Archives for category: healing

I do not know how others feel about this, but forgiving has shown up more as a duty or obligation in my life than a tool. But I now know from my own experience that it is a doorway to power and a source of huge joy. There are practices which will help you turn the key and open that door (more about those later) and there is a structure to forgiveness which is worth understanding as it makes the process more palatable and easier. Not necessarily easy, but at least less impossible.

The first step in forgiving, in this structure, is the event. Someone has done something to you that shows up like a betrayal, a wrong in your space. This causes a wounding, which hurts. Small hurts we can overlook, but big ones simply cannot be stepped over or pushed under the surface safely. If you are a reader of fairly tales, you know that the buried wrong will out. And generally it will rise up unexpectedly and bite you on the backside. It never seems to rise up and bite the person who did you wrong on their backside; no, it will be your bottom that feels the punctures. So, my touchstone in regards to being wronged is to start to work on forgiving as soon as I notice that I am wounded. The sooner I start, the easier the process is – because I have not become habituated into resentment.

Foot-traps and Wrong Turnings

I want to go through these first so that we all know we are talking about the same thing when we talk about forgiving.

First, there is a piece of our industrial western/northern culture telling us that forgiving a person who has hurt us is the same as telling the person that whatever they have done is all right. Clearly it is not, or there would be no need to forgive. And yet we sometimes conflate forgiveness and approval. Do not be fooled. If you have to forgive someone, that requires not-approved-of behaviour on their part. And when you get to the other side of this entire process and are no longer carrying the burden of resentment towards them, that behaviour is likely still to be not approved of by you. But you will be lighter and more full of the joy of creation than you were. Letting go, really not still being invested in their behaviour – past, present or future – is the best revenge there is because it is not revenge at all.

There is another piece of our culture that uses carping on about our exes, or men, or women, or our boss, or our spouse, the opposite politcal party (and so on…) as social currency. You complain about your ex and I complain about mine and we have established a (tenuous) social bond, much like talking about the weather. This easily can become an expected part of social interactions. The sinkhole here is that it keeps you engaged with the wounding and with the resentment that arises from it. So, rather than being a good and helpful thing, you may find that it keeps you stuck. Or you may find that, as you travel along the process of forgiving, you just lose interest and have to think of something else to talk about.

And then there is the matter of how we define ourselves. I was taught a prayer for opening sacred space which includes (in the West direction) “Teach us to be impeccable warriors, to travel light, with no need of enemies in this life or the next.” One of the ways we define who we are in this complex and sometimes confusing life is by who our enemies are. If I have an enemy, I can feel safe in saying “I am not that.” If we have a good list of what we are not, it helps us to define who we are. It builds a container inside of which our identity can exist with come sense of stability. If we give up the container, bit by bit, how will we know who we are?

I would offer, as an alternative to defining ourselves by who we are not, by our enemies, that we might try another way. That would be to be in the process of creating ourselves moment by moment as we rediscover who we are in our deepest, truest, finest, highest selves, the self we came into this life to be or to become. As we are on the path of transforming ourselves so that our families and communities and world transform, we are constantly being asked to recognise what it is that keeps us small and limited and to release that. Possibly this “container of enemies” form of defining ourselves is one of those things that keeps us small and is asking to be released.

Walking Forward

The making of enemies, whether personal or institutional, can often be used as a shield to keep out of our consciousness the grief caused by betrayal or other woundings. Coming at us hard on the heels of injury, the next thing that feels like the end of the world is the grief that this has happened at all. If you have any experience of grief (and what human doesn’t?) then you know that it is not a singular thing, or even a quick process. Grief is a journey, a necessary journey from wounding to wholeness. In order to become whole we must walk into the grey and barren desert of grief and through it to the other side.

I really don’t much know what to tell you about this. If you have made the trip yourself then you know what it is like for you, what it requires of you. If not, there is nothing but putting one foot in front of the other that will teach you about it. On the other hand, it sounds like a big deal, a grand adventure, and it is, but it is also not. You just do it. You walk through the desert one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. You keep your heart open even though it hurts, and you ask for help with that. It can be boring and it feels like it will never end, like this is the way your life will always be. It will end; your life will have other flavours and colours in time. But that is cold comfort when you are hurting and when joy is drowned by grief.

There is a big deal at the end of this, though. I write “end” with a wry smile because so long as we are in this life there is no end, just the journey. There is an end to this stage of the journey, though. And when your inner sky does finally begin to brighten, the light that shows up is the luminosity of your own true self, your highest, finest, deepest, truest self, the self you came into this life to be. That is what calls you onwards through the dull time and what allows your world and your soul to expand so that you are no longer simply focussed on what happened to you, but your view is large enough to see the event in a context, to get a measure of how it fits in the overall scheme of things, and to see what value may have come to you in the midst of pain.

All of this takes time. For us here in the body, working our way through space and time, it is a process that takes as long as it does. For some people and some woundings this could be weeks, months, even years. Or possibly a few moments. Or it may become the work of a lifetime. You cannot wish away this walk through the desert of grief; likewise I would recommend that you not tarry here, either. We humans have long legs compared to many others of Earth’s children – we are designed this way so we can keep moving. Continue to move through the grieving that follows wounding and it will lessen and then lose its power over you.

Move through it holding the intention of being free, the intention of continuing to become your truest, highest, finest, deepest self – not in some far away afterlife or reincarnation, but in this lifetime, in this here and now. This intention is like a lifeline in the dull landscape. Hold on to it, remind yourself as often as you need to why you are here. Let it lead you to the light and compassion at the heart of all things. Let your intention lead you to an expanded vision and an expanded self.


You may have noticed that I have not been wittering on about forgiving the person who hurt you. It is entirely possible that by the time you have spent your period of grieving the emotional loading will have completely evaporated and forgiveness will have occurred in your soul unnoticed. It could happen. Or possibly not. If this particular instance falls into the “not” category and resentment continues to hang around like a bad smell, this is simply an indication that there is more to be experienced – and, therefore, learned.

Never forget, despite the prevailing culture and beliefs today, we were not incarnated here so that we could be placid, never disturbed and always happy. Or so that we can get everything that we want, or do everything on our bucket list. We came here, according to many teachers, to learn and to become. You came here into this life with a purpose all your own, which only you can discern. 

You are absolutely free to pursue this intention in whatever way you choose. As you experience receiving forgiveness and, perhaps, granting forgiveness to others, you will find that forgiving is a powerful teacher. Should you choose not to forgive, no doubt you will find that resentment is a powerful teacher as well. But do keep in mind while you are choosing your teacher, that it takes a lot of energy to keep the blame / anger / resentment shield against grieving in place. You carry it all day every day, spending your own life force to keep it firm, come home pretty tired – possibly exhausted – fall into bed and get up the next morning having to reformulate that shield and hold it all day again. No wonder we are too tired to actually live. So resentment is a very powerful teacher as well. Just depends on what and how you choose to learn. Having spent years in the company of resentment I can recommend the journey to forgiveness as preferable – but the choice is entirely yours.

One other thing. For forgiveness to happen there is a need for justice to be addressed in some way. Or at least for it to be acknowledged that justice has not been addressed. In the face of the emotional rawness caused by hurt and betrayal it is difficult to see the difference between justice and revenge. As time passes the two will begin to resolve themselves as two distinct paths you can take. And you can see that forgiving does not necessarily mean stopping seeking justice. It will, by definition, mean stopping seeking revenge – but justice is another thing. I cannot tell you what justice is in whatever situation you find yourself, and you may not be able to say either, but do not abandon enquiring after justice, and it will come clear to you in time.

In this whole process, in which you will distinguish approval from forgiveness and vengeance from justice, in which you will experience the flatness and sorrow of grief in order to emerge into the daylight once more, you will expand your soul and your view of life so that you are aided in becoming more and more the person you came here to be. In fairy stories and folk tales the wounding or betrayal that puts you in a situation where you need to consider forgiving is in itself an initiation into power, an invitation to step into the person you came here to become. It allows you an opportunity to become the larger person who can do the task which is required. In many stories, betrayal IS the motivating force in the initiation into power.

And there are things you can do to help the process along.

For you to do:

1. Release heavy energy into the earth. Whether or not you are ready to release the wounding or betrayal, you can release the heavy energy that collects around it on a regular basis. This is a similar process to the creation of pearls in oysters, where they seal in a piece of grit and avoid the irritation it causes by surrounding it with a smooth coating. That is fine for oysters, but we are humans, and surrounding the wounding / betrayal with heavy energy is fine for a temporary patch while you get your feet back under you, but eventually it will weigh us down and hamper our expression of our selves. So, at some point release of the heavy energy accumulation will be needed.

Stand still, breathe steadily and deeply, maybe close your eyes. Using the tools of breath, will and imagination find the connection that runs from low in your belly down to the centre of the earth. It usually passes through the arches of both feet and through your perineum (pelvic floor) so that you have a tripod of energy lines connecting you to Earth, our mother. Locate any heavy energy that has accumulated in your body and your energy body and ask it to flow out through these energy connections as far down into the earth as it wants to. Some people see it going all the way to the fiery core and transforming there into light. Others see it simply emptying out into the earth we stand on and composting there.

If this makes you feel worried that you are giving more heavy energy to an earth already burdened with our abuses, here is what indengenous people say: The earth is very large, so large you can hardly imagine it. Your heavy energy entering the earth is like a teardrop entering the ocean, hardly noticeable. Furthermore, it is the nature of Earth to take heavy energy, which is after all only energy (it just looks “negative” because that is the shape we have allowed it to fill and the label we have put on it), and compost it into food for all her children. What was not helpful to us becomes nourishing for the biosphere by having passed through the Earth, who is by her very nature (as are fire, water and wind) transformative. Trust her. She can handle this. When she stops being able to or wanting to, she will just get rid of us. Easily done.

Allow the heavy energy to run out of you into the earth until you can find no more of it lurking around, until no more of it shows itself. Repeat this exercise whenever you begin to feel weighted down again – or maybe daily, just for maintenance!

2. Live into the questions.

If you are an impatient child of the earth like I am, you will have the urge to shut down any questions arising out of the wounding / betrayal that are uncomfortable – they feel like they might open doors onto aspects of myself that I will not like or onto internal landscapes in which there might be monsters. If I can settle the answer to any question quickly then I can slam shut each door that might open before I can even get a glimpse of the scary thing that may be on the other side.

This is fine for anyone whose primary intention for this life is to maintain the maximum comfort level that they can. However, the very fact that you are reading this tells both me and you that your fundamental intention is much deeper than this.

So, the idea will be that the questions that arise will remain unanswered so that they remain potent and powerful as tranformative beings. My advice is to respect the questions as the teachers they are. They will open the doors to power inherent in this process if you allow them to.

The first question that inevitably arises is “Who is to blame?”. This one usually is answered so fast you will not even know you have asked it. However, my invitation to you is to let this question hang, even if you know the answer beyond a shadow of a doubt. Every time you find it answered, let the answer go. Then see what happens.

The next question that often arises is “What did I do to cause this?”. The nice thing about this question is you can mostly rest assured that you did not cause the event, at least not knowingly. The reason I feel assured about this is that if you had caused it you would not feel betrayed. You did what you did, there was a consequence, you most likely did not like it, end of story. But there is a wound or a sense of betrayal, so most likely in your experience you are not the cause, this is not a predictable consequence of your own actions. When you come up with an answer, let it hang there in the air with the question. See what else turns up to keep it company.

Other questions will arise. My invitation to you is to entertain them like honoured guests, allow them space to be and see what they stir up. They are the openers of the gateways to power, the bringers of transformation.

3. Find or make a safe place to put the wounding and the offender so that you are not face to face with it in every moment.

Oldest sister, who is a mighty shaman with a feather-light touch, uses a cauldron – drawn from Celtic traditions – as her safe place. Whenever she finds herself plagued by blaming someone who has wronged her, she pictures a cauldron (Celtic tranformational motif) simmering away on a low fire cooking up something that is nourishing for the earth, for life, for the universe. With her spirit fingertips she picks up, very delicately, the situation or the wrongdoer or whatever aspect is plaguing her and slips it in over the lip of the cauldron. Then she turns and walks away and does not look back, leaving the plaguing thought form to simmer and do whatever it does in the cauldron of tranformation. Every time she notices this (or any other) thing related to blame that could benefit from forgiveness she repeats the process immediately. Some days she does this a lot, some days not at all. But invariably the longer she applies the cauldron to a situation the less frequently she finds it is required.

If a cauldron does not spark your imagination feel free to come up with your own safe place to digest and transform the wounding and the energy that gathers around it. I like feeding mine to the muppet Cookie Monster, a truly transformative being who also makes me smile on even the darkest of days.

4. Look to move into a state of neutrality.

As you let go of the heavy energy associated with wounding and/or betrayal and, thus lightened, move through the landscape of grief in which you find yourself as a result you will probably discover that the emotional charge fades, the blaming of the others who were involved fades. You may have entire days when the subject simply does not surface in your consciousness. Keeping in mind that we cannot un-do the wounding or betrayal, that the only direction we who are in time are allowed to move is forward, you can arrive (eventually) in a state of being which is able to recognise the events as simply events, to look at them from outside rather than as a participant. At this point they will no longer show up as an attack on you or a catastrophe or a knife in the back or as the theft of your very soul. They still happened, and most likely even in calm retrospect the actions were unacceptable. However, they no longer hold the power to do you in or to send you into a rage or to make you want to crawl into a hole in the ground and pull it in after you. The power in the remembered situation now resides with you, not with the perpetrator or with the events themselves. In the process of grieving your way through to even possibly forgiving, the power you lost has come home. And chances are very good that you are now more full of power, more able to live as your truest, finest, deepest, highest self than you were before the events that caused the wounding occurred.

This is the true meaning of forgiveness, of the word. To give as before. Not necessarily to the person who did you wrong – maybe that will happen and maybe it will not. You will, however, be more given to your life, to your self. You will give yourself to Life as before. Or more than before. That is what successfully going through an intitation into power produces. Richer life. Fuller life. Abundant life. Transformation.

If you get to this point of neutrality and do not see that you are transformed, look around you, ask your friends how they think you are doing. Ask yourself the question “In what way has this transformed me?” and let that hang in the air for a few days – see what the universe brings your way. You may be surprised.

The shaman in each of us knows that “as within, so without”, that we are all so intimately interconnected that transformation of the world around us is rooted in transformation of ourselves.

It is clear that we are called to transform the world; the world is crying out for transformation, and who else is to do it? So, then, surely we are called to transform ourselves as the foundation of this work of transforming the world. And in order to transform myself I must know myself.

To do this knowing of myself is to wrestle with  a great, slippery shape-shifting mystery. How do I come to know myself when myself is forever hiding from my conscious mind, camouflaging, playing the internal chameleon?

One way is to learn to recognise my reflection in the world around me.


Many shamanic traditions state outright that the way the world appears to us is a direct reflection of our internal state, our self; other traditions take that to be so obvious as not to need stating. Whether or not this is actual, verifiable fact, taking that point of view can be very useful in terms of coming to know myself, so I would ask you to try it on for size and see what you can use it to generate.

In using this viewpoint as a tool, the easiest place to start is likely to be the aspect of your world you find most affecting, that stirs up the strongest emotional response in you. The emotion it provokes in you can provide extra energy for the hunt – because you are hunting. You are stalking your true self, just like an expert hunter stalks her prey.

“Most affecting” in this case could mean most annoying, most frightening, most enthralling or any other most that pops up uninvited as you go about your daily life and grabs hold of your attention, spoiling your mood and maybe even your day – derailing you from your normal, automatic daily routine.


I (and many others) would assert that whatever it is you and I are finding most affecting is that affecting because it is reflecting into our conscious mind an unacknowledged aspect of our truest self, or of the habits, ideas, patterns, etc. we carry along with us and which hide our truest self from view.

Once the uproar in your head settles down, please read that last sentence again.

In outward aspect, you may indeed be nothing like that aspect of the world that is annoying, frightening, enthralling you. Now take a deep breath. There is, however, something about that aspect of life which illustrates to each of us some aspect of self, or of the baggage we are carrying (frequently mistaken by us for our selves, as we are so used to it and find it so familiar).

Take a quiet moment and sit in your own mind with that affecting aspect of life; allow it to be just as it is, and ask the question:  What is it about this aspect that I find so annoying / frightening / enthralling? Try not to grab the situation by the scruff of its figurative neck in order to shake an answer out of it; just let it be there with you witnessing it. Then go about your business with the question echoing; “be in the question”.

At some point when your deep mind has processed the task you have set it, an answer will float up into consciousness. It may occur as a random thought picture, or as a dream or perhaps as words that float into your ear from an overheard conversation and suddenly ring like a bell. Whatever form the answer takes, you will know it, it will “ring true”.


Or perhaps the answer will not come, as the tides of everyday life sweep over us again and wash the affect and the question from our consciousness.  Not to worry; that aspect of self will show itself again, soon, in another guise. Then once again your job will be to notice it, let it be what it is, and live in the echo of the question.

Now here is the tough news. You may very well not like the answer. It is possible this reflection is showing you an aspect of your self you have tried to hide from view, something that you do not think worthy or something which runs contrary to your chosen values and your idea of yourself. Once again, not to worry. This is aspect of yourself is not part of a spiritual conspiracy to do you in. Allow it to be.  Do not fight it; do not give over to it and give it license. Just hold it in your heart and allow it to be.

This allowing, without judging or justifying, is what turns you from a hunter into a warrior, full of the right kind of power, able to transform the world by transforming yourself.

As you are still and allowing, this aspect of yourself will gently transform, sometimes without any effort in that direction by your conscious self, and you will have taken another step along the path of becoming whole.

Breathe deep, wiggle your toes and turn your face to the light. Enjoy.

Even now the world is adjusting your reflection. Your next step awaits you.



(NOTE: If at any point this gets to be too much for you and you are unable to function in your life as a result, seek help; there is no shame in that. Find a therapist or a shaman or some other powerful, compassionate healer and work with that person to become whole. Lean on someone else for a while until you are stronger.)

One of the ways that Jesus taught was, like many – perhaps all – rabbis, through the use of parables.  Some of them were fairly straightforward to understand.  Others leave us – or at least, me – to puzzle, trying this interpretation and then that, often for years.  Not without tea breaks, I must add.

One of these long-term puzzlers (for me) is the parable of the bags of gold (or talents, if you were raised with the King James Version). If you cannot remember the story itself, you can find a version here for revision purposes:

I have always thought that this parable had to do with duty, obligation and not much fun. And the failure to live up to some secret, unspoken but stringent requirements for spiritual acceptability.  As you can imagine, this could only add to my tendency to step back from organised religion and keep my own counsel.

Recently, however, another view has begun to dawn on me.  Probably you have already figured this out.  If so, just put me down as a slow study.

Nearly every culture, in the story it tells about being human, has a thread that runs like this: Before you are born, the energetic/spiritual source of who you are splits off part of itself which incarnates and becomes you.  When this body dies, that part of the energetic source return to its original home.

Some of us come in to this bodily life with riches already, full of talents and the fire of life.  Others are less generously blessed. However you came into this life, though, throughout your life you are continually becoming; at any point you are the sum of what you came in to this life as and all of the choices, helpful or not, that you have made from that moment on.

All of those choices have an impact on who we are, on the riches we carry along with us, on who we become.  Am I becoming someone who is larger than the person who came in, who has a greater capacity for living, loving, seeing clearly, learning, teaching, blessing, celebrating? I hope that I am – that is certainly my intent.  I be becoming that by choosing to act as if that is who I am at each crossroad I encounter: the momentous ones ans well as the ones which seem minuscule and of no import at all. Or, when I do not choose wisely, by learning from that and making a better choice for me at the next one.

And when we die, we take that improved, expanded self back to our spiritual origin, whatever it is, as our gift to the whole of life. Whatever we have gained – freedom from fear, capacity for love, ability to forgive or be compassionate, clarity about ourselves – all of this comes back at our death to the source of our life and, therefore, to all that is.

So not only are we a gift of whatever degree of delight (or not!) while we are here on this planet, we are a gift ultimately to that which gave us life itself. A chance to say “thank you” with our entire being.


How do I bless myself? Let me count the ways….

It is so easy to identify what we do not want and what is doing us harm.  Not so easy to identify and put into words” what is missing, the presence of which would make a difference” – a difference that is good for the expression of my truest, finest self here in this life. So, here are a few examples to get you started.  There are loads more around, books of them in fact, but do be cautious.  Blessing speaks someone more whole, more free, fuller of life and light.  If what you are reading or saying contains words like bind or tie, or negatives like not and no, then that is not blessing.  It may indeed  be prayer, but not blessing.

Blessing speaks things / conditions / situations into being, so it does not bother to exclude. When your blessing find expression in physical reality it will occupy all the space with its fabulousness; anything else fades away.

Here is my favourite blessing on bees, which can use all the blessing available – please feel free to join me in this daily well-wish for these caretakers of the earth.  I live in a valley that faces the sea; hence the first line of this blessing; feel free to change it to suit, or to make up your own!

Bees who have this valley under your care, and bees who have this planet under your care, may you be full of light.  May your queens be strong, long-lived and fecund. May your drones sing mightily.  May your young rejoice.  May the air of your homes and your hives breathe health to you.  May your maidens be wise and capable. May they find nectar, pollen, propolis, water and minerals in abundance, and may the wind be always at your foragers’ backs, coming and going. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

Currently I am closing all prayers and blessing like this one, followed by a sharply exhaled breath, to seal the prayer or blessing with my own intention.

Here is a short blessing I use for friends and siblings in general, sometimes on a daily basis whenever I sense that they need support in finding and walking their own path (and who doesn’t, really?

May _______ this day find her feet upon her soul’s true path.  May she have the eyes to see it, the ears to hear the invitation, a mind that is clear and calm and a heart that is free to make the choice that is best for her. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.


And here is the blessing I use on myself at the end of each day.

May my heart be pure and turned toward Spirit. May my wellsprings of creativity be clean and free-flowing. May my eye be filled with luminous intelligence, and my my feet always find my soul’s true path. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

Often I touch the bodily part in question: heart, belly, third eye, feet and I speak this blessing.  It is comforting and powerful to bless yourself.  I cannot urge you enough to give it a try and to go on and find / make up blessings of your own for the circumstances of your own life.  It can be a mental puzzle to figure out what to call in.  It is certainly an adventure worth having when you do!


May the light eternal illumine your heart and mind. May your body pulse with the joy of life. May all who meet you befriend you, and may your feet always find your soul’s true path. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

Recently, I was listening to a fellow healer describe with considerable excitement an unusual healing experience which had happened to her that day.  It was a spontaneous healing and extraction that her spirit allies had undertaken on her behalf.  As a result she felt transformed and a bit disoriented, an effect really deep healing work often produces. In summing up her experience, she said, “This is the sort of thing that happens around So-and-so!”, naming a world-renowned shamanic healer. Clearly not the sort of thing one would expect to happen around an ordinary, run-of-the-mill practitioner like herself!

The Shamanic healer in question is a strong personality, deeply flawed (as are we all) and utterly human.  Yet profoundly powerful healing events happen around this person routinely.

Perhaps it is the strong personality.  Shamanic healing requires focus, that one holds an intent firmly throughout the work no matter what happens. A strong personality helps with this, no doubt.

Maybe it is the completely fallible humanity.  Awareness of oneself often leads to humility, very helpful – crucial, in fact – to the undertaking of shamanic healing.

I would conjecture, based on my own practice, that folded in with these qualities is the flavour of the healer’s relationship with spirit. And of her relationship with herself. This is difficult to measure, but easy to see.  If the healing work is going well, the relationship with spirit is healthy, green and springy and full of life force.  The healer is given to spirit. Here be miracles.

If the healing work (or just life itself) is not going so well, look to your relationship with spirit. It may well look a bit dry and dusty (or often post-apocalyptic in my case, but I am given to internal dramatic hyperbole, so take that with a grain of salt). In this case, pick up the thread in the dustiest, most post-apocalyptic place and follow it back to its source. There you have the chance to look the monster in the eye and offer acceptance, an embrace, true spiritual nourishment. For the source is very likely to be in your own soul somewhere. And it is rarely “other”, and very likely to be an under-appreciated and under-nourished part of yourself. I realise you know this, but think it is worth saying again.

My advice is that you follow the thread. When this process begins to feel risky, do not give up, but do enlist help. A friend, fellow healer or shamanic practitioner can offer you the protection and support you need in order to face what feels like monsters in your self, your life, your relationships – wherever they may raise their heads.

Persevere, and persevere wisely. Here be dragons, that is true. But here is the truest, deepest, finest work of human being. And here be miracles as well.

That all being said, and your relationship with yourself being just fine, a relationship with spirit requires nurture, and that implies some sort of discipline. This is the part I do not particularly want to write because I am so flawed in this area. I hate having to do the same thing every day. But I have to admit that having some sort of spiritual discipline, something that I do which reminds me on a regular basis that I am part of a greater whole, something that reconnects my consciousness with nature and with my friends, allies, teachers and guides does green up my soul, re-open wellsprings of joy and cause life to run at least in a more interesting fashion.

It is not enough to think about spirit. I must do.

It is not enough even to intend; I must act, speak, dance, sing my way back into awareness, back into expression of my own truest, deepest, finest self.

When that expression is flowing due to regular practice, the ground is opened up for the miraculous.  Which brings me back to my fellow practitioner.  This person has been forced by conditions in their own life to take the time given on a lengthy daily commute to and from work to reconnect. This happens five days a week as the practitioner speaks with the clouds, the winds, the landscape – thanking them for their gifts, seeing them with an open heart, and blessing them with a lively and full imagination in play.  This is like digging the soil in a garden, adding compost and manure, carrying water as needed.  Anything planted there springs into life.  As does the seed of a request to be whole and fully alive when planted in the soil of this dedicated soul.

Small wonder, then, that miracles seem to spring up unbidden in this person’s life!

I wrote last about gratitude as the first tool of the shaman, and of any human who desires to live a rich and power-filled life.

Today the tool I am considering is not so easily or concisely named. It has to do with the ability to see what is in front of us. Simple,  right? Just open our eyes, and there it is.

I would assert that it is not so simple, that most of us see not what is in front of us, but what is  in our minds. Which is not to say that the computer / phone screen on which you are reading this is a figment of your mental imagining. It is, however, saying something about our consensual way of seeing the world, and it is saying something about our inherited human way of seeing the world.

One of the things we inherit as human beings is an imperative to know ourselves. Put more personally, I have an in-built imperative to know myself. Not my ego-driven persona, so necessary to survive this world, but my truest deepest, finest self – which is, for the most part, invisible to me. So I project her onto the world around me: on people, situations, organisations, landscapes, objects, belief systems, deities, ideas and so forth in order to make her visible. If I can spot these projected aspects of myself and own them, it is a great gift to me and to the universe as I then become a bit more whole, a bit more myself.

I find it difficult to spot my own projected self just from the experience – my projected self looks, sounds,  smells, feels and tastes like something outside myself, something maybe even strange to me.  She is in the dark, so far as my conscious mind is concerned. The way I can recognise her, though, is from the emotional charge on meeting her. A landscape that makes me weep is still beautiful (or tragic, depending on what I am seeing), but may well be reflecting back to me something hitherto unknown in me. A person I revere, hate or fall in love with is just as likely to be showing something in myself as to be my destined teacher, enemy or soul mate.

Which is not to say that I should not have teachers, enemies or soul mates – simply that on experiencing one of those knee-melting encounters that feel like I have met something numinous and fateful, my first question has come to be, “What in my own deep soul am I seeing here, played out on the screen the universe kindly agrees to be, without recognising it?”

And then I wait for an answer….

The other side of this tool, of seeing what is in front of us, has to do with this physical world and our consensual way of seeing it, how we are trained to see only part of what is there.

We live in a society that is very materialistic. By that I do not mean just that we value the accumulation of consumer goods, but that we value only the physical aspect of the world we live in. Many people have said this, but it bears saying again.

From a shaman’s perspective – and indeed from the point of view of indigenous people around the world, those who live closer to the earth than Americans and Europeans do, everything that has a reality in the physical world also has a spiritual (energetic, unseen) aspect which, very possibly, gives rise to its physical self.  The tree has soul. The car has spiritual expression. Just like me. Just like you. Often this energetic aspect of the world is invisible to me, it is in the dark. I have to practice seeing it.

And the unseen, spiritual aspect of the laptop, or the grass that makes up the lawn, or the wind sweeping leaves around the patio, or the hill I see in the distance is connected up with the unseen aspect of everything else. And with me. Who I am is part of a greater whole. Not just as some distant idea, but as an immediate experience. So not only what I do, but also who I am choosing to be, has an impact on all of this continuum of being.

Seeing this reality behind the physical sets me to asking what I am giving to life, to the universe, to the biosphere? And this brings me to a place of being more neighbourly to all those entities who share this marvelous universe with me. I greet them at the beginning of the day. I ask their help when I am not doing so well. I thank them for participating with me. And I listen….

Life fills with wonder, and with joy, when we have the company of our deepest selves and of the myriad participants in this world. This is the outcome of practicing seeing what is in front of us. Like riding a bike, it takes practice to master. But also like riding a bike, once mastered the ability to see what is there is yours forever.


One of my teachers humourously called shamanism “The Path of Paraphernalia”. He was right, of course.  Shamanic practitioners tend to collect things like magpies do.  I have a variety of rattles, each with her own voice and specific use.  My florida water is is a permanent fixture on the alter space in my house, along with various gifts that remind me of the givers.  I have a mesa filled with stones and other magical objects. There are bells and crystals with which I work regularly. I am deeply attached to my drum, my conspirator in transformational work.

But none of these is a fundamental tool of a shaman. If all of them were lost, healing would still be possible. Transformation would continue to occur. Information and insight would come available from the other side.

There are, however, some tools of the shaman that are essential to this work.  They are, in fact, essential to living a rich and powerful life as a human being, so essential that they are hard-wired into our human energy systems. It is these I want to discuss here.

The first of these tools will be very familiar to anyone interested in transformation – of themselves, of situations, of lives.

That tool is gratitude.

And here’s why it is important and useful from a shamanic perspective.

Think about how you are being when you feel that something is owed to you. There is a tightness or a dullness to your being, and you are closed, perhaps to receiving anything else in fear of some sort of swindle taking place, of you being given a poor substitute for the thing you want and feel you should have. Anger, suspicion and fear are the flavours of this being state.

Now think about how you are being when you have just received something delightful and unexpected and you are thankful for it. There is an openness and freedom with the way you feel.  This being state is expansive and full of power. Your truest, deepest self is peeping out and can now come out to play.  New and good things have the space to arrive, to take shape and grow.

A shift from the “I am owed” state to the “I am thankful” state is possible at any time. In everyday life we often expect that this sort of shift only happens to us, that we are not able to instigate it ourselves.

The shaman, the human being of power, knows better. Knows that our speaking holds a key that can open the door to a rich life full of joy.

This form of speaking is gratitude. “Thank you for the wind that touches my face.” “Thank you that my sister cares enough about me to become angry when I ….” “Thank you for this challenge to my health and how it is teaching me to step into my own power.” Not always easy, consistently expressing gratitude requires awareness of ourselves and a determined mind.

We have very little direct control over what life brings us.  We do, however, have choice in the matter of who we will be in the face of what life brings us.  I challenge you to become grateful, to give thanks. More than once. Try it consistently for a week, a month, a year, and see the change in the quality of your life and of yourself.

Gratitude is transformational. Practicing it transforms you. It transforms what life brings you from a trial into a gift. It may even transform the world and the people around you.

Go on, try it. I dare you.


From time to time I am asked “what do shamans do?”.  Not always.  Some people have a strong sense of what shamans do.  But I do get asked.  And always I have to stop and think.  We are so pushed to be doing all the time, more and more, testing our souls and bodies to the limits of tolerance.  That sort of doing is very human, and shamans do engage in it; after all, shamans are humans too!  But it is not the sort of doing that answers the question.

So I am always returned to the foundation of a shaman’s practice: working together with Spirit.  What I am calling Spirit goes by many names.  In today’s world it may be energy, or essence, God or Goddess; but energy, essence, Spirit – they are all the same.  Whatever is the unseen power that meets us when we are bold and true to our deepest, finest selves: that is what I mean by Spirit.  Without Spirit a shaman is not much use to anyone.  It is the partnership between human and Spirit that makes a shaman.  Spirit brings power, knowledge and insight.  The human brings intention, discipline and the sense of urgency that incarnation in a mortal body guarantees!

Together, human and Spirit are able to work healing miracles from time to time.  Classically, this includes the removal of heavy energy which may be manifesting as a physical ailment, the restoration of lost power or of lost soul parts which will manifest as lack of engagement in life and/or inability to break or alter destructive life patterns, aiding humans who have died but failed to move on for whatever reason, and blessing the land and ecosystem that supports us.  The more the human and Spirit walk together, the deeper the work becomes, so long as the human keeps faith.

So, the doing of a shaman is only half the story.  As in any partnership, a great deal of the “work” together is not the pushing, grinding, soul-destroying thing we have come to call work.  It consists more of listening, asking, responding, and of holding intention for healing to occur.  Less like force and more akin to surrender.  As a friend of mine is fond of pointing out: It all happens in the conversation, the exchange, the dance, the betwixt and between.

Healing… transformation… enlightenment… are mystery. Spirit constantly invites us to step into this mystery.  Help is always available; we simply must turn and take the hand that is held out to us.

If you are in need of healing work, help or information, please contact me on or 07749996126 for more information.

Laurie McNeill