Video: Forgiveness Practice

Recently my friend, Shyloe Fayad, interviewed me on her live show “Real Lives. Real People” on Facebook.  This show is dedicated to talking to real people about their lives and their journey towards wholeness.

During this episode, we talk about the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono and how it can help you. This video was watched over a thousand times on Facebook so far and so it seems that we struck a chord with folks out there with the forgiveness theme.  If you have 40 minutes while cooking dinner, check it out and leave comments below if it touched you in some way.

Aloha to you and yours!

Jennifer Engrácio

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Good People and Bad People

Who are the good people and who are the bad people?

I have had many good conversations with children around this question throughout the years when we are talking about everything from current events to conflicts at school. After 9/11, I was teaching in a kindergarten class near the end of that school year and I was noticing kids still building up towers with their blocks only to then act as planes crashing into them.  This had been ongoing since the event in September.  I decided this day to ask questions to see what it was that these kids were still processing.  Kids started talking about “good guys” and “bad guys,” insisting that you have to be on a side. That the men that did that were bad and that they should be punished.  I could see one kid in the corner getting increasingly anxious. He started pacing and holding his head and then he just burst out with the most poignant and beautiful speech I have heard on the topic. He told his kindergarten class that no one wins in wars: “Don’t you see?  It is just all revenge.  How are we going to fix anything when we just keep revenging each other? People will just get more mad and more people will die.” There was a pregnant silence in the room, which is rare in a kindergarten class! I thanked him for what he said and for offering a fresh point of view that I hadn’t even heard many adults express.

“Shadow work means actively working with and embracing all parts of ourselves that are not pretty, not acceptable, and not liked by others…[A] huge amount of life force is locked away in those parts of ourselves we deny and divorce, as it were…And we don’t lock away the so-called bad things, usually we also hide talents…we are not ready to own for some reason.”

Imelda Almqvist from “Natural Born Shamans”

What this child was clearly seeing from his young eyes was the fact that we all have a shadow side.  None of us make life-giving decisions all the time and some people who are in pain emotionally or are mentally unwell make poor decisions that harm life often.  This child in particular had participated in enough healthy conflict resolution within our classroom to know that in a confrontation, it is not useful to find blame, but rather work towards listening to the needs and feelings of all parties to find a resolution that works for everyone in the classroom environment.  In the process, we get to look at some of our shadow pieces and we get to consciously make changes to our belief systems, behaviour, and emotional states of being. Being willing to look at the shadow to bring out the light is essential in the world we are living in today. It’s not work for the feint of heart, but if a 5-year-old can recognize the importance of this work, then we adults can find the courage to engage in it as well.

Jennifer Engrácio

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Mixed Ancestry

I am a mixed ancestry person.  My ancestors are from all around the Mediterranean Sea (including North Africa), the UK, and Eastern Europe.  Growing up, my mom always talked about this mixed ancestry and particularly the fact that we have African ancestry; though we didn’t know exactly who these ancestors were, it wasn’t hidden from us as kids.  It wasn’t until I went to visit relatives in South Africa that I saw how challenging life is for people with African ancestry that have darker skin than I do.

In South Africa at that time, if you didn’t look “white” or “black,” then you fell into the “mulatto” category: you were not accepted by “white” communities or “black” ones.  I was traveling in South Africa with my sister when we learned this the hard way.  My sister looks more like the people who are descended from Vikings who live in the north of Portugal and although we are full sisters, I look more like our African and Middle Eastern ancestors.  As I got more and more tanned during our trip, people began treating me differently.  I got harassed on the streets, grabbed, taunted, and I could not figure out what was happening.

It wasn’t until I walked into a general store one day and the owner told me to “mind my colour” that I began piecing together what was happening.  I had never been treated with this level of disdain my whole life and it really had an influence on my psyche.  It wasn’t until I was on a tram in Cape Town and I met another mulatto man who made eye contact with me that I understood what was going on.  He told me about the extreme bias against mixed ancestry people in South Africa at the time (1997) and that these folks didn’t fit in anywhere except for in their own community.

I came home feeling so guilty and sad: I could come home and my skin colour would revert back to what it was.  I did not have to live with being treated in such a way every day, but other folks did not have that option.  In an effort to figure out the reason behind what just happened to me, I started studying African history in university (I minored in history). Understanding history is far from a redundant exercise. History is important in the present because it shows us where we came from and, hopefully, helps us to make different choices than our ancestors did: more life-giving ones.

In today’s world, there is a popular narrative in the mainstream world that there is equity in society for all. My take away from my experience in South Africa is that the prejudice that people with darker skin experience is very real–even here in North America.  As a lighter skinned person, this was not even on my radar until I was on that trip.  Now, it’s an awareness I live with and have compassion for. And it also got me thinking that this idea of race (a term I dislike for a lot of reasons) is really human-created.  We are all part of the same species. And it’s time for the separation along cultural, ethnic, gender, and religious lines to stop if we want to evolve and survive as a species.

I experience my cultural identity as being very fluid.  It’s not based on how I look. When I was interviewed recently, it became evident that the interviewer was very uneducated when it came to mixed ancestry and identity.  She wanted to put me down as “caucasian” and when I insisted that she put me down as a mixed ancestry person, she said: “Well, you don’t look African.”  So we have a long way to go as a species in educating people and breaking down these made-up separations between people.

New Book: Dreaming of Cupcakes

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Book: Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

Part autobiography and full of ancient and modern knowledge, Dreaming of Cupcakes follows a woman’s yearlong journey to heal a lifelong addiction to food, utilizing the shamanic medicine traditions she was trained in, her inner resources, and her community of support.

To order, go to the Balboa Press website in the US or then Amazon in Canada and the US.

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005 and knows that the journey toward healing and wholeness is life-long. She believes there is no need for an intermediary between people and that intelligent force that binds all of life together known by many names (i.e. Spirit, God/dess, Creator, the Divine, Allah, etc.). Her intention is to share shamanic knowledge so folks can tap into the wisdom of the universe in order to grow their own connection with Spirit so they can guide their own personal growth and evolution in a responsible way.

By day, Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked in many different education settings since 2001. She has a deep passion for working with children as well as great respect and reverence for their magical worldview. Jennifer is a certified Shamanic Coach and Practitioner, Reiki Master, and Lomilomi Practitioner. She runs Spiral Dance Shamanics, a business committed to supporting the healing and empowerment of others.

Jennifer self-published and co-authored two other books: The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within and Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life. Jennifer is originally from Vancouver, Canada and now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Testimonials from folks who have read the book:

“Jen trances readers by laying out her personal journey so we can all go along with her.”
-Greg Leach

“I found this book thought provoking. I went from: ‘Hmm, interesting, but I don’t have an addiction to food’ to ‘Hmm, I can relate to some of the mindlessness of what and how I eat.’ Making it personal meant that the author wasn’t telling the reader what to do or think, and as a result, I started to think about my own patterns, thoughts and emotions to food. I liked this.”
-Verena Gibbs

“’Dreaming of Cupcakes’ is a powerful book that lends understanding and compassion to the addiction healing journey. Whether you have an addiction or not, anyone can benefit from reading this book. Jen’s journal entries provide a vulnerability that is really engaging and impactful. The combination of shamanic knowledge and quotes from other authors’ writings brings the possibility of new perspective to the reader. Addiction is a societal issue, not just and individual issue. As a recovering addict, it brought me to a deeper level of looking at my patterns. Jen’s courageous journey can help open the door to changing your life. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!”
-Cheryl Traxler

“’Dreaming of Cupcakes’ is very readable and captivating. I learned a lot about the potential of treating my addiction to stress, overwhelm and anxiety as such. I have become more aware of my own relationship with food.”
-Darcy Kaltio

“Jen has an easy, open, natural way of writing. I anticipate that this book will touch many people.”
-Marilyn Keffer author of Shamanic Ceremonies for a Changing World

What Is Shamanism, Anyway?

 

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By Jennifer Engracio

“Shamanism…[is] as applicable to twentieth-century life as [it was] to the lives of native tribes 6,000 years ago. Shamanism is a way of understanding energy. Since it is not a belief structure, it doesn’t interfere with an individual’s personal faith. It doesn’t matter, then, if you are Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, or whatever. Shamanism is a way of finding your own inner truth and light and developing the ability to manifest this power back into the world…Don’t be afraid of a new idea like shamanism. It really is only a word that describes a way to live in balance with one foot in the world of the physical everyday existence, and a foot in a healthy spiritual life. Shamanism does not require you to believe in anything but yourself.”

-Lynn Andrews from “Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds”

The etymology of the word “shaman” itself comes from the Siberian language and it was originally used to refer to a spiritual medicine healer in the community. In fact, shamanism itself is widespread among indigenous people of the world today. In each area of the world, including Europe, earth-based spiritual practices can be traced back to specific groups of people who knew how to enter into communion with nature spirits through non-ordinary reality in order to obtain information that could aid in the healing of a person or a community. Although we don’t tend to call urban shamanic practitioners “shamans” in the modern world, the skills indigenous shamans utilized are being used again by shamanic practitioners the world over.

Today, shamanic practitioners do not focus on what is “broken” in a person or even necessarily how the imbalance happened in the first place. Shamanism is concerned primarily with reminding an individual of their inherent wholeness. Shamanic practitioners see that when a person experiences trauma or illness, they are not in need of fixing; rather, parts of his or her being splinter or shatter away from the whole causing inner and outer dissonance. Because imbalances manifest in the spiritual energetic level of being first, this is also where practitioners travel to bring back these pieces to the afflicted person. In the case of a long-standing physical illness, the body can begin to heal only when the spiritual aspects that caused the illness to begin with are brought back into alignment with overall health and well-being.

Today, many of us have lost contact with these old ways. The traditional shaman has grown more extinct in North America due to our colonial past. In the modern world, we’ve had to adapt ancient traditions to fit our hurried, busy lifestyles. Urban shamanic practitioners train in ancient shamanic technologies in order to heal themselves and to support healing in others in the community. Ancient tools are used by everyday people again with great success: drum journeys into the spirit world, vision quests for extended time out in nature, and other spiritual ceremonies. All of these strategies help us to quiet our inner world so we can hear the voice of Spirit and our inner wise one who knows what medicine we need to heal.

This may seem strange to people who were not brought up in shamanic cultures. However, because of their close proximity and dependence on the natural world, ancient peoples knew that the consensual reality we live in is not the only reality we can sense and participate within. It is not uncommon for shamanic practitioners to work with spirit guides, totem animals, and their ancestors in order to affect positive change in their own lives and in the world around them. In shamanic cultures, dreaming is not an idle activity without useful function: it is the way people dream a new reality into being. This does not involve attempting to control anything outside the practitioner. What we put our attention on is what manifests. And so just like a journeyer can enter the spirit world for answers to problems, she can also enter the spirit world to lend energy to a different dream than the one she is currently living. In fact, both are needed in order for healing to be effective.

Shamanism may seem like magical thinking and there are definitely magical and mysterious moments in the practice as we learn to deepen our individual connections to Spirit. However, the truth is that there is substantial work needed on the physical plane of existence, putting our visions into action, if any change is to occur. As individuals on a growth and evolutionary edge, if we choose, we continue to heal until we die. Healing requires us to keep sensing the splintered parts of ourselves, working with the spirit world to bring them into wholeness again.   This is a tremendous act of power that we are capable of as human beings. Unlike other living creatures, humans can consciously learn to direct their will to literally change the pathways available to them in the future. This is one of the benefits of being able to go back in time or travel into the future, whereas animals only live in the present. Shamanic practitioners learn to responsibly travel the spiritual realms to affect change.

If it is so easy, then why are there so many suffering people? Of course, this gift we have can also be a pitfall. Many of us get stuck in our ego minds. Or we refuse to let go of the past. Much of the pain of the human condition is caused by our lack of awareness and ability to direct our attention. This takes lots of practice and mentors who know how to teach these methods with skill and care. Although many of these traditions have been lost, many have survived and been revived. Although there are some modern-day shamanic practitioners that are charlatans, there are many more who are earnestly passing their teachings onto sincere and responsible individuals willing to learn these ancient ways of dreaming, healing, and creating. Many elders are passing on this wisdom for the benefit of humans as a species, regardless of cultural and societal barriers.

Everyone on the planet has access to  Spirit and can be the agent of healing in personal and community contexts.  We live in a time where we have forgotten that we are co-creators with Spirit.  Life doesn’t just happen to us; we are attracting into our lives the situations, people, and life lessons that are helping us to refine our characters.  Each moment, no matter what is happening is a gift from a benevolent universe that is supporting us in growing and maturing towards our own enlightenment.  In other words, we are each born with a purpose and healing ourselves helps us to walk out our journey with more ease and grace.

I haven’t met anyone in my lifetime that has nothing to heal.  As long as we are alive, we are healing.  Many illnesses and imbalances have their roots on the spiritual level.  When folks go after the spiritual cause, the issue is often resolved. Indeed, we cannot grow and learn unless we are in a human body.  Sometimes, those spiritual issues come from other lifetimes that we came back to heal.  I have seen people heal themselves of diseases that doctors said were impossible to cure.  I have seen people heal themselves from traumas and shock including rape, loss of a loved one, and physical abuse.  There is nothing, it seems, that a sincere intent to heal cannot achieve.  The key is whether the individual really wants to heal the imbalances.   If they do, working with a shamanic energy practitioner can be a good support.

Some people have said: “I don’t get it.  Why wouldn’t someone want to heal?”  My response is that a commitment to healing means taking responsibility for everything that one has experienced and what one has created out of those experiences.  The truth is that it is easier to remain a victim than to take responsibility for what we are creating in our lives and not everyone is up to that challenge.  Staying in a comfort zone feels safer to many than creating waves, for example, by setting better boundaries with friends and family–a skill many of us need to learn in order to heal. Those who are ready to change will likely reap the rewards.  Those who are not ready will simply be presented more opportunities until they achieve their healing; my experience is that the universe wants us to succeed and is on our side.  This does NOT mean that we asked for any of the terrible things that happen in life.  It means that life presented us certain opportunities to grow.  And not all of these come in beautiful, easy packages.

We see the differences in choices folks make all of the time.  For example, why do some people perish in jail when they are wrongfully interred while others, like Nelson Mandela, take responsibility for their reactions and learn instead to strengthen their characters?  Nelson Mandela once said that he did not become bitter because he realized early on during his incarceration that no one could control his mind and that it was the place where he was always in control of what he did and what stories he told about what he was experiencing.  He chose to never let go of his intent of freedom for his people.  This, to me, is a great example of someone exercising his shamanic root of power and quieting inner dialogue to move towards a goal (healing intent).  In shamanic terms, the intent to heal created a pathway in the universe for that reality to manifest.  Our beliefs about what is possible can stop us from accomplishing incredible things because they create static realities.  The more we can learn to take our thoughts less seriously, question our beliefs, and keep them fluid, the more freedom we are bound to experience.

In other words, committing to our own healing means being a light warrior:

“Having warrior’s freedom is to act on your free will and be responsible for your actions, learn from your mistakes and refine your character. Let life be your teacher. The very act of living your life will expose you to both your weaknesses and your strengths and allow you to grow within your own individuality. Right response to your weaknesses comes from seeking your inner balance, also known as your inner council of law.”

-Marilyn Keffer and Gail Carter from “Shamanic Ceremonies for a Changing World”

I believe that every person on the planet can be a light warrior in his or her own life.  One of my teachers once told me that the battle is always on the inside because the inside is the only thing we have control over.  Every person who does this battle on the inside makes it possible for others to follow.  The journey, then, becomes more easeful for all our relations–human, animal, plant, mineral, and ancestors.  When each of us has freedom from our ego and shadow selves, our species will evolve past violence and suffering.

I believe in empowering people so they can go after their own healing.  When you come for a reiki, shamanic coaching or lomilomi session, you are taking a step toward your own healing.  You will leave with knowledge and tools you can take into your everyday life to continue healing.

To find out more about Jennifer Engracio and Spiral Dance Shamanics, go to:

www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

 

A Sober Life

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When I was a kid, one of my relatives loved watching the evangelist, Billy Graham on T.V. He also watched other shows where people were miraculously healed from a variety of ailments and sailed off to a seemingly happy life. I wished healing was like that for a while. I felt deflated when I first discovered that that wasn’t going to be my experience of healing food addiction when I first started this process in 2010.

I’ve experienced miraculous healing by the grace of Spirit. However, I had to walk out of those situations and live out that healing. By this I mean that I had to keep choosing to remain healed and to keep healing in order to be happy in my life. This is not something that someone else could do for me. No one else can make me happy. It is a choice I make every day, sometimes moment to moment, and recommit to when I need to.

The world we live in is a challenging place as well as a beauty-filled one. I used to focus on the things that weren’t working in the world and fall into a place of despair. How can I ever make a positive impact in such a mess? I realized, however, that this attitude was creating apathy and overwhelm inside of me and was simply adding to the chaos. Could I stop the mass killing of innocents around the world or mutilation of women’s genitals? Probably not. I could, however, work to change my own life and vow not to add to the destruction. I could create beauty. I could lend my life force energy to projects that contribute to the healing of our species and the Earth. I could work to change my corner of the world. I could join hands with other like-minded folks and do what I could. Now that was something I could say yes to.

And through that, I saw that the healing never ends as long as I am alive. The world does not have to be my version of utopia in order for me to be happy. I do not need to control the things and people around me in order to find peace. And instead of seeing the dysfunctional intergenerational patterns all families have to some extent as a curse, I could see them as an opportunity to break karmic patterns so that future generations do not have to continue to live through what their ancestors did. I could stop the cycle of violence at the start. I could start with myself.

And so that is what I continue to do after doing the work to heal a lifelong food addiction throughout the year of 2010. I didn’t walk away from my final Marking Ceremony a forever cured woman in all ways. I left being a slave to addiction behind. I stopped the inner war. I negotiated peace inside myself. A few months after the ceremony, I sprained my ankle and ended up quitting kickboxing. I couldn’t do it with my ankle in that condition and I realized that my body was screaming at me to find a form of exercising that put less impact on my joints. I was torn about this because kickboxing was a great way to keep energy running in my body and helped me to reduce stress. I also moved in with my life partner, which meant needing to buy a car to get around the city when I formerly took transit and walked everywhere.

Needless to say, it was a hard balancing act at this time to do my life’s work as well as exercising as much as my body needed to stay fit. I ended up gaining ten pounds. My ankle took six months to heal. I felt like a failure. I realized it was time to start using the tools and strategies I learned.   And I persevered. Failure is giving up and not learning from life. Failure to me means staying stagnant in one’s evolution. I readjusted my attitude majorly and succeeded.

I continue to listen to my body and give it what it needs. It is ever changing and it is always teaching me something new about myself I didn’t know. The benefit to being aware of my negative patterns and having lots of tools and strategies to draw from is that I can now see them coming from a mile away.   I can now stop and assess the situation to make better choices. I can anticipate possibly stressful situations ahead of time and prepare for them. I am no longer allowing something outside me to dictate my behaviour. I can choose to eat a cupcake or not. I am conscious of the choice I am making in the moment and can be at peace with it.

Sugar and wheat were never my enemies. They didn’t cause the addiction. I chose the addiction, albeit unconsciously, as a way to cope with the stress in life. I own that and everything it brought into my life. Living sober, for me, has to do with being conscious of what I am creating in my life. It also has to do with accepting what is and knowing what I can change and what I cannot. Then, choosing to focus on the only thing in the world I do have control of– myself.

Jennifer Engracio

Calgary, AB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Mystery

Sometimes things work out and sometimes things don’t. Failing at something is not always one’s own “fault.” There is a mystery in life that we can’t know, always working behind the scenes to keep existence balanced. I don’t claim to understand this mystery, but I am willing to concede that I participate knowing that I can make impact without necessarily being in control of how anything turns out. I chase my dreams. I do the work. And the outcome is always uncertain, no matter how diligently I do the journey. There are no guarantees in life.

-Jen Engracio

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