Posts Tagged ‘shaman’

She who dreamed the rest…

November 13, 2015

First Grandmother

You dreamed me into life as you sang
Shaping grey mists of a time yet to be
You called me into being
Forming a feeling into flesh
You sang Life into me. Here.
A wandering child, Home again.

Shaper of bones and blood!
Dissatisfied with singular memories
You relinquished dusty anonymity
For Continuance.
A laughing Creatrix in her creation,
Breathing now in this body.

Working my sinew, scratching my skull
Incising whorls like fingerprints
Is this a code for me to break?
Or do they awaken songs
In this sacred bundle,
Uncovering what you secreted within.

I am eager to remember.

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

196Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is http://www.evelynrysdyk.com.

A shamanic reflection on Jesus’ message for the New Year.

December 31, 2013

Jesus

Abraham is considered the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He was a pious man who had his faith tested on many occasions. Perhaps his largest test was when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his beloved only son, Isaac. In Genesis 22, obedient Abraham takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice. He prepares the fire and binds his son. Just as he is about to take the life of Isaac, God stops Abraham as his actions have proven the depth of his belief and commitment.

During the dawning of the first century AD, the peoples of the Middle East would have been intimately familiar with this story of Abraham. Into this context, Jesus comes into the world as “God’s only begotten son.” This is a peculiar designation as it is said in Genesis that God created all human beings in His image.

As Jesus grew to adulthood and began his teachings, his behavior was loving toward others. He cared for those in need with healing and fed those without food. He associated with the poor, the sick, those who were lame, the mentally ill and also with those who were considered to have broken prevailing cultural norms. In other words, he was able to see everyone as sacred. These ideas flew in the face of the hierarchical social ideals that were promoted by both Roman culture and the Pharisees.

In both cases, enforcing strict dogma and adhering to the letter of the law was perceived as paramount, as this promoted both social order and obedience to the hierarchy. Supporting the organizational structure was more important than the needs of individuals and superseded acts of compassion, which may have been in conflict with their rigid interpretations of “right and wrong.” It is easy to see why Jesus and his teachings became a source of worry for the existing hierarchy.

When working with his disciples, Jesus charged them to go out and heal others as he had. This was to be done by asking the Divine In All Things–the Holy Spirit–to work through them. In his later teachings, he even suggested that, through the strength of their faith, the disciples could perform even greater miracles than he achieved during his lifetime. Jesus preached that we all could do what he did and more.

Fast forward to the capture, punishment and crucifixion of Jesus. As he suffered along side other prisoners, why didn’t God intervene? Perhaps it was because this sacrifice was meant to be interrupted by human beings! Maybe the entire point of Jesus’ role as the sacrificial “Lamb of God” was to get us to awaken to our own divine nature. If people really understood his message of love, they would have intervened on his behalf on several occasions–during the time he was in front of Pilate, during his journey to Cavalry and finally at the point he was being crucified.

Perhaps Jesus was, in the language of his time, trying to get us to see ourselves as aspects of the Divine who are no more or less important than any other. Through his actions, he suggested that we could choose to be loving, to be more egalitarian and inclusive, and more able to perceive the preciousness of all creatures on our planet.

He asked us to access the divine directly through prayer, fasting and through communication with Nature so that we could see things differently. Maybe the ultimate core of his message was for us to perceive the luminous threads that connect us to everything and everyone in creation. And in so doing to manifest our highest nature to generate healing and harmony around us.

 © 2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, the soon-to-be published A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.

(Digital illustration © 2013 Evelyn Rysdyk)

A Long History of Serving Life

November 12, 2013

Image

“Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.”

~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

A skeleton was discovered in Dolni Věstonice, an Upper Paleolithic archeological site in the Czech Republic about one hundred miles north of Vienna, Austria. This site was radiocarbon dated to approximately 26,000 years ago. While Dolni Věstonice is now arguably near the geographic center of Europe, during the Upper Paleolithic period, the area was on the edge of the glacial ice. The remains mentioned above were of a woman in her forties–old enough in those days to have been a grandparent. As an elder, she would have been important to her people. Rachel Caspari argued in Scientific American that elderly people were highly influential in prehistoric society. Grandparents assisted in childcare, perpetuated cultural transmission through storytelling and contributed to the increased complexity of stone tools through their practiced experience. In other words, during the Stone Age an elder was a vital repository of all the collected knowledge, history and wisdom of her or his people.

Not simply set apart by her advanced years, the woman of Dolni Věstonice also had a marked facial asymmetry. Her high-status burial and facial deformity suggests that she was a shaman. According to Simon Fraser University archaeologist, Brian Hayden it was “not uncommon that people with disabilities, …[were thought to have]… unusual supernatural powers.” This special woman was buried under two engraved mammoth shoulder blades. She and the contents of her grave had been painted with red ochre after her death. Over her head was a flint spearhead and in one hand she held the body of a fox.

A shaman interred 12,000 years ago, in what is now northern Israel, was afforded similar honors when she was buried. Relatively old for her time, the nearly 5-foot-tall, 45-year-old woman was placed in a mud-plastered and rock-lined pit in a cave and was buried beneath a large stone slab. She was buried with fifty carefully arranged tortoise shells, parts of wild pigs, an eagle wing, a cow tail, a leopard’s pelvis, two marten skulls, the forearm of a wild boar, which was laid in alignment with her upper left arm and other artifacts, including a human foot. This may have been a talisman to assist her in walking as her skeleton revealed that she would have limped quite badly.

Approximately 9,000 years ago, a younger female shaman was interred in a foot-thick layer of red ochre in what is now Bad Dürrenberg, Germany. Like her predecessors, she was interred with many extraordinary grave goods including crane, beaver and deer bones as well as antlers and shells. She was also accompanied by a year-old-child. Entering the spirit realms for the final time, she wore her shamanic costume. A spray of feathers was attached to her right shoulder. Over her leather dress, she wore a deerskin cape with the face of the deer drawn up on her head as a hood. Antlers were affixed to the top. A breastplate of leather and split boar tusks hung on her chest and the area above her eyes and around her face was lavishly decorated with suspended slices of boar tusks and other animal bones and teeth. Along her brow, a fringe mask or “eye curtain” of deer incisors dangled in front of her eyes.  Her toothy mask was very similar to the fringe masks that are still worn by the shamans of Siberia and Central Asia.

Throughout Northern European and Asian cultures, shamans were frequently women. The shaman’s grave of Dolni Věstonice has many similarities to others found across the region that range in dates from the Upper Paleolithic to a much more recent past. In the far-eastern Russian Arctic, a grave from only 2,000 years ago and dating from the Old Bering Sea culture held the skeleton of an elderly woman with a wooden mask at her knees. Her grave had been constructed so that she appeared to have been laid to rest in the body of a whale. Many of the artifacts found in this grave are objects would have been used in women’s activities, however her grave also held objects related to healing, rituals, and dance, indicating that this woman was most probably a shaman. From the wide varieties of burial offerings in her grave, it was also clear that her people revered her.

An assurance of abundance.

Evidence suggests that the Upper Paleolithic shaman from Dolni Věstonice was also a potter. This shaman was fashioning and firing clay over twelve thousand years before any other pottery vessels were made. She created many ceramicfigurines of animals and one particular figure that resembled other so-called “Venus” statues of the time period. These prehistoric statuettes  of women portrayed with similar robust physical attributes have been found in Europe and as far east as Irkutsk, Oblast, Siberia near Lake Baikal. The earliest figure found in Hohle Fels near Schelklingen, Germany was dated to 35,000 years ago while the most recent found in northern France was dated from 6,000 years ago. This suggests that our ancestors continued creating these images in bone, ivory, stone and clay for over 29,000 years. That equates to nearly fifteen hundred generations! For any cultural idea to be transmitted so accurately from one generation to the next for so many thousands of years, it had to have been considered vitally essential to the culture.

A recent study published in the Journal of Anthropology suggests that the figures constitute evidence that a shared cultural tradition existed in Stone Age Europe. Given that most of the figures were created during the extremely challenging climatic conditions that prevailed at this time, it seems likely that only a very few women survived to become corpulent elders as depicted by many of the figurines. Therefore, these portable images of very well nourished, multiparous mature females may have been talismans for success in the very difficult struggle to survive and reproduce. In this way, the figures can be seen as related to shamanic doll-like effigies used by Siberian tribes until the 20th century that were used to protect the people from calamities such as disease, famine or injury. Like those effigies, these ancestral female figures may have functioned as spiritual containers that held the essence or spirit of the symbolic mother/grandmother—a symbol of bounty, fertility and nourishment. In other words, these figures were may well have been talismans to assure survival, longevity and tribal continuance.

The spiritual image of elder females lasted for nearly three hundred centuries. Shaman graves tell us that particularly gifted women were also honored. Since these ideas persisted for so long, one can imagine that even after a few generations, they would have formed part of the culture’s primordial past. In other words, a female holy image and the female shaman would have been concepts that had “always been so.”

As it was in the beginning…

During the early 20th century prior to the Soviet Revolution, the cultural anthropologist M.A. Czaplicka gathered together much of the remaining shamanic knowledge of Siberia tribes. In her 1914 book, Aboriginal Siberia, A Study in Social Anthropology she quotes a Chukchee proverb, “Woman is by nature a shaman.” Indeed, hunter-gatherer tribes across the Arctic, Siberia, Central and Eastern Asia preserved the tradition that the prototypical “first shaman” was female. It is for that reason that both male and female shamans’ ceremonial costumes across Asia reflect traditional woman’s garments such as aprons, skirts and caps. Czaplicka said it this way, “Taking into account the present prominent position of female shamans among many Siberian tribes and their place in traditions, together with certain feminine attributes of the male shaman (such as dress, habits, privileges) and certain linguistic similarities between the names for male and female shamans…in former days, only female shamans existed, and..the male shaman is a later development.…”

This information is not meant to suggest in any way that men cannot be shamans or that male shamans didn’t exist in prehistory! Rather it is to suggest that a primeval female archetype is central to the deepest roots of the tradition. In venerating the feminine as a source of power, perhaps the people of prehistory were acknowledging that we have all come into this world from a womb and that our species–indeed all species–were born from the body of Mother Earth. Her elements make our physical life possible and a deep connection with the natural world–with Mother Nature in all her magnificence and abundance–is at the heart of shamanic spirituality.

Within the Earth’s sacred embrace, the masculine and feminine energies of life dance together to bring new life into the world. New generations of human beings and other creatures are born from this joining. Each new being is then nurtured by the Earth’s air, her water, her plants and animals. When our physical lives are over, we return again to her body. Our planet is pivotal to Life’s sacred circle of existence. Those who make the choice to align with the Earth and step into service for her multitude of life forms serve to support Life’s continuance. May every generation have people who choose to serve in our shamanic ancestors’ footsteps.

NOTE: The author is teaching the shamanic journey process on the weekend of December 7 & 8 in Falmouth, Maine. You can register by clicking on the links here: www.spiritpassages.com/calendar.html

(Photo credit for the shaman of Bad Dürrenberg © LDA Sachsen-Anhalt, Bild: Karol Schauer)

© 2013/2014 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, the soon-to-be published A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is.  Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives.  www.spiritpassages.com

Engaging the soul’s power through shamanic storytelling

August 10, 2013

Tanumshede-2005-rock-carvings

From a shamanic perspective, stories have incredible power. They can paint the picture of an era, give you courage, keep history alive, help to prepare you for a life event, teach you about a skill, and so much more. You can learn how to take your intentional use of language to heal, soothe, and enfold a child or support a person to leave the world as they are dying.

I am a fortunate woman, as my entire childhood was filled with stories. I was the firstborn and entered the world at a time when many of my elders were still living. Not only did I have two sets of grandparents, but their siblings were also a part of my life. I was blessed to spend many hours with my great grandmother, who had several living siblings, as well. More importantly, all of these elders were storytellers.

From the people on my mother’s side of the family, I heard stories of Norway and tales of making a new life in America. My grandmother grew up on a farm while my grandfather took to the sea as a young man. I learned many diverse stories, from tales of the little people on the farm to how pitch was gathered in the hold of a ship in South America to be brought back to Norway for shipbuilding. My grandfather, who learned carpentry aboard such a codfish boat, also shared hair-raising stories of building the wooden footings for what became New York’s Throgg’s Neck Bridge.

On my paternal side, I heard wonderfully colorful stories of Old New York and family tales from generations long gone. I heard of ministers, strong women, racehorse owners, fisher-folk and much more. From the old ones’ stories, I learned much about the challenges and triumphs of their lives as well as those of our ancestors. No matter how difficult my family elders’ existence may have been, their stories were deliciously vibrant and were generally well seasoned with humor and laughter.

For orally based tribal cultures, storytelling was a way to preserve the accumulated wisdom of history and transmit all that to succeeding generations. Stories included the tales which explained the cosmos, mythic stories of their ancestors, how their people came to be, how to hunt with respect, proper behavior, and much more. Imagine an encyclopedia of knowledge shared one story at a time! Children in an oral culture would absorb the collective wisdom through the elders’ tales in a way that wasn’t very different to my own childhood.

When the written word became paramount, oral traditions began to die out. This is unfortunate, as it contributes to the unraveling of traditional cultures. As ethnic and tribal groups lose their stories, they lose the glue that holds them together, and what was once an intact culture starts to die. Among more isolated tribal cultures, this dismantling of culture was delayed until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it was no less chilling. This certainly occurred in Europe. When the Brothers Grimm began to write down the old stories, the tales had already begun to decompose from the lack of being told. When people no longer have cultural supports, they lose an important rudder for finding their way through the world. Then, as cultures die, people themselves can become lost, falling into spiritual illness, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

Stories can also be a tool for healing a person, a physical place or one’s own spirit. By changing the stories that we tell ourselves, we can help to transform the pains of our pasts and pave the path for new ways of thinking about who we are. In so doing, we also change the way we behave towards ourselves and also toward others. Working with story can support us to deeply believe in our own power.

A great way to begin to work with stories in a shamanic way is to tell a story about who you are. Either speak the story into a recording device or write it down. Include where you were born, how and where you were raised and how you’ve come to be who you are as an adult. Make sure to include the highs and the lows.

After you’ve done that, it is time to start the story again.  This time, begin with the phrase, “Once upon a time, there was a precious child…”  How would you tell that same story now? Tell it as though you were about to entrance a small child with a story! Don’t alter any of the events that created who you are, simply change the way that you speak about them. Take the ordinary facts of the events of your life, change the tone or perspective and tell them in such a way that they are transformed into a heroine or hero’s journey! This is not to simply romanticize the facts of your story or lie, but to see all the parts of your life’s journey in the larger context of your becoming.  Continue to ask yourself how past events contributed to who you are now.

Completing your new story will take some practice and diligence to achieve. To change your old, tired story you will need to reframe those parts where you are most stuck in old wounds, blame, shame, self-pity, anger or helplessness! Working through this will take some time and must be done in an atmosphere of loving attentiveness. Remind yourself along the way that the prize will be to finally close the chapter on the unhealed aspects of your life that are sapping your strength and power. If some parts of your old story stubbornly refuse to be shifted, get some support to help with the healing. Remember, you weren’t wounded in a vacuum. People participated in your hurts and pains. For that reason, it is important to seek the companionship and guidance of healing people to support your metamorphosis!

While you are engaged in this work, also take the time to reread the fables and fairy tales of your childhood. Observe how many of them were fraught with danger, sadness, loss and peril. The child was orphaned, she was poor, she was hurt and then notice how the change unfolded. Often times, a story’s hero or heroine doesn’t understand what is happening until the story is over! Look at how simple events changed the course of their journeys. Also make note of how the heroes or heroines were changed by their life experiences in the story. In most cases, the stories remind us that heroines and heroes are made by the experiences that they live through. If a “fairy godmother” element is involved in the tale you’re reading, look at how you could rewrite that aspect of the story to have the central character become the one who makes the transformation possible!  Use your creative mind and heart to turn the problem over until a solution reveals itself!

Remember that as you retell your story in a new way, you are actually reprograming your subconscious. This is the part of us that is always listening. By paying attention to how we process and interpret our sensory experiences, our subconscious gets programmed with the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and our world. Why this is important is because this aspect of our mind is what is working with our feelings to create our reality. As we change the information this aspect of ourselves receives, we are teaching it new ways to program our present reality as well as our future selves.

If you are feeling that you aren’t creative enough or don’t have the energy to do this, take some shamanic journeys or do some meditations to get inspired.  I think about inspiration as the action of being inspirited. Extreme and altered states can provide a kind of spaciousness to our consciousness that allows us to “dream bigger.” Indeed, when teaching my students about the shamanic state of consciousness, I do not talk about altering ordinary consciousness, rather I suggest that the shamanic state of consciousness is an expanded state of awareness or perception which produces an altered experience of reality.

While we journey, physical and emotional changes occur in our bodies. Spirit can support us to feel more imaginative, enlivened and enriched. From that feeling of fullness, we have the energy and creativity to move any project forward. Learning stories and how to share them is also a part of a shaman’s journey. While there are very few spiritual storytellers who are living, there are legions of them in the spirit world. Storytellers of every tradition and time period are available to those who can walk between the worlds.

Journey to your teacher or power animal to have them take you to a storytelling teacher. Ask that teacher questions such as, “How do I let go of the parts of my old story that hold me back?”  Another good one to ask is,  “What are the stories the spirits share about me?” Finally a great journey to do is to ask the storytelling teacher, “What is the story I need to be telling about my life now?”

Each of these journeys can help you to reframe the experiences of your past and will change the texture and color of your personal story. By working with the spirit of a master storytelling teacher you can learn how to refine and refresh the storyline to steer the “plot’ of your life in a new direction. As you continue refining your personal story you will begin to more deeply believe in and feel your own intrinsic power.

All of the best storytellers spend a lot of time refining, polishing and crafting their stories until they are mesmerizing to the listener. That is precisely the effect you are reaching toward. Keep refining and telling your story until your true story unfolds. Make your story so beautiful that you subconscious completely releases all of its old limitations! In so doing, you’ll be contributing to having a far more wondrous, amazing and powerful present. And your wondrous present is what contributes to your happily ever after.

© 2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is.  Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives.  In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.

Sacred Reciprocity: Nourishing What Feeds Us

May 25, 2013

Giving back to Nature

A shaman knows that everything is alive and has a spirit. It is easy to understand that animals, birds, plants and trees are living, but to the shaman so are the rivers, mountains, oceans, stones, hills and everything else in our environment. In a shaman’s eyes, nothing can be separate from the living fabric of the spirit world.

The village, the hunter’s bow and sacred objects have spirits, too. Human-made things can become inspirited as they are created. Through use and care, they become stronger. Indeed, through our interactions with any object we inspirit them. Our cars, our tools, our house and many other things, too become alive. We intuitively understand this since we often encourage our car to start on a cold morning or when it is having trouble running. We behave as we do because in our heart, we have come to recognize it as a living being. Sighing with gratitude when we enter our home in the evening is similar to a child surrendering to the embrace of a loving grandparent. We feel enfolded and safe. Through our love and caring, we have transformed things into beings.

Groups and organizations have a spirits, too. There is a spirit in every family group, tribe, church and school. These organizations nourish their members and are in turn energized and renewed by their participants. When we feel buoyed by “team spirit,” we are literally getting support from the spiritual entity of that group. When we feel energized by a visit to the local nature center we are receiving nurturance from the organization that sustains it. When we feel that we have grown and changed in a class, we have drawn energy from the organization that ran the program. When we have spend a few quiet hours in a library or local bookstore we have been fed.

In a tribal society, the shaman’s role is to act as a facilitator between the human realm and that of the other spirits that inhabit the environment. Through interaction with these spirits, shamans understand that the intrinsic interdependencies among them all sustain life. In addition, shamans know that we are so interconnected that we are in a constant dance of mutual impact upon one another.

The many spirit beings are also potential sources of power for the shaman. This is essential, as a shaman’s ability to heal is based upon the power-filled relationships forged with the spirits. Since their shamanic abilities are dependent upon these affiliations, shamans understand the fundamental necessity for keeping these alliances healthy and strong.

An attitude of harmonious give-and-take becomes the guiding principle in exchanges within those associations. The shaman-healers of the high Andes refer to this idea of mutual, respectful interaction—which must be always monitored and lovingly attended to—as ayni, which is translated as “sacred reciprocity.” By referring to this mutually beneficial interchange as sacred, they underline a kind of holiness to being in right relationship. In other words, when we interact in this manner, we are somehow more in alignment with the fundamental framework of existence.

When we choose to step back into this more ancient way of being in the world, the relationships we forge with the natural world can provide comfort, a sense of peace, a feeling of oneness, and strength that can be attained no other way. In effect, we develop a sense of “being home” wherever we are on the planet. This reconnection with the spirits of the Earth also provides us with supportive energy. It is the kind of energy that can help any of us to move through life with more joy, clarity, and purpose.

In other words, when we operate with love and caring in our lives, we refresh the spirits around us. In turn, these spirits are able to return the favor with their vibrancy. We step into a cycle of nourishment that is reciprocal and sacred.

You don’t have to be a shaman to draw strength from alliances with other spirits. Our friends and loved ones nourish us. Our pet’s presence can encourage us when we are feeling down. The rushing river calms our soul. These spirits provide us with nourishment as palpable as food and water. If any of them were to suddenly go way, we would grieve and feel a pain in our heart. Our own spirits would sustain a loss through their absence.

Shamans understand that any spirit may be wounded, weakened or diminished. When this occurs, that which is enlivened by that spirit begins to weaken. It is obvious that if we do not feed our child, dog or plant, they will eventually die. The same is true for the spirits of places in nature. If we do not lovingly attend to keeping a river or the ocean healthy, it can no long sustain life. This holds true for every being in our world. If we take more spiritual, emotional or physical nourishment from something than we replenish, the spirit of the organism cannot be sustained. We cannot withdraw support and nurturance without continually giving something back. We must maintain and nourish what feeds us. Since the cycles of life are like a wheel, when that which nourishes us is lost, we begin to diminish, too. We cannot thrive in an energetic or spiritual vacuum. When the beings we depend upon for nourishment die, we die a little, too. It is an inescapable truth.

A shaman intrinsically understands that like members of a hunter-gatherer society, we are surrounded with other beings with whom we need to maintain harmonious balance in order to create a mutually beneficial situation. In ordinary terms, that suggests that we need to attend to the spirits of beings around us. This is especially true for those spirits from whom we draw strength, power, emotional support or joy. We need to recognize that the fundamental interdependencies with nature, with other spirits and with each other are critical for our emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing and ultimately our survival.

Organizations and groups have spirits and so are like living organisms. As such, they can also be diminished when we take nourishment without returning the favor. Just as with other spirits, when they begin to die, we are diminished, too. It is important to begin thinking about your school, your local library, the workplace you really enjoy, your favorite bookstore, your treasured sacred space or places you express your spirituality are actually spirits themselves that need your care and nourishment. So how do we reenter the way of being that allows us to work with these spirits who surround us? The answer is learning how to be in reverent participatory relationship with them. The word reverent implies feeling and expressing a profound respect or veneration as well as a willingness to show consideration or appreciation. Participatory means that we take an active part in the relationship.

It is easy to take things and organizations for granted. They’re simply there and we take what we need. However, as we become more conscious, we begin to recognize that this kind of behavior is both childlike and selfish. Like the shaman, we start to look for ways to put energy back into the wheel so that the spirits are sustained. In turn, the group or organization will continue to have the energy to sustain us. It is about doing our part in creating a healthy and balanced world. In this way our actions become extensions of our spiritual intentions.

When we open our eyes to the idea that everything that we enjoy in life requires our energy to survive, we can more easily find ways to do it. In real terms, that means buying goods from a local businesses, giving time and or money to the organizations that care for your favorite parkland, volunteering at your church, helping to spruce up your favorite beach, supporting the work of your favorite spiritual or educational venues by attending their programs and continuing to look for ways to support anything that supports your quality of life.

As we step into more conscious, mutually beneficial and reverent interactions with the beings, places and organizations in our life our spirits receive more energy. This is a way to begin transforming the dominant culture’s paradigm of irresponsible exploitation. With the exclusion of those who follow a more holistic worldview, we as a society do not generally do a good job of nurturing the beings around us. Nor do we see our fundamental interdependencies with nature and with each other upon which we depend for our survival.

For those of us that are warriors for a better future and how want to enjoy the benefits of being continually nurtured ourselves, we have the power to feed and love those beings that sustain our world. When we undertake, facilitate and encourage interactions that are focused toward reverence and participation we are actually transforming our reality. In this way, we turn away from the nihilistic, exploitative nature of our larger culture and instead focusing our energies on what we more of in our world. It is clear to me that if we want to reshape our current human culture into one that’s more ecologically sound, we can start by making reverent participatory relationship our guiding principle—with nature, her creatures, our favorite place and organizations, each other, and with our Earth.

© 2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is http://www.evelynrysdyk.com.

Shaman Tree

July 28, 2012

The author Evelyn Rysdyk (left) supporting her mother, Agnes Rysdyk at the 2004 Shaman Tree Ceremony in Maine. As the eldest person at the ceremony, Agnes was charged by AiChurek to hold the end of the chalama cloth while it was being braided.  (Photo: © 2004 Carl A. Hyatt)

One of the ways that you can ground your spiritual practice into your everyday life is to dedicate a special place in your own yard as a sacred space. One wonderful way to do this is to create a shaman tree that will become your place for offerings, for your gratitude prayers and for honoring the spirits in all the realms.

Across Siberia and Central Asia, people have dedicated trees to be special places on the landscape that become the focus for prayer and making offerings. These may be located in a prominent place near a powerful mountain, a crossroads, the site of a spring, a river bank, the clearing in a forest or any location where there is a strong sense of the spirits of the land. These spirits, referred to as Cher Ezed in the Tuvan language, are thought of as masters or owners of these places. The shamans negotiate with these owners, or ezed, so that their people and the livestock under their care are able to thrive. To insure that the spirits of nature feel treasured and honored, the Tuvan people dedicate places on the landscape as places through which the ezed of nature may be honored.

Depending upon the local customs, these specially honored trees may be a pine, a birch or larch. The tree is chosen for being especially tall or for having a special shape, unusual branches, or an auspicious number of trunks. Trees with three trunks are thought of as money or abundance trees in Tuva, whereas a tree with two trunks might be dedicated to honor a marriage or the union of two clans. Trees with nine trunks are especially sacred across the region as nine is the most sacred number. Other times, a tree is chosen simply due to its proximity to a place that is to be honored, such as a sacred spring or waterfall. In this case, the tree may be of any species.

Once a tree is chosen, the shaman performs a special blessing ritual. This ceremony is done to sanctify the tree as a place for ritual. This ritual dedicates the tree as a place where prayers may be carried directly into the spirit worlds. This is possible as all trees are echoes of the great World Tree that unites the all the realms of the spirits and connects the heavens to Earth. In addition, offerings made at this special shaman tree help to strengthen the spirits of place and support fertility of the land of the livestock, as well as encourage harmony, luck and good health for the people. Here is a prayer from Tuva that communicates the sense of how important the spirits of place are to the well-being of all beings:

From the ezed of the mountains that stand imposingly,
From the ezed of water that rushes noisily,
From the ezed of mountains that are many-peaked,
From the ezed of grasses and trees that grow multi-branched,
We beg good fortune.
From the ezed of flowing waters,
the ezed of whirlpools at river bends,
the ezed of of airy winds,
the ezed of lying stones,
We beg good fortune.

When Ai Churek facilitated a shaman tree ceremony for our students in 2004 she demonstrated how a tree is dedicated by first journeying to the spirits of the land tree to honor them and to ask permission for the ceremony. Then the area beneath the tree is prepared by clearing brush and grasses away so that it is possible to walk all the way around the tree. The tree and the area around its base are then fed with sprinkled milk. The milk is tossed toward the tree, onto the ground and up into the air with a spoon dedicated to sacred purpose.

Next, four or more yards of cotton cloth in three solid colors, red, yellow, and blue, are braided into a master chalama or prayer ribbon that is tied around the trunk of the tree. If the tree is especially large, nine yards would be used. While the shaman braids the fabric, the other end is held firmly by the oldest member of the community. This person is either kneeling on the ground or if that isn’t possible seated on a sacred cloth. The elder person’s role as an anchor represents the spirits of the ancestors being “woven” into the chalama to reflect their ongoing connections to our world and to access their blessings for the tree and the community.

When the braiding of the fabric is completed, the cloth is tied around the trunk of the tree. The chalama must be long enough to leave “tails,” after it is knotted. These may be anywhere from a foot to about three feet long. This master chalama braid will become the vessel that holds the smaller chalama that people leave as offerings to ask for blessings and to honor the spirits.

Once the master braid is in place, the shaman again blesses the tree by dancing and singing around the tree while drumming or rattling. The shaman’s song, or algysh in Tuvan, is sung to praise the tree and, as a representative of the World Tree, its place in the Center of the Universe. Here is a translation of a typical algysh for the shaman tree shared by Mongush B. Kenin-Lopsan in his, Shamanic Songs and Myths of Tuva:

Shaman tree you are the most wonderful tree on the earth;
Shaman tree, they say you are the most beautiful tree in the world;
Shaman tree, they say you are the goodness of an animal;
Shaman tree, you embody all the spirits;
Shaman tree, they say all the people’s lives are tied together in you;
Shaman tree, they say you preserve among your beautiful branches people’s fortunes;
Shaman tree! They say you give your healthfulness to the animals;
Shaman tree! They say you give children a happy life;
Shaman tree, sacred tree.

At this point, the chalama and the tree would again be fed with milk and small fingers full of uncooked rice. These offerings are made with gratitude for the blessings the spirits provide. As it is with other indigenous cultures around the world, the offerings not only give thanks for what already is in place in our lives, but in advance for the blessings to come.

Once dedicated in this fashion, the subsequent offerings at these trees would include tying smaller braids or strips of cloth to the master chalama, The offerings are either smaller braids made from three colors of ribbon, or simple strips of solid-colored cloth. These cloth offerings are threaded into the braided fabric of the master chalama and securely tied. If there are low branches, the smaller chalama or strips of cloth may be tied to the tree itself. When tied directly to the tree, these cloth offerings are only tied in a half knot and never too tightly so as not to choke the growth of the sacred tree. Other typical offerings include milk, clear alcohol such as vodka, cooked rice and sometimes sweets. Whichever form of offering is used, the person making the offering always walks around the tree three times clockwise, while chanting and praying thanks to the spirits.

The workshop, Tuvan Shamanism, The Shaman’s Tree is on November 10 & 11. Register: www.spiritpassages.com/calendar.html.

© 2012 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path and the soon-to-be-published Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is www.spiritpassages.com.

Spirit Passages Shamanic Inner Body Healing: A Portal to integrated Wisdom

July 4, 2012

In our culture, shamanic healers serve a community with its own special issues. In large part, our culture has honored the cerebral at the expense of the heart and we have neglected the spiritual side of life. The result is that the individuals within our culture are often disconnected from themselves, each other and from Nature herself. Just as peoples of the world living with poor sanitation suffer terrible diseases like typhus or cholera, we Westerners suffer from diseases that have arisen from our way of life.

Whether a person arrives at a shaman’s doorstep due to physical, mental or emotional illness, much of the malaise we experience in our contemporary world originates from our perceived disconnections. A person may feel disconnections within the Self–between her or his body, mind and spirit–as well as with the larger world of society and/or Nature. Whether conscious or unconscious, these disconnections contribute to chronic stress and to illness. Anxiety, depression and autoimmune disorders are wide spread and the incidences of stress-related illnesses are continuing to rise even as conventional therapeutic interventions fall short. Indeed, it is often the case that a patient who seeks out the shaman has tried many other therapies that have failed to alleviate their symptoms.

Spirit Passages Shamanic Inner Body Healing is a form of healing developed by my partner C. Allie Knowlton, nearly two decades ago. This unique method evolved as a tool to access the wisdom and healing that is locked away inside of your being. Whatever the issue–physical, emotional, or spiritual–often times the most valuable pieces in your healing puzzle is seemingly “missing.” You may have done traditional psychotherapeutic work, received shamanic healing, taken medication, learned how to meditate, and kept a dream journal yet still don’t feel “whole.” You may have become discouraged or even despondent at your “lack of progress.” It is in these situations Spirit Passages Shamanic Inner Body Healing work can be most useful.

This practice is based on several key principles. The first is the idea that all healing is a process. All of nature follows this paradigm–the seasons, the weather, the many rhythms of life are all in constant movement. Natural ebbs and surges are normal and expected. More importantly, processes are never complete. Unlike the goal-centered model that contemporary culture seems to ascribe to, a process model offers permission to focus on the present time. You have the freedom to savor sensations, ruminate over imagery and browse through what your mind may have judged as irrelevant details which are, in actual fact, often the keys to healing.

A foundation of the work is realizing that your symptoms are not the enemy, but instead are signposts that show you where you need to focus your attention and energy. Spirit Passages Shamanic Inner Body Healing is one way to access the imagery, sensations and memories which can provide, not only immediate information for healing but also reveal the next steps in your unfolding life process.

Another important key to this work is the understanding that your body is a manifestation of your divine spirit, which is not limited by either time or space. While your spirit is what shapes and infuses your physical being, your body also shapes how your spirit can manifest itself. As a result of this interplay, your physical body can function as a portal into a spiritual realm of wholeness and balance.

During a Spirit Passages Shamanic Inner Body Healing, your own body and spirit act as a doorway to wisdom. This wisdom is unlimited by the restrictions built by the conscious mind or the personality. A session involves an open-ended inquiry process that takes place in the sacred inner landscape. Shamanic realms exist both inside and around your physical body. As a result, you can be supported to go outside of ordinary time and space into your inner spiritual landscape.

Spirit Passages Shamanic Inner Body Healing can be very effective in unwinding many different kinds of limitations you experience. With the assistance of the helping and healing spirits, old traumas and misperceptions that may have been unreachable using other methods can finally be healed. This process has been successful in healing people from wounds and limiting beliefs sustained in utero or during preverbal infancy, to identify and eliminate unconscious, familial and generational patterns, and to heal unresolved issues that have their roots in a past life.

During the course of a session, traditional shamanic healing methods may be used to release a possession, retrieve a soul fragment or bring back a power animal for an aspect of your self, to heal a past life experience or to release your from curses, addictions or a familial dysfunctional pattern. The entire process is witnessed and facilitated by Allie and I. We ask questions to help you find your own interpretation for sensations, images and feelings. Since the information arises from within, each healing unfolds with a rhythm and pace that is safe and uniquely suited to you.

The method is also effective for negotiating better outcomes for surgery and invasive medical procedures by supporting your body, mind and spirit to accept and work in harmony with the intervention, thereby reducing the potential for further traumatization.

To discuss how this dynamic healing modality can support your own healing and personal evolution, call our office at True North Health Center (207-781-4488) to set up an initial consultation. Allie and I would be delighted to help you!

© 2012 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path and the soon-to-be-published, Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.

Shining a lIght in the shadow

April 30, 2012

This Spring, the country of Norway chose to recognize shamanism as a “religion.” In truth, shamanism is not a religion, but rather a way of perceiving the world that includes the use of visionary  methods which  facilitate our communication with the marvelous field of sentience surrounding us. Yet, this recognition by Norway is a breakthrough. Firstly, the edict finally legally acknowledges the legitimacy of the indigenous spiritual traditions of the Sami people. These people are the ancient inhabitants of Scandinavia. Over the centuries, their spiritual practices were driven underground by government and the church. Indeed, the Sami experienced the same kinds of repression that Native Americans experienced in this country. From  children being forced to attend boarding school, suppression of language and culture to the widespread destruction of Sami shaman drums, ritual objects and sacred sites.

Norway’s step, which echoes the 2008 applogy the country of Australia made to the Aboriginal people for laws and policies that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss”, shows that some governments are willing to own their shadow sides and begin to create change.

Knowing our own dark shadow sides can offer us a pathway to liberation. The shadow side of us often holds judgement, creates blame,  shames or hates, and capable of inflicting pain. It is the side of us that can hurt others and even have the capacity to kill. It can see other human beings as animals or “things.” No matter who we believe ourselves to be, a dire enough circumstance can cause us to be cruel, hateful or even seek to destroy another.

These feelings are a part of our human psyche. To be able to liberate ourselves from these demons, means first acknowledging the existence of them.  The process of exploring the horrors of darkest self, or what I call “getting to know the inner Mengele,” can prevent us from taking unconscious actions from a shadow feeling, perception or thought. When we know our darkness and heal those places that make us operate from the shadow, can we truly make conscious choices about how we desire to be and behave. Only then can our Light be honestly and deeply bright.

http://www.tnp.no/norway/panorama/2792-shamanism-approved-as-a-religion-in-norway

© 2012 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.

Breaking the Chain-Rejoining the Circle

April 1, 2012

In my healing and teaching practice, I am fortunate to meet many marvelous people who are choosing to change their lives. Each of them has a different and very personal story that may speak of illness, tragic or abusive beginnings, deep emotional wounding or lack of feeling strong or even worthy of love. Indeed, we have heard stories of truly heinous things human beings have done to one another. The most heart-wrenching stories are the terrors of childhood abuse people have experienced. We have born witness to those who were beaten, burned, humiliated, abandoned, tortured by cults and abused sexually beginning as early as six months of age. And yet, in the face of having such terrifying traumas, these people have the courage to do the work of becoming whole, happy adults. My partner Allie and I have even had the privilege of working with people at the end of their lives who choose to use their last days on Earth to heal their past so that they can move into the next world emotionally and spiritually intact.

How different these people’s lives might have been if, during their childhoods, the adults around them had attended to their own healing?

In the shamanic worldview, a person’s power may be stolen or lost through trauma. It is often the case that those who have had their light diminished through abuse choose to try and steal the light from others. Whether through sexual, physical or emotional abuse, the wounded person seeks to “fill the hole” left inside of them and often perpetrates the same kind of abuse they received in a vain attempt to reclaim their power. Some others perpetrate harm upon themselves in an effort to eradicate their pain. The cycle of suffering continues unabated until one person has the courage to stop it. That person breaks the chain by healing their wounded places inside.

Since people are usually wounded at the hands of other human beings, it is especially necessary to have loving help of professionals who are trained to assist in healing trauma. A good psychotherapist can help their clients understand the nature of their wounds and heal their psyche. However, as a shamanic healer, I also know the critical importance of also restoring a wounded person’s spirit. A person who is whole and feels their intrinsic power and preciousness has no need to steal another person’s light. They have no reason to wound another in a vain attempt to feel stronger. They have confidence. They are able to keep good boundaries. They are those who are able to contribute to the health and wellbeing of other people, creatures and our world.

Indeed, having the courage to dig in and attend to your healing is the greatest gift you can give the world. My primary spirit teacher told me many years ago that the changes we make inside of ourselves change the world around us. Since that time, science has proven that this is indeed true! Who and how we are in the world–much more than what we do–has a profound effect on all living creatures.

We’ve learned that our emotions have a profound effect upon our bodies. Emotional states such as anxiety, fear, anger, rage, blame, shame and apathy contribute to lowering the immune response. They negatively impact the endocrine system by increasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline while lowering the beneficial hormone DHEA, which contributes to our feelings of wellbeing. However, the effects of our emotions impact us right down to the molecules that make it possible to continue living.

On a molecular level, our genetic material is responsible for such vital processes as regulating cellular function and cell repair. Indeed, during our life the composition of our body changes continuously, as during each second 50,0000 cells are being replaced in our body. Our DNA, is responsible for gene regulation which gives the cells control over all structure and function, and is the basis for cellular differentiation in a developing fetus, the appropriate continuous control of healthy cellular growth in the body and the ultimate versatility and adaptability of any living being. To do its work well, the DNA must continue to function is the way that it is meant to and replicate itself without any “mistakes” in its code.

The energetic and physical environment in which our DNA exists has an enormous impact upon its ability to do its work well and replicate itself correctly. Research has shown that the conformation of our DNA, that is the shape of the molecule itself, affects gene expression. Specialized “Immediate Early Genes” or IEGs have a particularly important role in this gene expression as many of them are regulatory genes which turn on other genes that affect specific aspects of our immune system, such as the production of white blood cells that destroy attacking bacteria and viruses.(1.) The proper function of these IEGs can be altered by changing the shape of the DNA molecule.

The conformation of our DNA is affected by our feelings which, in turn changes the epigenetic environment within our body—that is, the environment in which our genetic material functions. Since our emotions have the ability to change the structure of our DNA they can either enhance or interfere with our genetic material’s ability function properly. “Negative” feelings can cause changes in our immune response, our endocrine system and the ability to regulate cell growth and repair. These changes not only cause us to be sick more often, they also contribute to the onset of severe illnesses such as autoimmune disorders and cancers.

In addition, our feelings do not remain within the container of our bodies. Research has proven that our feelings are radiated from our bodies both as measurable electromagnetic fields and also as quantum, non-local energy fields. These feeling energies have the capacity to affect changes in DNA molecules outside of our bodies. These effects have been measured over a distance of at least a half a mile. This alteration of another’s DNA by our emotional energy is also instantaneous, as our emotional energy is not bound by the limitations of time or space.

That means that the way that we feel about ourselves, other people and our circumstances not only impacts our health and wellbeing, it affects all Life. It is of particular concern that the beings closest to us are constantly bathed in our emotional energy, receiving the measurable electromagnetic energy as well as the non-local quantum energy. If we are conceiving children, the development of their bodies, brains and future potentials are being affected by how we feel. As they grow, our children are directly at the effect of our feelings as much as our actions.

As a result, it seems that we have a moral responsibility to address our emotional states and the underlying perceptions that influence how we feel about ourselves and the world. Plainly put, if we want healthy children, a healthy local environment and a healthy planetary ecosystem, we need to dig in and do the work of alleviating the misperceptions of ourselves and the nature of our lives that originated in our early life.

As we do so, we create a kind of spaciousness within ourselves that allows us to be able to more easily experience the feelings of gratitude, appreciation, compassion and love. These feelings provide the energetic salve that keeps the DNA in “perfect shape” to be able to do its work in a reliable and healthy way. These feelings actually assist our bodies to function at their best and project their healing influence far beyond.

Greater than any “good” actions we take in the world, the way we are and the way that we feel about who we are, creates an enormous impact. Our positive feelings—set free from the old burdensome patterns of thought caused by our early history—are a miraculous, transformational force. No longer trapped by feelings of low self worth, or anxiety, or blame and shame, we are set free to be an agent of positive change and nurturance.

The DNA of the next generation and the ones to follow–of all species on the planet can be transformed by changing yourself NOW. In this springtime, make the commitment and follow through with doing the work of healing your wounded self. Break the cycle of abusive thought and behaviors. Transform the negative perceptions that you hold. As your spirits lift, you elevate those around you on a non-local wave of sustaining energy.

Attend to the health and wellbeing of your spirit, too. By tending the garden of your spirit, you have the ability to create a gift that will keep on giving. Our spirit/consciousness is the aspect of us that continues beyond our physical existence. When finally released from our body, this eternal part of us is set free. If a person has not been able to heal their wounds releasing their anger or pain they risk being trapped in this realm. As a lingering spirit, they may wander the human world as a suffering soul unable to complete the journey to rejoin their loved ones in the Light of All That Is.

On the other hand, when our spirit is healed and whole, we can easily release our hold on the physical world and flow unfettered into the Light. In that place of incredible, loving energy that feeds all life in all places, our spirit is free to merge into the enormous circle of ancestral consciousness that sustains those who are in physical form. Radiating love and compassion, our soul continues to nourish others even after our death. Unbound by time or space, we are able to continue blessing the world and the generations that will follow us.

© 2012 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.

1. The Genie in your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention by Dawson Church, Ph.D.

Creating Spaciousness Between the Rock and a Hard Place

February 4, 2012

No matter how much attention we bring to our spiritual practice, there can still be those times that have us feeling as though we are being squeezed in situations that are unworkable or unmovable. For instance, you may be experiencing a physical illness or disability. You may feel financially restricted. You may be experiencing a difficult relationship issue, or you may be feeling trapped in your job.  Everyone has these difficult times and it is important to use your spiritual resources to buoy yourself—especially in times of difficulty. Indeed, a spiritual practice doesn’t exempt us from the ups and downs of human experience, instead it provides us with an emotional, psychological and physiological lifeboat to carry us over life’s rough seas

There are simple steps that you can begin practicing right now that can help you if you are in a tough spot. Even if your life feels perfect now, practicing these steps will give you more resilience as your life circumstances dance up and down. Creating this kind of spiritual and emotional spaciousness can help you ride over life’s bumps in the road with the suspension of a luxury vehicle instead of feeling like you’re in a decrepit jalopy with bad shocks!

Steps to develop “spaciousness”

1. The very first step is to begin practicing gratitude about where you are in your life right now. Find something(s) in your current life experience for which you are grateful. Even if it feels as though everything has gone bad, look for those things and experiences you are having that are worth celebrating!  Be grateful for your senses—the ability to see, or hear, or touch or taste the world. Be grateful for the two-legged and four-legged loved ones you have around you. Be grateful for being able to enjoy nature, even if through a window. Be grateful for the sunrise or the moon in the sky. Be grateful for the rain or snow. Be grateful for water and air. Be grateful that you are alive and able to feel.

It is critical to practice gratitude, “religiously.” This practice will keep you in balance, help to reduce the stress that you may be feeling about the situation and keep you in alignment with the universal flow. Remember that stress can create illness and interfere with your body’s functions, so give a lot of your attention to being grateful. The feelings of gratitude, love, compassion and appreciation all provide us with spiritual, physical and emotional buoyancy!

For those of you that already have a daily gratitude practice-make it something that you attend to several times a day. This is especially important when your situation has you feeling panicky or trapped. You need to keep releasing the restrictions that fear and anger produces in your being.

The buoyancy a gratitude practice provides can keep us from “sinking” into despair when we stumble, lose our way, become discouraged or become impatient.  (If you need support for your gratitude practice, please use the guided imageries on Spirit Passages’ “Becoming the New Human” CD– http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Human-Evelyn-Rysdyk-Knowlton/dp/B00006UFP8 )

2. From the place of gratitude, use the shamanic journey or meditation to get a broader perspective about the situation than your mind/personality can grasp. Often times, we trap ourselves when we look at a situation from only the personality’s perspective. In this way, we can “shut down” possibilities before they’ve had a chance to be explored. Using an expansive method like shamanic journeying can help to open up new ideas and fresh perspectives. Getting the “spirit’s eye” view of what is happening can provide a larger context and help to support us to clarify what needs to happen in a new way. I believe that our divine imagination gives us the ability to experience undreamed possibilities. In journeys, dreams and visions, we are able to dream a new reality for ourselves.

3. While using your expansive method of journeying or meditation, ask for felt experiences of the new possibilities. By feeling how we want our life to be, we begin dreaming it into reality. In essence, it helps you to embody changes that you desire to experience. It also gives you a way to test new opportunities! If a possibility presenting itself resonates with the feelings you desire, it can help steer you in the right direction.

4. Once you have felt how the new you or new circumstance will feel, begin doing feeling meditations or prayers. These involve feeling the desired changes as it they have already happened! Feel yourself in it in the present. How does it feel, smell, look or taste to be in this new life? During these meditations or prayers, give yourself permission to immerse yourself fully in the new reality. Doing this along with your gratitude practice can not only shift the perceptions you have about where you are–it can begin to shift the situation itself.

Remember there isn’t just one way to solve the problem. You desire to feel a certain way–feeling it already accomplished is what you bring to the meditation. This begins weaving the solutions that will bring those feelings into reality–perhaps in a form you can’t imagine now!  The last thing you want to do is limit universal flow. By releasing any attachment that you have to how your changes will happen, you allow much better circumstances to manifest than you could have imagined!

5. Practice openness so that you’ll be able to see and feel opportunities as they arise. Remember, the solution you desire may not arrive in a package that you expect or imagine. You need to cultivate an openness that will allow you to be able to see possibilities.  If you aren’t sure how to do this, do a journey to your primary teacher or take this into a prayer/ meditation to ask how you can best practice openness.

6. Pay attention to what Nature provides for support. Our ancestors always sought the wisdom of nature and looked for signs and support from the Earth. For instance, pay more attention to the cycles of the moon, the seasons and the weather. Nature is always remaking herself. She flows in marvelous cycles and produces miracles at every turn.  Celebrate the new beginnings that are around you. Look for signs of new growth, notice shifts in color or changes in temperature and wind direction. If you are near the ocean, pay attention to the pattern of the tides.  Notice the signs of movement and growth in the Earth knowing that because you are a part of her, that growing energy is delightfully contagious!

7. Connect with supportive people. You may want to form an alliance with one friend for whom you can provide mutual support. Look for those people who are also growing. You want to gather persons who can both support you where you are now and encourage where you want to be!

8. Keep doing all of these steps. Do not give up. The universe is always moving the pieces on the board, so your job is to be prepared, open and ready to shift as the opportunities arise!

Here is an meditative process that can help you to cultivate feelings of grateful spaciousness:

Guided imagery

Breathe with a focus on your heart.

Call those spirits that you trust around you.

Let yourself FEEL their presence and their love for you.

Breathe out any tension–any fear–any doubts.

Breath in with the awareness of being surrounded by loving support.

 

You are enough. You are loved.

Notice the stillness between your breaths.

In this stillness, you are whole. All is well.

You are a magnificent part of the splendid universe. Breathe in this knowing.

 

Feel this awareness entering every cell of your being.

Know that you are able to hold onto this feeling.

Gently bring your awareness back your surroundings.

Thank your body, your mind and your connections to All That Is.

© 2012 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is.  Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives.  In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.