsic part of all cultural traditions.

The invention of paper, gave rise to the book of the I Ching, and the printing press, in the 1450s gave rise to printing of books in Europe, and the reproduction of card decks, including Tarot cards.478917376_640

It is a testament to their usefulness that these systems have survived to modern times.

Shamans also utilise this link to the unconscious to do their healing work, although often less divinatory, and more visionary in outlook, looking to heal the soul’s trauma rather than see it’s future, shamanism nonetheless works at the same level of the psyche.

This week I had a healing session with a shaman. I have seen healers who use shamanic techniques, but I’d never seen a bona fide shaman before – immersed in the South American indigenous shamanic tradition.

 It has always been the role of the shaman to go into an altered state of consciousness and track down where the soul fled to in the alternate realities and return it to the body of the client. Sandra Ingerman

The session was based on the idea of soul retrieval. Basically, those of us who have experienced trauma, particularly early childhood trauma, especially where our physical body was violated or threatened, may have had a soul-splintering experience, where parts of our soul literally fled to the far reaches of the universe, and stayed there.

Sandra Ingerman writes that in psychology this state is called disassociation, but little attention is paid to where the self goes, or how to get it back. Rather it is viewed more as a psychological pattern of coping with trauma.

themisThe main symptoms of soul loss are issues with personal power, difficulties with healthy boundaries, loss of vitality, or even loss of the will to live.

When we talk about soul we are really talking about light. In returning the soul parts and lost vitality to the client we are really returning light. Sandra Ingerman

One of the many techniques a shaman uses – in addition to singing, chanting, howling, yipping, dancing, stomping, waving leaves around, and smudging you with smoke and essences, it’s a very noisy, vibrant experience – is to blow the spirit into your being. As a passionate devotee of yoga and the Vedic wisdom that ‘breath is life’ I really like this idea.

So I have taken to blowing into my chakras when I do my morning energy work. Imagine it as blowing on the embers of a fire to flare it up. I had a wonderful experience in my Integration chakradance last night using shamanic techniques, but more on that next week.

The Shaman told me that in those moments I describe in meditation, where for want of a better word, I am in a blissed state of oneness and love, that if I set the intention to recall my soul, it will be drawn back to me with a magnetic force.

It is this degree of autonomy and self-healing that I seek, although I intend to continue working with this shaman, I need to know I am powerful in myself, and not dependent of healers to ‘fix’ me.

Can we remain on a rational plane when discussing inner felt experience that speaks to us personally, and with bona fide self-certainty, while at the same time being neutered by the inhospitable hands of logos? Jon Mills

The word ‘Divination’ is derived from the Latin words: divinatio/divinare, meaning to foresee or to be inspired by a god, and obviously related to the word ‘divine’. Do you see where I’m going here? Divination less as fortune-telling, but more as a seeking of union with the divine. And what was my shamanic experience, if not a calling back of my divinity, my spirit? See, and you thought I was off on another tangent entirely!

This week, in my Chakradance training, I have been exploring the crown chakra, or Sahasrara, which means “thousandfold.” This chakra is represented by a thousand-petaled lotus, not literally though; instead, it implies the infinite nature of this chakra, which provides us with our most direct connection with the divine.

The dance of sahasrara is an invitation to the soul to enter the body through the crown chakra in the top of the head. My experience of this deep connection to spirit was a journey into the soul of the world.

I entered the dance with the intention of experiencing oneness with spirit and as the sun was going down outside my window, I imagined flying through those golden rays with bands of angels, through endless amber skies.

From this aimless, albeit highly pleasurable, flying, I found myself at a place that I felt was the source of divinity. Everything went purple – the colour associated with the crown chakra. A purple throne appeared, and somehow I knew I was meeting God. The angels with me bowed on one knee in respect, like knights to their king, and suddenly there was a group of cloaked druids bowing too. I got to my knees. I was surrounded by light, like a rainbow aura in all the colours of my chakras.

Out of the golden and purple light came a lion, a beautiful, graceful, majestic lion, and then as if from the lion itself, came a lioness as well, and they walked to either side of the throne. The lioness came to me and walked into me, straight into my centre, her energy melding seamlessly with mine. Her power was unbelievable, grace, dignity, strength, wisdom, and this deep and profound sense of calm and safety.triple_goddess_w-Lion

She spoke to me as she led me on a journey. It began in a tree, as we sat in its branches, she told me the story of the soul of the world. It all began in Africa, everything began there, then she walked me through snow, across continents, Asia, Russia, Europe, so many ages, ending in Britain, as Queen, to King Richard I, the Lionheart. Through incarnations as a slave, an empress, a farmer, a witch, a queen, a warrior, a priestess, a mother, all different archetypes.

She said to me “you are royalty” and then left me but with the knowledge that her spirit is always within me.

So of course after this fabulous vision I went off on a rather literal tangent. I mean, Richard the Lionheart’s queen, that sounds fab!

I did not know much about Richard I’ s queen, Berengaria of Navarre. For good reason, it seems, he basically met her once, married her, and then ignored her, he was rather busy with the crusades, after all. She joined a convent when he died. Not the grand love story I had in mind. Figures. Maybe I’m being too literal. Maybe it’s archetypal…

Or the great and powerful Sehkmet, the Egyptian lion-goddess, whose breath formed the desert, in the dawn of creation.

Seriously though, this is where Jung saves my arse from disappearing into a blithering idiot about being a reincarnated this, that, and the other. These images and visions are archetypal energies that we all have access to. I am just as much Sehkmet as the guy driving the tram.

It’s psychic wisdom I’m accessing here and I have to drag my ego-mind back from its delusions of grandeur and fantasy, and contemplate, ‘what is the nature of this wisdom I am receiving, what is it I need to access or acknowledge in myself?’

Because really, even if I was the reincarnation of Richard I’s queen or an Egyptian goddess, who cares? I mean I’m sure my 13 year old is not going to pick up his dirty socks for Sehkmet anymore than he does for me.

The lesson for me, and it keeps repeating, to knock, its, way, into, my, thick, skull, is that I have to stop looking for ‘outside’ forces or powers to guide me, to tell me what to do, right from wrong, I must trust my own inner navigation system.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. William Blake

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Crystal_Ball

So what does all this have to do with love? I must ask as sahasrara is the seventh chakra, and love is my seventh intention.

In fairy tales, love transforms, the lowly is powerful, the prince appears as a frog, the princess as an old crone. A kiss makes them beautiful and desirable to love. Yet, beyond the happy ending we read about, he may yet become an old frog, and she an old crone. Can we still love then?

Do we try to fix our lovers, in the sense of correcting them, yes, but also in the sense of keeping them in a fixed predicable state, so they don’t take us my surprise or challenge our status quo, our stability. Do we aim to control and thus repress the force of love?

In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Can we ever know really ourselves, let alone another? Is not love then a promise to make that journey into the unknown, to honour each other’s journey, and by necessity, will that not mean our paths must diverge at times?

Love is all around, so why the obsession with romantic love? Well, sex obviously. But it’s more than that. It’s a longing for a deep soul connection and an experience of the divine oneness, orgasm is the easy ticket, but as the mystics will tell you, you can get there alone, and no, I don’t mean like that!

My intuition asks me if what I am really longing for, is a connection with the divine, a deep connection and sense of wholeness.

The desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. Plato

gustave-dore-les-saltimbanques-1874  EntertainersPlato wrote that the original human souls were split into two separate bodies by the gods, in order to make us less powerful, and as such our lives are spent trying to find the other half to make us whole. No wonder I get antsy!

The upside of all this angst and unrequited love is it has led me to tarot, and tarot has led me to explore my unconscious desires.

It’s said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain, and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire. That’s of the four suits. But the Greater Trumps, it’s said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance. Charles Williams

So like all my posts, this one has been ruminating for a time. As I have said before, there was good reason that love was my last intention. It does tend to twist me up in knots.

Each week as I hit ‘publish’, and my latest creative endeavour takes its steps in the world, amid a mild panic regarding typos and grammatical errors, is a sense of letting go and moving on to new territory.

Inevitably about two minutes after I publish, I have some revelations, which sometimes conflict with what I just wrote. Initially this caused a great disturbance in me, but now I relish this shifting, this perpetual motion, this realisation, that from moment to moment my being is in a state of flux.

Soon, I feel the germination of a new idea forming, the next intention begins to loom in my inner vision. Over the week I enter, what is now, a familiar pattern. I have some ideas, with which I must enter the ‘creative desert’ as Caroline Myss calls it. Here I experience a nothingness, which can be a terrifying experience as a writer! Yet I see it now as a place of surrender.

Here I give up what I think I know in order to experience a connection with a greater knowing, whether you call that your higher self, the collective unconscious, God, or call it Betty, it doesn’t matter, it is a place of releasing the ego mind to experience something vast and timeless.

During the week, lots of synchronicity happens, people say things, I read things, I dream things, I meditate and chakradance, and I envision things. Then comes the point I sit down and try to put all of this into some coherency. To greater and lesser degrees of success at times, I’m sure.

‘Follow the coincidences’! Life is full of magic once you open yourself to the gift of synchronicity! Imelda Almqvist

Maccari-Fortune TellerWhat occurs to me is that the beginning of anything, including a relationship, is a process of creation, of creativity. I wonder if its possible to go into this creative desert with our lovers, our friends, our family.

On any given day, it is a new beginning. Can we let go of what we think we know and to be open to a new experience of our beloved, of ourselves, of the relationship?

We human beings, as all of life, are all always in flux, so really, even if you have been married to someone for 50 years, those two people who woke up next to each other today are still new to each other.

I have become somewhat averse to the obsession with ‘change’ in our culture, as it seems a little forced and potentially controlling and ego-based. It suggests to me that I, or someone else, is lacking in some way, when I know we all have infinite depths that we have yet to plumb before we even experience the totality of who we are, so why would we want to change what we do not yet even know?

Yet the idea of constant awakening and evolving to new aspects of our selves, of releasing and surrendering, to allow what doesn’t work to make way for something else, that I like.

Love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

As a parent, we must allow our children to grow up and evolve from dependent toddlers to independent adults, perhaps we should be allowing the same degree of evolution is all our relationships. Allowing is a beautiful word. Allowing and trust, that we don’t need to grasp on to people to love them, we can hold them gently, and let go when needs be.

I wonder if this need of mine to deeply understand myself and others may just be another tactic in a long line that keeps true intimacy at bay. Just as knowing my feelings and writing about my feelings does not equal feeling my feelings, perhaps knowing about love does not equal knowing how to love, or actually loving.

Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it. W. B. Yeats

Maybe this is the true nature of the spiritual seeker – the archetype of the seventh chakra – the unending commitment to not knowing, just being what is called for in each present moment. And maybe love is just the ability to offer this unconditionally to another.

So what of love? For now I content myself with the myriad of non-erotic love in my life and the journeying into self. The oracle cards tell me to wait, the turtle, symbol of slow stealth reoccurs, and the lioness is a symbol of divine timing, of knowing when to lie in wait and when to pounce. In the meantime I have painted my nails red, so something glorious is brewing.

Affirmations on the crown chakra from Chakra Anatomy:

I am part of the Divine.
I honour the Divine within me.
I seek to understand and to learn from my life experiences.
I cherish my spirit.
I seek experiences that nourish my spirit.
I listen to the wisdom of universe.
I trust my intuition.
I am open to letting go of my attachments.
I live in the present moment.
I am grateful for all the goodness in my life.
I love and accept myself.
I know that all is well in my world.
I am connected with the wisdom of the universe.
I am open to divine wisdom.
My life moves with grace.
I am at peace.

Bless!

 

Sources:

Can the tarot be ‘real’? – a psychotherapist explores the modern relevance of an ancient tool by Finn McMillan

Jung’s Metaphysics by Jon Mills

http://divination.com/resources/articles/history/

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=109562

http://www.sandraingerman.com/soulretrieval.html

For the shamanic healing I had see Shaman vision weaving with Free Spirit www.visionweaving.com/free-spirit/

 

For more on the Tarot and psychotherapy, Tarotpy, http://dreamsandtarot.com

 

Images:

“The Fortune Teller”, Theodore Von Holst

“The Lady of Shallott”, John William Waterhouse

Shamanka

“Themis”, Michele-lee Phelan

“Triple Goddess with Lion”, Gaelyn Larrick

“The Crystal Ball”, John William Waterhouse

“Les Saltimbanques”, Gustave Dore

“The Fortune Teller”, Cesare Maccari

“Thus Perish the Memory of our Love”, John George Brown