Healing Arts


We are our most important instrument, the only tool we will ever need. I walked out of my shamanism weekend completely refreshed, full of an energy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And even though I am quite tired today (crazy at work lately), I feel that core of energy continuing to glow softly. Taking care of our Selves is a crucial part of being a Witch and a spiritual being. There are many ways to do that. Here are a few of the pieces on how to take care of your body and your soul:

Sleep

I had one full night of uninterrupted sleep last week, courtesy of my lovely two-and-a-half-who-needs-to-sleep-anyway? daughter. It brought home the fact that our bodies and minds really need to sleep to recharge. Six hours does not always cut it!

Eat well

Make sure that you keep your body well fueled by eating the things it needs. I believe that we know what our bodies need and we should accommodate those needs. Don’t let your body run on empty.

Find your power

I came back from the weekend with a very tangible feeling of having received a gift of power. I don’t know when or how, but I felt full to the brim, as if a piece of the puzzle had been given back to me. I realized that I had probably given my power away to certain people or circumstances in my life. Take your power back into your hands. Do not let others make decisions for you that you do not agree with. Find that inner strength to take your place in the world, whatever that place may be. Feel like you are making your own choices.

Tune out the noise once in a while

We often don’t realize how much noise we are bombarded with and how many images are begging for our attention every second of the day. This is terribly apparent to me since coming back from the north. My tolerance to noise has gone way down and I realize that a lot of it is just background chatter that prevents me from truly looking in and finding better ways to live my life. So I turn off the radio in the car, I rarely watch anymore television. I take the time to look around instead and to really see what is happening in the world around me.

Look around

I get a great sense of serenity by just taking a good look around and looking at people. I feel like we are trying to avoid looking at each other, smiling, as if someone might ask us for something that we cannot offer or question us or I don’t know. Every now and then, we need to look up and SEE. When we do look around, we know what is coming, we are in a state of preparedness and a state of openness to our neighbor. There is something very calming in knowing where we are and what is happening.

Treat yourself

Every so often it just feels good to do a little extra for you. Buy that book, or sit in the coffee shop with your favorite mocha-sprinkle latte or take a second piece of pie. This is about finding pleasure in life. Usually pleasure lies in the littlest things.

Don’t forget that you are human

I think spiritually inclined people have very high expectations of themselves. We strive for that moral perfection, ideals of compassion and virtue. We have to be able to stop every so often and laugh a little. We don’t have all the answers, we learn from our mistakes and we keep going.

Re-connect

The shamanism weekend was about re-connecting: reconnecting to the Great Source, to my community, to my family, to my practice. Like our bodies need food, our soul needs connection. This can be in the form of prayer, ritual, journeying, studying, meditating, attending services, or even dancing wildly in a club. Whatever brings your soul up to connect to something bigger than yourself.

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An Altay shaman beating a gong. Music was one ...

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I just spent a wonderful weekend journeying in the Beyond! Every time I come back from these intense weekend shamanism workshops, I feel so re-connected to my own power. It just feels wonderful.

This particular workshop was on Death, Dying and the Beyond. We explored the worlds souls travel to once they have left this world. We journeyed to meet loved ones who had crossed over and we helped lost souls find their way to a happier place. It was a powerful experience.

I have blogged about shamanism before, but I want to say once more what a great practice it is. It is about regaining power first and foremost. It is also extremely personal, so that it is really the spirit guides and the person who do the work. The Shaman is only an intermediary in the process. I find this refreshing when so many so-called ‘healers’ take all the credit. Since it doesn’t carry a specific spiritual system with it, I find shamanism to be extremely pliable to a multitude of systems including ours. Of all the healing methods, shamanism is the one that attracts me the most because it deals with soul rather than just body. I think that the arts of healing the soul have been lost in recent years. And we desperately need it.

The Foundation for Shamanic Studies offers workshops throughout the world. You can find a list at http://www.shamanism.org

When you start practicing the Craft, you learn a lot and very quickly. Everything is new and every new information leads to something else. With time, your studying slows down, you start focusing more on the philosophy of things and the ‘Great Questions’. Practice itself gets a little lax and it becomes increasingly difficult to test yourself and push yourself a little further. At a certain point, you need to devote yourself body and soul to really progress and that gets complicated in a world where you have other obligations. These advanced shamanism workshops really give me the opportunity to push myself a little bit further every time and to do this in a safe and structured environment. I went into the workshop with the mindset of going in a little deeper, of surrendering to the power. I was not disappointed.

Cris de Chisasibi, à la Baie James, au Québec ...

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I spent two days this week on a committee to address special needs in the Cree communities of James Bay. On this committee sat an Elder who said some things that I wanted to share.

“I can’t say that I understand what is happening today. Our young ones spend all night playing computer games and watching programs on television. They don’t sleep anymore. Yet, the Great Spirit made day so that we could work and night so that we could sleep. He made for us four programs and called them spring, summer, fall and winter. That is medicine, better than any other.

When I go out on the land, everything is free. Only here do I need this thing they call money. Out on the land I am free. I have everything I need. I have food and shelter and Spirit. I don’t even need to farm. The Great Spirit has everything there for me.

Now you ask what we need to help our young ones with special needs and their families. We need the Great Spirit. As long as we have that, we don’t need anything else.”

I love my job!

 

One of the greatest lessons that I have learnt from the Great Goddess is to embrace that ebb and flow of feeling that seizes me from time to time.  While most of my life I had striven to gain balance and inner focus, suddenly I embraced everything that I had been struggling against: rage, sadness, despair…. Most spiritual traditions promote this ‘evenness’ of emotion, including Christianity. But these emotions are the deepest expression of our human journey and no matter how much I focused on inner peace and balance, these waves of feeling would inadvertently come and sweep me off my feet. Studying deity figures and mythology, it became apparent that the gods themselves embodied all these emotions in their purest and most intense expression. The many facets of the Goddess express grieving, rage, vengeance, jealousy, hopelessness… And when she does, she does so fully, without retinue. And so I started to do the same. When I feel, instead of putting all my efforts to drive the feelings deep down, I let go the reigns and experience them fully. I have found that it is the fear of the descent rather the descent into that world of emotion that causes us to be distressed. The feelings are neither good nor bad. They simply are.
So, yesterday, as I walked back from work, I felt a wave of intense melancholy sweep through me. I wondered if it was my intuition trying to tell me that something was wrong. There are a million things that I could probably look into. But instead of worrying, I just let myself feel the sadness, to the point of tears. I walked in the crowd and I could feel this person or that person’s sadness, impressions of their lives fleetingly moving through my mind. I stopped worrying about my life and joined the dance with everyone else.
Today, a new feeling in my body. From the depths of my stomach, a swirl of flowers and butterflies, and I just want to hug everyone. I want to talk to them, see how there are doing. A great love.

It feels so good to feel. It’s like a massage deep inside my body, like so many knots being released at once. Why do we deny ourselves this pleasure?

I spent the day in a meeting with the council of Elders to share on our programs and how we can incorporate Cree traditional approaches for the population. The day started with a prayer to the Creator, asking for guidance in taking care of the health of our people. Then our department made an offering of tobacco to the chief Elder. What he said then moved me. He said: ‘ You offer me tobacco as a sign that you seek our guidance and wisdom. I accept this offering as a commitment before God that I will offer you my assistance. I present this gift before God to ask that he in turn guide me.’

The whole day went on with a succession of teachings that resonated to my core. One Elder talked about how we have all the healing and wisdom within, that we should stop seeking elsewhere for that which we need. The only teacher worth having is the one that will point us to the best teacher we can have, which is our Self. That we are all connected with each other and with all that is and that we are sick because we get disconnected from that inner well of wisdom that lies within.

The friction between western medicine and traditional teachings is very real and can be felt. Many of these Elders were forced to go to residential schools and were taught, as we all are, that it is through logic and reason that you can test the world. Despite this divide, I saw so much kindness in the Elders’ way of giving their teachings, opting more than once to offer their words in English so that we could all benefit from them. I smiled when one of them told us what his father had told him when he came back from studying in the south. He said: “Now, you will go to a school where you won’t graduate.” It made me think of this path that I am on. How often have I asked myself: ‘Where am I going?’ But there is no end point to this road. You just keep walking, collecting pearls of experience that connect to that divine source that makes all things glow with Life.

As I watched the exchange of tobacco, I looked upon this gathering. A hundred years ago, it may have occurred in a tipi around a fire pit. Here we were in a corporate board room of a hotel, sitting around a conference table fully equipped with lap tops and projectors. And yet, none of the magic was lost. We had come for a meeting, a sharing of wisdom and experience. The wisdom hadn’t changed and the generosity with which it was offered was not diminished. I think we have reason to be hopeful.

I just spent a most wonderful weekend learning and living to the Shaman’s Drum. Shamanism is a practice that is known throughout the world and has been used by tribal communities since the beginning of time. The Shaman is a healer and a wisdom seeker. S/he journeys in a altered state of consciousness (what Michael Harner calls the Shamanic State of Consciousness) to seek the help of spirit guides and power animals, often on behalf of someone else and often for healing purposes. I took a basic shamanism course a few years ago in a place called The Edge-Northern Algonquin Park (www.shamanismcanada.com) which is absolutely fabulous. We learned how to contact our power animals, how to journey to the different shamanic ‘worlds’ and how to journey on the behalf of someone else. This past weekend, I took a more advanced 2-day workshop given by the Federation for Shamanic Studies on extraction healing, which is a method of removing energy intrusions that cause people harm. I met some amazing, amazing people there, all people who saw their place in the world as a place of healing and of spirit.

Shamanism is a great practice for those of us who struggle with multiple spiritual paths. The FSS teaches core shamanism and as such it is non-denominational. So, people of various spiritual/religious backgrounds can join together and do healing work without having to negotiate their beliefs too much. It is very much grounded into concrete, real-life work, which is nice for those of us who like to get our hands dirty. Also, it is a GREAT teaching tool to learn about energy, about trusting our inner voice and about connecting to the universe. I use the techniques I learned in many rituals and use journeying to talk to my Guides. The FSS gives courses throughout the world, so I strongly encourage you all to check this out. Courses schedules can be found at http://www.shamanism.org/workshops/ A good book is also Michael Harner’s ‘The Way of the Shaman’.