Working with Past Life Memories

Artist Unknown

 

“The white dragon is a pure, unbiased spiritual being, the subconscious part of each of us that subtly demands that we acknowledge and live by adherence to spiritual laws. We may think we have skirted any retribution of the flaunting of such laws, but somewhere along our path we will discover that we can no longer move forward without facing the consequences of past actions or inactions.”

A Guide to the Celtic Dragon Tarot” by D.J. Conway and Lisa Hunt

I remember walking into a convent to begin my religious studies within the Catholic faith when I was twelve years old and feeling like it was all so comfortable and familiar. It was a strange feeling because I’d never been in a convent in this lifetime until that moment. As I walked through, guided by the head nun who was touring me around, I seemed to intuitively know a lot about devotional life practices that I’d never been exposed to. This information I was “picking up” was later confirmed by things the head nun was sharing with me. It wasn’t until I was working as a Pranic Healer in my late twenties that I understood what I experienced at the convent all those years ago: I was in a past life memory. This a-ha moment hit me when I was in a healing session with my teacher, an experienced Pranic Healer, when she described what she was seeing: a nun praying in front of a huge Gothic-style rosette window. I immediately began sobbing. I remembered that life and the solace of living in a consecrated place at a time when women were unsafe in a violent Medieval world. It was and still remains a touchstone life for me when I need to re-live a feeling of inner peace during times of struggle in my present life.

People ask me all the time how I can “believe” in past lives. And my response is: I don’t believe anything until I’ve experienced it. I’ve had enough of these moments where my psyche breaks through to show me that time is not linear and that my consciousness can roam freely through time that I now simply know these things to be true. Although we can’t go back and change the past or necessarily interfere with the outcome of the future, we can travel backwards or even forwards in time to shift our perceptions and how they are negatively impacting our lives today. In the same way, we can use our lifetimes of power, beauty and shining to help us recall our energy back to us when we discover have given our power away in this lifetime–something we all do now and again. If we don’t like the “us” we are becoming when we journey into the future, we can also take steps in the present to alter our course. We’ve all had light and dark lifetimes that we are living the consequences of until we bring our past actions into consciousness to transform them. In other words, unless we are an enlightened being who has already figured out how to live a life of absolute balance (i.e. like the Buddha, Kwan Yin, Jesus, or Muhammad) we all have to work with past karma until we come to a place where we are living in dharma.*

Dharma is really about making a conscious choice to step away from the effects of the past karma incurred in relationships. It’s about awakening to our part in keeping alive the pains of the past and taking an active role in cutting away from these karmic attachments that keep us wrapped up in playing out past pain tapes in cycles. This is an area where shamanic medicine really shines because it is we who keep these very real energetic cords active and it’s only we as individuals who have the power to break them and say, “No more.”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing” by Jennifer Engracio

The folks in our lives today are not there by accident: often times, we are attracted to the souls of people we’ve traveled with in other lifetimes. Many times, there is unfinished business from past lifetimes that is asking to be resolved. You know those people you love but have tumultuous relationships with? That’s an indicator of karma. In fact, the parent-child relationship is a classic example of a contract that is made between the souls of parents and children before the child is born so that karma can be healed and the spirits involved have an opportunity to move forward in light. Early on in my shamanic studies, I went on a drum journey to understand why my soul wanted to be born to my parents and what I had to learn from growing up in my extended family. When folks feel ready inside themselves to face this information, I recommend finding a shamanic practitioner who is skilled in leading this type of journey. It can be especially helpful to folks who feel like they are the black sheep of the family or to anyone struggling with why they were born into a family that struggles with mental health, violence, or addiction issues, for example. And there are ways to cut the harmful karmic ties while keeping those of light that run between us and all those we love. I’ve found that keeping the karmic ties cut and choosing life-giving relational patterns is the key to developing healthy relationships and boundaries with the people in our lives.

The way I live my life and the choices I make really do impact the generations ahead of me and behind me. Seeing how all the generations worked together to make sure we all survived was really good for my heart.

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within” by Ann Dickie, Jennifer Engracio and Katherine Inksetter

When I do this work, I am continuously reminded that we humans are all connected and that we will keep meeting up together throughout time to create mirrors of reflection for one another until we’ve all healed our past and become enlightened beings. We have the power to break lineage patterns that have plagued our blood families by doing this past life and karmic work. All it takes is one person in a family to commit to doing this work to create a healthy, new energetic path that future members of the lineage have the possibility to follow if they choose. Those who know about healing work in any tradition are in a good position to surrender to this journey. Though it’s not for the faint of heart, it is a worthwhile venture that will build the character traits of courage, faith, and compassion.

There is a gospel song that states: “None of us are free. One of us in chains. None of us are free.” I always loved singing that song. It makes clear what the boddhisatvas of the Buddhist tradition know: that until all of us have evolved, we will continue to experience suffering. We are all part of the same energetic soup. We are all one–inextricably linked throughout time. Indeed, we are all relations.

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing” by Jennifer Engracio

*To learn more about the spiritual concepts of karma and dharma, I encourage you to study the Buddhist teachings they originate from.

**This article first appeared in the Mar. 2019 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

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Spirits on Individual Journeys

“Ancestor Spirits” by Willow Arlenea

Indigenous people don’t learn by looking outside themselves; instead, they learn how to remember the knowledge they already possess.”

Malidoma Somé (Dagara elder and shaman)

I’ve been practicing and studying earth-based spiritual systems since 2000. In the process of trying to heal from deep depression and addiction, I’ve worked with many different teachers from many of the world’s traditions. In my darkest moments, I needed older, wiser, and mostly healed guides who could help me learn to listen to my inner wise one (A.K.A. Dreamer, High Self). When I was struggling the most on my life journey, I leaned heavily on their knowledge to get through those times and I am so grateful to this day for each and every one of them. Their ability to be patient, resourceful, and benevolent is the reason I am still here, healthy and free.

Although my spiritual teachers varied in the knowledge they shared with me and their methods, they’ve all been consistent in insisting on one principle: the real guide on any individual’s journey is their Dreamer. Whenever I had questions that needed answering, they always pointed me to my inner wisdom first. Sometimes, they would add to my original statement with information from their own lived experiences. However, more often, they would simply say: “See: You know already so go and do what your Dreamer told you to do.” It wasn’t unusual for them to send me out on ceremony to find the answers I was looking for when my inner guidance wasn’t feeling so clear.

One of my first tasks when I started studying shamanism was to identify the sound of my Dreamer’s voice. This may sound like a simple task to some readers, and perhaps it is for some people. I had so many different and competing voices in my head that this seemed to be an insurmountable mission. When I sat in silence, I heard voices of teachers, family members, mentors, friends and others throughout my life who thought they knew better than I did what I needed. By the time I was in my twenties, I had convinced myself that they were right. So much so, in fact, that I was lost; my inner compass felt broken. The most vicious voice was that of my own ego. In Gregg Henriques’ article “The Elements of Ego Functioning,” he describes the ego in this way:

Freud conceived of the ego as the psychological apparatus that regulated sexual and aggressive impulses and navigated the tension between those impulses and the demands and values of society. A more modern conception that is certainly related to Freud’s is to consider the ego as the self-consciousness system. The self-consciousness system is the narrating portion of human consciousness that reflects on one’s thoughts, feelings and actions and inhibits or legitimizes them to one’s self and to others. In this sense, ego is very similar to what is meant by the term identity, and ego functioning refers to the components of the self-consciousness system that relate directly to mental health.”

I realized that my ego had succeeded in convincing me that any decision I made that went against the confines of the identity it had created for me was a threat to my very life. On my blog, I wrote an entry entitled “Going Mental” in 2012. It describes the practice I began of having conversations with my ego like I would with one of my younger students to discover what it needed and how I can make it feel safe while still doing the bidding of my Dreamer. I saw that my ego was just trying to survive and keep “us” alive and this helped me to find compassion for it.

On the other hand, my Dreamer’s voice is always calm, benevolent, wise and sometimes firm but never cruel. She talks to me the way a loving parent would talk to a child. When I am making choices that are causing me to stray from my Sacred Dream (my life’s purpose), she gently pokes me. If I am not listening because I am preoccupied with mundane life tasks or if I heard her but choose to ignore her counsel, the messages come in a more insistent and often chaotic way until I correct my course. Thankfully, I usually don’t have to wait until my health declines, my relationships descend into a three-ring circus or I am in financial distress to learn these lessons any more. My daily spiritual practices keep me tuned in to my Dreamer’s voice so I can make mostly wise choices day by day.

I often remind worried parents about this fact in my work with families: They are not in control of their children’s journeys. This is tricky because parents are also responsible for the health and well-being of their children until they are eighteen in our society. As parents and guardians, it is easy to think we know better. And I often note that despite having parents who do lots right, some children still go down unfathomable paths.  I have seen this a lot in my twenty-year career as a teacher. What I have faith in is that our souls* are ancient and wise; many of us have lived many lifetimes and Great Spirit is patient in letting us come back again and again to this Earth plane to refine our characters. I don’t know if this resonates for you but this feels true to me: Elders have told me that ultimately on a spiritual level, each of us has a life purpose that only our Dreamers know.

When we validate a child’s interests, wonderings, and learning inclinations, we are following the direction of their Dreamer. I think one place where a lot of us adults get stuck is when we expect that children will have the same inclinations that we do or we rescue them from making mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Our Dreamers are also leading us in very unique ways according to our own life purposes, which may be really different than those of our children. Our children might need to make certain mistakes in order to learn what they came here to learn in this lifetime. While it’s hard to watch people we love make choices that cause suffering for them, it can also be a powerful life lesson in learning how to honour another’s path while staying firmly on our own as individuals. If we keep leaning into our healing in every lifetime, eventually we might not even need to reincarnate. Until then, I am glad my Dreamer is with me every step of the way.

*Please note that when I speak of the “soul” here, I mean the original essence of who we are that is made of light and can never be harmed. This aspect of us is always with Spirit, even as we reincarnate. Our Dreamers represent the essence of our soul; they travel the spirit world and guide us in our incarnations. I like to think of my soul as being the part of me that stays anchored to the Divine always.

Work Cited:

Engracio, Jennifer. “Going Mental” December 2012

Henriques, Gregg. “The Elements of Ego Functioning.” Psychology Today. June 2013.

 

*This article first appeared in the Feb. 2019 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

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Individuals Within the Unified Matrix of Life

Art by Katherine Bell McClure

I’ve been considering the phrase ‘all my relations’ for some time now. It’s hugely important. It’s our saving grace in the end. It points to the truth that we are all related, that we are all connected, that we all belong to each other. The most important word is ‘all.’ Not just those who look like me, sing like me, dance like me, speak like me, pray like me or behave like me. ALL my relations. That means every person, just as it means every rock, mineral, blade of grass, and creature. We live because everything else does. If we were to choose collectively to live that teaching, the energy of our change of consciousness would heal each of us–and heal the planet.”

-Richard Wagamese

I am first generation Canadian. My parents were both born and raised in Portugal. Along with my extended family on both sides, they came to Canada to escape the Revolution and mandatory military conscription (for men at the time). Over the years, my parents have shared with me how hard it was to arrive in a new country as young adults with little English and a very different worldview, in some ways, than that of the mainstream Canadian culture of the time. My parents learned English, joined the workforce, and adopted some mainstream Canadian ways that were meaningful to them. As I get older, I appreciate more and more the things about Portuguese culture that they valued and held tight to: the language, the spiritual and cultural traditions, the importance of family and community living.

Even though I was born in Canada, Portuguese is my first language. I became more fluent in English when I went to public school in kindergarten. However, I attended Portuguese school on Saturdays to learn to read and write. I was aware from a very young age that I had to learn how to walk between two very different worlds: the very individualistic values of the mainstream Canadian society and the community values of my heritage. This was–and still is, to an extent–a delicate dance for me because I hold values in both camps: I value my individual expression and free will, while also seeing the importance of seeing myself as part of a complex matrix of life. I don’t see these two orientations towards living as dichotomies any longer. I actually see them feeding into one another quite naturally when we don’t put them on a polarized scale where one is more important than the other. As always, nature provides us with good illustrations of how these two co-exist.

Animals are who they are: a tiger does not pretend to be a horse, for instance. Animals live from their true nature, the essence of who they are. They also know the importance of cooperation. Ecosystems are a great example of this. The Canada geese in our neighbourhood have a choice of many ponds to feed at and raise their young. This year, I noticed that they moved their feeding spot despite the fact that there was still a good food supply for them. It turns out that the geese are great conservationists; they left their territory to allow it to recover from their years of use. An elder also recently reminded me that geese take turns being the leader when they are flying so the birds who fly behind have an easier time traveling. Similarly, we know that when predators are reintroduced into environments from which they’ve been absent, they restore balance to the ecosystems. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, the ungulate population decreased, therefore allowing the plants and trees to flourish again. Not only do animal species know how to conserve, but different animals provide the checks and balances needed for most species to flourish. Thankfully, life is tenacious!

We are individuals with our own life paths but we are living in a relational field of energy where what we do, say, and think impacts everything else in connection with us and vice versa. We are individuals within the unified matrix of life. The question is not: Do we choose our individualistic notions above those of community? Westerners often cling to individualistic doctrine out of fear of losing their “rights.” And although we must be vigilant not to give over our rights as sovereign beings, we simply couldn’t survive alone; we depend on communities of all kinds to thrive. We see the environmental, social, human, and psychological destruction that happens when people live only from their individual needs, wants, and desires– when they forget that they are not alone in the universe. The important question in my mind is: How do we use our Spirit-given gifts to add to the collective energy of the communities we travel within (including the ecosystems we live in)? Being committed to community living is like a marriage where there will be rough patches but what is important is that we continue to face towards each other to find ways that everyone’s needs are met to some extent most of the time.

Sometimes this means that we must put aside some of our desires so someone else in need can receive more support. One community I am a part of operates in a consensus model. Coming to a general agreement that works for folks is harder the bigger the group gets, though not impossible. Similar to the geese, everyone leads at different times in this group and everyone’s voice has the possibility of being heard. I am more successful in my intimate relationships today in my forties because of my participation with this community model. I’ve learned to see where there is need in my community and give up some of my “wants” so that others might receive benefit. For example, folks have different personal financial budgets and while we have an agreement to meet each year for professional growth, we’ve had to be mindful that we don’t meet in a location each year that causes financial strife for our members. With some creative thinking and adjustment to the community agreements regarding attendance, we’ve come up with a solution that everyone can live with. Is it ideal in that everyone gets everything they want or need all the time? No. However, it does minimize the negative impact the previous system was having on the lives and well-being of some of our members.

This is what the phrase “all my relations” means to me. It entails that we think about ourselves not as contained individual planets floating around aimlessly in a lonely solar system, rather that we are in a continuous, collective dance with the other sentient beings in the universe. Though we stand in our own circles, we have a responsibility to life and to doing the least amount of harm possible. This is challenging as human beings because we all do harm to some extent in order to survive: we hunt, we forage, we take down trees to build homes, we use natural resources to fuel our cars and heat our homes. It comes down to basic Systems Theory: When one part of the system (including families and communities) changes, the whole system has to change by default. Ironically, the stronger we stand in our own inner medicine wheels as individuals, the better advocates we become for issues that imperil the health and well-being of our communities. When we know who we are and what we value, we are more likely to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. This is what creates true change in the world. I dedicate this article to all my relations. May we continue to evolve in co-creation with Spirit.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

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 your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

 

*This article first appeared in the Jan. 2019 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

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Going Back to my Roots

Roots by Frida Kahlo

“Be like a tree. Stay grounded. Connect with your roots. Turn over a new leaf. Bend before you break. Enjoy your unique natural beauty. Keep growing.”

-Joanne Rapits

 

 

I’ve been going through major internal shifts in the last year. Recently, I’ve been making some changes in my life that are shaking up relationships with people I love. Some of these patterns are co-dependent and that is a no-go for me. When I read this quote by Victor Hugo, I realized that I have a changeable mind and ways of being that used to work for me in those relationships stop working as my thinking shifts: “Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” But one thing that keeps uncovering itself at deeper levels are my values; these, I’ve discovered don’t change. They do, however, reveal themselves more completely as I get older. As I grow towards my chronological elder hood, I see how important it is to be who I am at my essence. The intent that takes the most courage for me to keep meeting is to be who I really am, no matter what.

 

Over the last month or so, my paternal grandma–who I called Avó Maria–has been showing up in my dreams at night. She died when she was in her nineties in 2014. She had a big hand in raising me. As a child I spent a lot more time with her than I did my parents. My family were new immigrants to Canada at the time and my parents worked hard to build a life for us here. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with my Avó Maria. In my dreams, we are back in her house only this time, I am in my adult body. We are doing the same things together that we always did: cooking, picking vegetables for meals, crocheting, praying, and talking. The overwhelming feeling in the dream is one of comfort: You know, the kind you feel when you are with someone who really loves, accepts, and gets you at an essence level. My dream ends with her telling me in Portuguese to go back to my roots: volta para tuas raízes.

 

I’ve been sitting with this directive for a few weeks now. I’ve taken this question into ceremony, I’ve prayed about it, and I’ve stayed silent to hear the response from Avó Maria or Great Spirit or my ancestors or the land. It turns out they all had something to say about it! Paradoxically, this statement– volta para tuas raízes–has so many meanings on different levels. I remembered the many lessons Avó Maria taught me about the things my ancestors valued. Like all children, I’ve taken the values from my culture that resonate with me and left behind others that don’t. Among those that remain into adulthood are: inclusion, community service, hospitality, open-mindedness, and open-heartedness. Then there are the spiritual values that I feel come from Great Spirit of unconditional love, unity and equality among all of Spirit’s creations. From the land, I remember the values of diversity, creativity, and advocacy.

 

When I talk about raízes now, I see this going past my blood line to the earth, the sky, and all my relations in nature. My body comes from the earth and I am rooted in the Great Mother herself. It took me a long time to feel like I belonged here on earth but the Earth Mother was patient until I remembered the truth. My spirit comes from the sky; no matter what happens, it can never be damaged or destroyed–only transformed. I believe that Spirit will simply give me many chances and lifetimes to grow and change until I am finally living in alignment with the essence of who I am and why Spirit created me so.  Rumi reminds me that “Everything [I] see has its roots in the unseen world. The forces change yet the essence remains the same.”

 

As I work through the spiritual causes of the autoimmune issues I’ve been facing in my body, I notice how part of my spirit has been living in the past searching for the answer to the question of where I belong. Through journeying in the spirit world, I realized that much of my consciousness was holding onto a past life where I felt I’d been completely accepted for who I was. I was living with this desperate feeling that if I let go of that past lifetime that I would never find my place in this present lifetime. Buddha reminded me that the only time is NOW: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

 

I am aware that I have little control of what happens in the universe save for my response to the present moment’s happenings. My life hasn’t turned out the way I expected it to, however, I am so grateful that Spirit’s hand reached into my life at pivotal moments to re-direct me to stay on my path with heart. The truth is that I have no idea where my Sacred Dream is taking me and this scares me sometimes. I wonder if I will drift so far away from my raízes that I will be unrecognizable to those I love. But these are simply fears and I’ve never let them stop me before from creating positive change in my life. After all these weeks, I do know one thing…If I stay rooted in my values and I keep sharing my gifts through my essential being, my life will be well lived–no matter what surprises the universe sends my way.

*This article first appeared in the Dec. 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

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Dreaming: An Essential Skill

This article first appeared in the November 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

In “Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing,” I wrote a lot about my personal connection with my Dreamer. What follows is a sample from the book that is relevant to this article’s theme:

It was by practicing and studying shamanism that I learned to hear and identify the true voice of my own spirit, also called “Dreamer” or “Higher Self.” Through journeys, I met this luminous being and got to know her more intimately throughout the years. At first, I found it hard to believe that there was a part of me that could never be broken, hurt, screwed up, or depressed. I had the tendency to see her at first as something other than me–the way I saw Jesus or Mary as enlightened prophets. Her benevolence, beauty, and compassion bowled me over time and time again. You see, shamanic cultures have always known that there is a part of our beings that is pure spirit and they trained people to tap into the wisdom of the dreamer within. Our Dreamers know what our life purpose is in this lifetime and are the only ones who can guide us perfectly on our journey in order to accomplish our purpose.

At first, I had a lot of resistance to the idea that there is a part of me who absolutely knows what I am meant to be doing, how to do it, and how to accomplish it. I would follow my ego’s idea of what I should be doing and totally neglect to consult with my Dreamer to see if this plan of mine was even worthwhile. I learned the hard way that refusing to go in the direction that my Dreamer was sending me in was counterproductive and often painful. When I didn’t listen, I had a lot of messes to clean up in my life that took energy away from living my dreams.

Winnie the Pooh famously said: “Doing nothing leads to doing something.” Contrary to what most people believe, dreaming is not an idle activity. Whether we realize it or not, we are living in a spiritual soup of energy containing many layers of experience and knowing that we can access if we are able to quiet our inner worlds to listen. Dreaming is a vital practice for our time. The world we’ve created collectively as humans is in chaos. If dreaming unconsciously is how we created this mess, dreaming consciously–aware of the impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions are having on the dreaming matrix–is what will begin to turn around the reality we’ve created. The solutions to these problems are not outside of ourselves where we normally look to resolve issues: they are inside of us, accessed through our ever-present connection with the spiritual matrix of life.

While shamanic dreaming might sound like a New Age fad to some, this practice is, in fact, ancient and known to shamanic practitioners throughout the world. To give you a flavor of what this practice is about, I offer an Incan perspective by Alberto Villoldo on dreaming from his article “How Shamans Dream the World into Being”:

Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being. What we’re engaging in is not the sleeping dream we’re familiar with, but the waking dream we craft with our eyes open. When we’re unaware that we all share the power to co-create reality with the help of the Universe itself, that power slips away from us and our dream turns into a nightmare. We begin to feel we’re the victims of an unknown and frightening creation that we’re unable to influence or change. Events seem to control us and trap us. The only way to end this dreadful reality is to awaken to the fact that it, too, is a dream, and recognize our ability to write a better story, one that the Universe will work with us to manifest. The nature of the cosmos is such that whatever dream you have about yourself and the world will become reality. As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.

What Villoldo describes here takes practice; just like any other skill, we must re-learn dreaming by putting our attention on it again. We live in a busy outer world. We inadvertently train the natural ability to dream out of our children when we tell them they don’t have time to dream, play, or rest. We keep them overscheduled and overtired in a continuous stream of doing so that there is no time for being. If we want to find the treasures hidden in our inner worlds, we must slow down, quiet ourselves and really listen deeply with our whole beings. This is why the world’s spiritual systems have built in practices that train reflection into our harried lives. Introspection takes us into the heart of dreaming. These reflective practices are the things people do every day to consciously interact with the spiritual aspect of life in order to learn more about the sacredness of living and their place within the Dream of Life. In order to connect with the spiritual aspect of the world around us, spiritual practices are embedded into daily living so they become habits as natural as brushing our teeth every day. Practicing spiritual hygiene is just as important as that of the physical variety.

Many spiritually-minded folks I’ve talked to feel they simply get sucked into mainstream reality unless they practice connecting to Great Spirit/God/Creator/Goddess/Allah/Yahweh on a daily basis. These folks set aside part of their day to tune into themselves. These intuitive practices that lead us straight into the healing arms of our Dreamers can include: singing spiritual music (i.e. chanting), meditation, contemplative practices (i.e. walking labyrinths and journaling), working with totem animals and spirit guides, drum journeys, prayer sessions and vigils, studying and discussing spiritual texts and teachings, playing instruments (i.e. drums, rattles, church organs), spiritual dances (i.e. Powwow and Sufi dances), working with archteypes presented in dreams to derive personal spiritual meaning, interpreting omens in nature, ceremony, ritual, rites of passage, pilgrimages, vision quests, and making spiritual art–to name a few.

What spiritual practices do you already do on a daily basis? How do you use the information intuited from these sessions to take action to change your waking dreams? What is not working in your life? Take those problems into your contemplative practices to see what solutions your Dreamer can show you. Consider trying some of these other practices listed in this article to see if they work better for you. For example, some people do their best introspective work when they are moving their bodies, in which case sacred dance or walking ceremonies like labyrinths might be a better fit. Most importantly, when you need motivation, remember the intent behind the practices stated so eloquently by Villoldo:

Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. What science is now discovering describes what the ancient wisdomkeepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses. Like the Aborigines, the Earthkeepers live in a world where the dreamtime has not been pushed into the domain of sleep like it has for us. They know that all of creation arises from, and returns to, this dreamtime. The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself. For the Earthkeepers, dreaming reality is not only an ability but a duty, one we must perform with grace and love so that our grandchildren will inherit a world where they can live in peace and abundance.

 

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Connecting with the Inner Wise One

Art by Autumn Skye Morrison

*This article first appeared in September 2018’s Pagan Pages Magazine.

“Only free people can come together; sovereignty is something we can only give ourselves. The key to sovereignty is sharing. Everyone in time will become a healer because that’s the only way we can move. You have to heal yourself first and love all that you see. This requires humility; this needs to be learned in the head. Live what you feel–that requires reverence. Humility and reverence make up the heart. With self-discipline, we know we are all connected and learn there are no separations.”

-Hawaiian Kahuna Hale Makua

We are living in a time when connecting with elder medicine is essential if we are going to be able to navigate the challenges of our time: continuing wars, genocide, global warming, economic collapse, and violence of all kinds. Wise elders are a living resource; they have much life experience and they have learned how to wade through life’s ups and downs in a way that looks easeful and even graceful. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with elders from many different traditions and backgrounds. I’ve had the chance to study how they talk, what actions they take, how they treat people, and what values are contained in their world views. What follows is a bit of what I’ve learned.

Wise elders are masters of timing. They don’t rush and they don’t tarry either. They don’t always give you an answer right away. They know that life is complex and that different circumstances require nuanced responses. Wise elders listen with their whole selves and really take in what the other person is saying. They listen for connection and greater understanding instead of from a place of trying to be right or prove their point. They’ve learned that the quality of one’s relationships is the most important thing about living. Relationships extend to all living and sentient beings: the plants, the animals, the mineral world, and ancestors in the spirit world, for example. Wise elders know that we are part of the extensive matrix of life that we cannot possibly comprehend in its entirety. They know that every action an individual takes has an impact on that web of life and so elders seek to be conscious of the effect of their words and actions. Wise elders take care of themselves because they know that the only thing they have one hundred percent control over is how they treat themselves on the inside and on the outside. The ability to truly love “everything we see” starts with the relationship we have with ourselves.

In the tradition I study, we offer community members turning 60 an opportunity to have an elder honouring ceremony. The elder can always decline, however, most accept because they want to share their life’s knowledge and skills with future generations. They know that giving back is part of the elder way. At forty-three, I am an elder-in-training with training wheels on. I won’t have my elder honouring ceremony for quite some time yet. However, I’ve already started to tap into the energy of my inner wise one. When I am in a situation that I am not sure how to move through, I call on my inner elder–the elder I will be–to guide and inform me. When I am about to go into a tough conversation that I know I have to have and want to make sure happens in a good way, I call on my inner elder. In this way, she is teaching me how to use my energy, my words, and my actions more judiciously while still keeping me connected to the essence of who I am. Often, I hear things coming out of my mouth or see myself taking actions my younger self would never have dared to speak or carry out. I feel a lot braver when I can see out of the benevolent elder eyes of my inner wise one. I can see the long view and I don’t get so caught up in trivial things. I am also less likely to keep bumping my head up against things I have no control over. Instead, I see where I can indeed make positive impact and put my energy there. I skirt obstacles when I can and face the ones I can’t move around. I’ve learned that that is how life works: presenting challenges and gifts. Life doesn’t do this to punish us but to sharpen the quality of our characters.

This shamanic strategy is available to anyone at any age. I know there were times in my childhood when I acted in a way that was “wise beyond my years.” Although I didn’t consciously know it at that time, my inner elder was moving through me without a lot of effort. Kids, of course, tend to be a lot more open to expressing different aspects of their psyche than adults are. However, any of us can hold the intent to play with connecting with this inner aspect that is always there to see how we can move with more ease and grace in our lives before our chronological elder years. Perhaps if more people did, we would come to a place of inner sovereignty earlier in our individual life cycles and come up with creative solutions to the world’s problems.

To learn more about Honouring Elder Wisdom, tune into this Going Shamanic Show.

 

Self-Love: The Gift of Living Aloha

“Aloha” by Alina Barbuceanu

Love is the only emotion that expands intelligence.”

-Humberto Maturana

Recently, my partner and I went to see the new documentary about one of my childhood heroes, Fred Rogers. The film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” touched me at a deep, universal soul level; I am rarely affected this way by movies so this experience had my attention. I wept through the film wondering what words I could use to describe what I was feeling. When I was a kid, I used to watch “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” every weekday on television. At some point in the show, he would say the healing words that made me feel truly seen and accepted for who I was: “I like you just as you are.” In a society that is always telling us that we are not good enough, this was–and remains–a radical statement. If people love themselves, that love can’t help but extend out to others. From a shamanic perspective, the dark energies of the universe cannot exist in such blazing light. This is the way we use our personal power as humans to transform hate into love, as this quote by Adebe DeRango-Adem alludes to: Loving who you are means giving yourself permission to cherish your authenticity, and forgive the times you forgot your own power.” In Traditional Hawaiian Medicine, this is the way to maintain our personal sovereignty. Freedom starts with how we treat ourselves on the inside.

As an adult, I can see that Mr. Rogers was expressing a world view that I too held as truth and have been able to articulate better recently. I was invited to speak to mental health nursing students at a university from the point of view of a recovering addict who healed using shamanic medicine. In my sharing, I pointed out that some addicts are not able to heal without including the spiritual aspect of life, so often times mainstream medicine alone won’t cut if for folks like me. We also talked a lot about self-acceptance and how vital it is to the healing process. Many students were confused by this: “Why would you accept something that is causing harm like addiction?” In shamanic practice, we say that life is the greatest teacher. Our practice is in learning from every situation life throws at us. With each new challenge, we have a chance to grow our characters while becoming more content living in the present. We live in the present so we can see life as it is–not as we’d like it to be. If we don’t acknowledge the truth of our situations, we have no chance to transform our lives into ones that are aligned with our individual values and sacred dreams.

Like many of you, I was taught implicitly that I had to earn approval and acceptance by what I contributed and how I acted. It wasn’t enough to just “be.” Growing up Catholic, I was taught that I was a flawed being who had to prove my worthiness. I could understand how it was hard for the students at the university to grok how we could improve our characters by loving ourselves just as we are in this moment when many of them grew up with this belief too: If we don’t work hard to change the things we don’t like about ourselves, then we will never improve ourselves. It was hard initially for me to understand this, too. I learned that acceptance means being honest with ourselves about what is so and we can do that without applying negative self-talk and cruelty to the mix. Contrary to what many of us were taught, violence does not in and of itself inspire positive change. As Uncle Harry Uhane Jim says, “Love doesn’t prevent trauma; it prevails it.” If we really want to create positive change in our lives, the journey may involve endeavoring to learn to love ourselves the way the Creator/Creatrix does. In my experience, the universe doesn’t punish us for our actions; it merely gives us many opportunities to remember that we come from light and aloha. We can change course at any time as sovereign beings.

There is a saying I’ve heard that we are each a cell in the body of the Great Spirit. Christians express a similar sentiment when they say that we are all children of God. If we follow that out, it only makes sense that self-love is important because how we treat ourselves says something about our relationship with the energy of creation. It wasn’t until I started studying Traditional Hawaiian Medicine and practicing lomilomi that I began to understand the importance of maintaining this energy flow of aloha between me and Great Spirit. Simply put, aloha is the unconditional love of Spirit that moves through us with every breath we take. Lomilomi teaches the receiver and giver both how to live in a state of aloha where the energy of Spirit moves through the body with ease and grace. Richard Gunderman said that [w]hen Rogers encouraged children to be kinder and more loving, he believed that he was not only promoting public health, but also nurturing the most important part of a human being—the part that exhibits a divine spark.” Remembering that we come from aloha is vitally important to our healing as spirit beings in human form.

Often, people tell me that they didn’t come to a group ceremony because they weren’t “fit for human consumption”– or to say it more neutrally, they weren’t at their best. To that, I say: “That is exactly when we need to come together in healing–when we are not feeling great. This simply means that we have forgotten that we are made of light and need a reminder.” Over the years, I’ve adopted Mr. Roger’s statement and encouraged people to come as they are. Emotional expression is a valid way of communicating with the world. We don’t always feel bright or cheerful and expressing this authentically is truthful. If ceremonies are to be effective, there must be space for this. I may not always like the way people choose to express themselves, but I’ve trained myself to stay open to listening to the unmet universal needs they are revealing through their words and actions. I believe loving and being loved in return is a universal human need. Validating others as legitimate beings however they appear in the moment opens the door to greater healing. By holding space and healthy boundaries, we can support each other in figuring out new ways to heal, grow, communicate, and learn.

On my personal healing journey, I’ve tried healing by beating myself up and also by practicing realigning myself with the energy of aloha. What I’ve found is that starting from the belief that I come from aloha is an easier road to healing than staying with the belief that I am inherently bad and in need of fixing. I found that feeding this false belief took up a lot of precious energy that could have been going towards living my life purpose. Treating myself as a sacred being has helped me to enjoy the gift of being alive in a human body. Whatever happens, I can be present and practice new ways to move through challenges. I also catch more of the joyful moments because I am not so wrapped up in how I think things should go. I am not so caught up in presenting the perfect “me” that I think people want to see. Surprising things bring me pleasure when I can stay in this place of self-love. How can you practice living aloha to support your healing today? How might this help you enjoy your life more? When your container is filled with aloha, how will you actively allow that to spill over into your community?

I leave you with Mr. Roger’s words just before his death: “I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. And to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.” I send my heartfelt gratitude and blessings to your spirit, Fred Rogers.

*This article first appeared in the August 2018 edition of Pagan Pages Magazine.

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