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Vine of the Soul: 3: The Cleanse

"Ayahuasca preparation" by Terpsichore - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ayahuasca_preparation.JPG#/media/File:Ayahuasca_preparation.JPG
“Ayahuasca preparation” by Terpsichore – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ayahuasca_preparation.JPG#/media/File:Ayahuasca_preparation.JPG

The vibrations are getting stronger, along with the ringing in my seemingly enlarged ears. I panic a little, remembering some of the tales of powerful and uncontrollable visions told by others. I remind myself that I am safe, take a breath, and try to relax. The room begins to look strange- elongated and fuzzy. Dust specs float above me in the afternoon sun, appearing so close and significant. A wave of deep nausea hits me and I hear myself moan softly. I expect to vomit at any time and I reach, shakily, for my bucket. Again I wonder why I or anyone would choose to do this. The voice in my head gets louder… louder. I hear myself complaining in a non-stop stream of negativity. At times I AM the voice, other times I am observing the voice from some place not within myself. The nausea overwhelms me and I begin to wish I could vomit.

The shaman told us that “la purga” is part of the gift of healing from La Medicina. All around me people are vomiting and moaning. Some accomplish this purging quietly and efficiently, while others vomit with screams and growls that make me shudder. Suddenly all noises are part of my experience, I am sympathetic to the purging. My stomach feels as though there is a living thing trapped there. I feel a visceral rolling and churning that makes its way through my small intestine. I come back to awareness long enough to decide I am cold. I wrap myself in a blanket and lay on my side. The shaman announces that two hours have passed and does anyone need more Medicine? I groan in disbelief. This is a 4 to 6 hour Journey I have signed up for.

I spend the majority of the following hours listening to my own inner voice. It whines, it judges, it bitches. I begin to cry, listening to this voice of mine. I hear myself, loudly and clearly. All my judgement, criticisms and complaints lay themselves out for my scrutiny. I see no major visions, no colors, am visited by no entities. Just me and my inner garbage, stewing in nausea, tears and cramps. When I believe I can walk again, I wobble weakly to the bathroom and violently empty my liquid bowels. I repeat this process every half hour or so- stumbling to and from my mat. How could I have so much inside of me, I wonder, after eating so lightly for a week and fasting for an entire day? The answer, I finally decide, is that I am simply full of shit.

As the release of garbage inside my mind and body finally begins to subside, a deep sense of peace and relaxation comes over me. The songs of the shaman no longer seemed driving and aggressive. The purging has slowed down considerably within the room. Others play music and sing. The voices and the music touch me deeply, and now my former hot tears of pain become quiet, gentle weeping. A young man sings in a soft, crystalline voice, “Gracias, gracias por la vida” and I repeat his words to myself in a heartfelt whisper…


Many Westerners are exploring a return to the simple but profound spiritual practices of shamanism and shamanic plant medicines to heal our wounded culture. Terence McKenna, ethnobotanist and self-proclaimed psychonaut, states in a recorded interview “Shamanism is not some obscure concern of cultural anthropologists: shamanism is how religion was practiced for its first million years. Up until about 12,000 years ago, there was no other form of religion on this planet; that was how people attained some kind of access to the sacred. ”

Shamanism is the belief that everything is connected, and that all things, seen and unseen, are alive and have some sort of consciousness. The practice of shamanism encourages a recognition of the sacred in all forms of life. The shaman, or medicine person, is the equivalent of today’s priest or minister. The shaman has dedicated his or her life to the practice of shamanism and is considered to be able to connect deeply with the spirits of the Earth’s flora and fauna.

 

[Author's Note: My purpose in these writings is to share my 
personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant 
entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after 
great consideration. All people considering this path of 
exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to 
work with. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been 
diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional 
issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge 
and professional background to address after-effects that may 
arise from this profound work. All photos posted are attributed to their original source(s) and are not mine.]

Vine of the Soul: 2: Initial Contact

"Chacruna and ayahuasca" by Awkipuma - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chacruna_and_ayahuasca.jpg#/media/File:Chacruna_and_ayahuasca.jpg
“Chacruna and ayahuasca” by Awkipuma – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chacruna_and_ayahuasca.jpg#/media/File:Chacruna_and_ayahuasca.jpg

My room is full- four women, four twin beds and one bathroom- and yet it is eerily silent as we bathe and dress for the first of three ceremonies of the weekend. I have decided to only attend the first ceremony, and to be “in service” for the following ceremony tomorrow afternoon. “In service”, I was told, basically means gathering vomit bags and walking people to bathrooms during the ceremony, and cleaning and making meals in between. I was also told this was an honor to be allowed to be in service during ceremony, one that was offered to me based on my work as an herbalist and energy worker…

Earlier, as I nervously waited for time to pass, I had a brief conversation with one of my roommates. I asked her the questions you might expect. How long had she been working with The Medicine? What brought her to this path? Was she afraid? She told me that she initially sought out Ayahuasca as a way to heal from Lyme disease. She confided that she had previously tried every allopathic and alternative treatment, and believed that Lyme would ultimately kill her. Ayahuasca, she told me, had brought the disease under control, and she was now managing it well. She continues to come, she said, because she wants to know the things that Grandmother continues to teach her. “As far as fear goes”, she said with a finality in her tone that said our discussion was near its end, “fear is about living on the edge and the gifts that edge has to offer”.

Now we are dressed for the first ceremony. The entire group, around 30 or 40 I think, wander quietly from sleeping quarters toward the community room. Some wear loose cotton pants or dresses, others yoga clothes, some are clad in jeans and tee-shirts. Inside the airy, windowed community room, mats have been placed in a large circle. I find a mat and unroll my blanket. Many people lay down, I have been told, and it can get chilly. I watch out of the corner of my eye as others smile and nod at each other while setting up their own small space. They hug and whisper to each other, clearly having been here before. Many of them line sacred objects up at the base of their mats. I note that there are about an equal number of men and women. I note that there is a good deal of cultural diversity among attendees. All are quiet. The lightly smoky air smells of incense and flowers. This space feels sacred.

When the shaman enters, everyone takes a seat on their mat. It is completely silent. I can feel the tension and expectation in the air. Some sit with eyes closed, serene, others fidget nervously. The shaman opens the ceremony in Spanish, interpreted through an assistant. He speaks, explaining the ceremony. He says a prayer to the Four Directions and sprays Agua de Florida out of his mouth for each Direction. I sit quietly, my heart beating too fast. “What the HELL am I doing here?” I wonder. My stomach is full of butterflies. The ceremony is to last 4 to 6 hours, and I have been warned about the purgative effects of Ayahuasca, (puking, I say to myself) as well as the deep and sometimes frightening visions she brings. To calm myself, I call upon my Spirit Helpers. They gather around me, promising to stay with me until the end. One by one, each member of the circle approaches the shaman, who fills a tiny silver cup with dark, viscous fluid. One by one, each member of the circle tilts back the offered cup and takes his or her place back within the circle.

Suddenly it is my turn. As if in a dream, I walk toward the seated shaman and slide in closely to kneel at his feet. He asks his assistant, in Spanish, about me. She whispers back, presumably telling him this is my first time. He smiles at me and asks in heavily accented English, “how much?” I shrug and say I do not know. He smiles and pours me a shot. It literally GLUGS into the small silver cup. I take it. I breathe. I touch the cup to my forehead. I pour the thick goo into the back of my mouth…

It tastes bad. It tastes like molasses and teriyaki sauce, mixed and cooked down into a chunky sludge. It is disgusting, but not as bad as I expected based on others’ descriptions. I wipe my mouth and walk back to my mat. After a while the circle is complete. We sit in silence. Some time passes and the shaman begins to sing his “icaros”- his medicine songs- with power and grace. He rattles. He will sing for us for hours. All around me people start to vomit into the provided buckets. Some vomit violently and continuously. Others begin to whisper and moan softly. I start to wonder if I had enough “medicine”. Finally, I feel a vibration begin in my body, accompanied by a high pitched ringing. My ears feel like they have grown very large. I say a last prayer requesting gentleness as she arrives for me…


 

Spiritual is defined as  “of or relating to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature”.  Spirituality is not necessarily religion, although the religious can certainly be (or not be) spiritual. Religion requires us to adhere to a specific doctrine, and often has its own materialistic goals. Spirituality involves finding meaning and purpose in life and life experiences, feeling connected to a Source or higher consciousness, experiencing the sacredness of the life journey.

Modern life for many in the U.S. has become a pursuit of material wealth, and there is nothing wrong with living a materially comfortable lifestyle. Study after study has proven that having enough financial resources to cover our basic needs does indeed make us happier. However, the pursuit of materialism to the exclusion of all else may leave us spiritually ill, and mentally and emotionally unbalanced. Large segments of the population of developed countries such as the U.S. have largely turned away from spirituality as a routine aspect of daily life, often preferring to compartmentalize spirituality to a few hours of practice per week, if at all. Can this deficit of spirituality be the basis of the erosion of American morals? And, since the current 300+ religions and denominations in America don’t appear to be the answer, are there other avenues to finding meaning in Western life that can replace the often violent struggle for material success?

[Author's Note: My purpose in these writings is to share my 
personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant 
entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after 
great consideration. All people considering this path of 
exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to 
work with. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been 
diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional 
issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge 
and professional background to address after-effects that may 
arise from this profound work. All photos posted are attributed to their original source(s)and are not mine.]

 

Vine of the Soul:1: The Journey Begins

"Ayahuasca and chacruna cocinando" by Awkipuma - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ayahuasca_and_chacruna_cocinando.jpg#/media/File:Ayahuasca_and_chacruna_cocinando.jpg
“Ayahuasca and chacruna cocinando” by Awkipuma – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ayahuasca_and_chacruna_cocinando.jpg#/media/File:Ayahuasca_and_chacruna_cocinando.jpg

I am tired, head-achy and a bit dizzy on the long ride to the Gathering. I have been on my first “dieta” for a week now and the caffeine withdrawal and reduced calorie intake are having their way with me. A dieta is a diet of no salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol or spicy foods. Meats and dairy are gradually reduced until one is only consuming bits of fruit, nut butters and steamed vegetables, which prepares the body for the ceremony with Ayahuasca. I have been told that the traditional South American dieta would be rice, steamed vegetables and small bits of fish, all unseasoned. Sexual contact is also disallowed. My driving companion and I gaze longingly at billboards & truck sides advertising pancakes… burgers… fresh fruit. We sip instead on herbal tea that I brought from my apothecary. Occasionally, between moments of quiet conversation and good music, one of us will wonder aloud, “are we really doing this”?

We arrive at our destination in the late afternoon. I wheel my small suitcase down a long, darkened hallway flanked by amazing artwork that I feel compelled to stop and inspect. One of the artists is Pablo Amaringo, and I am mesmerized by these paintings. Little do I know at that moment how differently I will view these paintings in a few days…

My name, along with a few others, is written on a slip of paper attached to one of many doorways. The room is small, dim, musty, and furnished with yard sale finds. I can see luggage stacked atop one of the four available twin beds . I take a sagging bed by the window and let out a breath I have been holding. I am uptight and nervous, my inner judge and jury wondering about my age, my clothes, my energy… blah blah blah. My initial assessment is that the few people I have met so far have been less than welcoming. I also suspect that it is likely my own stuff surfacing- I am an introvert and rarely feel comfortable in new groups. I have several hours until my first ceremony with The Grandmother, and I decide to wander the grounds…


 

Mass shootings, war, drug addition, rape, murder, incest, racism, bullying and a myriad of other violent scenarios are a reality of life in the United States. The FBI states in its annual report that in 2013, an estimated 1,163,146 violent crimes occurred nationwide.  The media reports that a public mass shooting has occurred on average every 172 days since 1982. Many argue that gun control is the answer to violence in America. Others site drug addiction as a primary cause of violent crimes, loaded jail cells and untapped human potential. The National Council on alcohol and drug dependence (NCADD) states that “Most inmates are in prison, at least in large part, because of substance abuse. 80% of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol. Nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted. Approximately 60% of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illegal drugs at arrest.” (NCADD: “Drugs and Crime”) A rise in mental illness and overuse of psychiatric drugs is being scrutinized as a possible cause of the negative swing of our culture’s moral compass. The percentage of Americans disabled by mental illness has increased fivefold since 1955.

All of these- firearms, illegal and prescription drug addiction, mental illness- are likely theories for the one million plus violent crimes in America. If we widen the lens a bit, we see the morally heinous corporate crimes of greed. Big business stealing from the poor and working class and pillaging our planet as a source of wealth for the already wealthy has become the norm.  What lies beneath all this violence, apathy and moral bankruptcy? Blaming guns, mental illness and drug addiction for the erosion of morals and ethics in our culture is akin to blaming the warning light on a car dashboard for the impending breakdown of the engine. Perhaps the real issue is a deep disregard for the sacredness of life in pursuit of the material. Maybe what America truly needs is a spiritual slap in the face…

[Author's Note: My purpose in these writings is to share my 
personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant 
entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after 
great consideration. All people considering this path of 
exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to 
work with. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been 
diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional 
issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge 
and professional background to address after-effects that may 
arise from this profound work. All photos posted are attributed to their original source(s) and are not mine.]

 

Vine of the Soul: Introduction to a Secret Me

Good morning, reader. I invite you to join me on a Journey of my own self-discovery. After a few years of indecision, I have decided to write about my personal experiences with shamanism & plant entheogens. Entheogens are natural plants that produce an altered state of consciousness. Entheogens differ from hallucinogens in that they are not created in a lab by a chemist, but are instead a direct product of nature.

Ayahuasca Vine
Ayahuasca Vine

I have personally had the honor of working with several plant entheogens. As an herbalist and student of shamanism, the connection of shamanic cultures to plant teachers was one I could not ignore. The decision to explore this aspect of shamanism was challenging for me. I have personally been affected by family members and close friends who suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol. I struggled with the aspects of the illegality of using these plants. I researched. I asked questions. Finally, I traveled to a country where the use of shamanic plant entheogens was legal. I sought out well-known and reputable shamans whose lives were dedicated to healing others through the use of Ayahuasca.

I, like many others, experience Ayahuasca as an intelligent entity that is willing and able to teach powerful though sometimes painful lessons. The self-knowledge I have gained through my work with the shamans and Ayahuasca seems the equivalent of many years of psychotherapy. Ayahuasca has provided me with spiritual, physical, emotional and mental healing. I have been given knowledge of myself and been gifted with teachings from this amazing plant. In an increasingly complicated world, perhaps this is one simple solution. Shamans and people of shamanic cultures understand something many Westerners have forgotten: we are just one small part of a whole, and there is much to learn from the living world, seen and unseen, around us.

I hope that you enjoy this Journey with me, and that you find something of value for yourself within these upcoming blog posts. I don’t know how many blogs I will write, but I have stacks of notebooks detailing my personal spiritual experiences.

Please note that my purpose in these writings is to share my personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after great consideration. All people considering this path of exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to work with. You will need to travel to a country outside the U.S. where these extraordinary plants are not forbidden for use. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge and professional background to address after-effects that may arise from this profound work.

Beauty Products: The Ugly Truth

Me- In an Herbal Mask

The American government doesn’t require health studies or pre-market testing of the chemicals in our health and beauty care products, even though just about everyone is exposed to them. Cosmetics aren’t subject to the same oversight as food and pharmaceuticals, according to the Food & Drug Administration. The FDA doesn’t have the responsibility to approve new ingredients or issue safety recalls. It’s up to the manufacturer to decide whether a product is safe.

Imagine that… big business deciding for us if a product is safe… think about it. Once you have pondered that a bit, visit this website

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

and search for your favorite health and beauty products. Soap, shampoo, powders, conditioner, sprays, sunscreen, skin creams, lotion, make-up- search them all. The Environmental Working Group is the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.  Their mission is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment. See how safe your products are, then come back here for some better ideas.

Ready? Great. Here is the really good news- many of those very high-priced products are LESS effective than those you can make in your kitchen. Just look at the ingredient list- the primary ingredient is listed first, with the rest listed in descending order. So that product you pay $40, $50 and even $80 for is primary water or alcohol. Nice.

makeupSkin care and cosmetics seem to have some of the most toxic ingredients. Make no mistake about it- beauty is BIG business. Keep remembering the big business folks get to decide if what they put in your product is safe. Cosmetics. Unregulated. Marketing is expensive. Shiny packages and fancy names for simple ingredients cost money. TV & magazine ads, big shiny displays in the stores, models with pouty lips- these things cost LOTS of money! That really doesn’t leave much cheddar left for the ingredients. So, water it is. Or alcohol. Or lab produced stuff that is “formulated to be more effective than regular” ingredients. OK I will hop off the soapbox. Thanks for reading, if you did…

lipstickI would like to offer you some very effective alternatives. As a young woman I discovered that I was highly sensitive to chemicals and fragrances. Most commercially produced cosmetics and skin care products bother me in some way.  I will break out in itchy red bumps or scaly patches. My eyes will burn and itch. The chemical scents (these are labeled as FRAGRANCE or PERFUME) often give me instant headaches. In my 20s I began a journey toward clean, healthy products. 25 years and a lot of research and education later, I think I have some good solutions. Let me share some with you.

I have decided to post ALL of my recipes for alternatives to chemical health, beauty and cleaning products on my website. I used to make and sell these fabulous products and teach classes on how to make them, but I rarely have the time anymore. Please visit my E-store, where you can buy these recipes for as little as $1.50. That’s half the cost of your fancy coffee, for a recipe that lasts forever. The recipes are simple and easy to make. Unlike many websites, which simply copy and regurgitate the same material over and over again, I have made and used EVERY recipe I post. Message me and let me know what you think!

The Story of Snake

SNAKE DRUM hand painted by me…for sale $495

 

I got the offer from Snake many years ago, while I was still married to my ex, but when it was clear that my marriage was falling apart. There were suddenly snakes EVERYWHERE, especially after he left…

-A six or seven foot black snake living under my stove (!!!!!!!)
-A black snake coiled around my washing machine hose one day as I began to do laundry…
-One morning I woke up in my farmhouse and sat up to look outside, and there in a huge maple tree, on a branch that almost touched my bedroom window, was hanging a snake in the midst of shedding it’s skin…
-A booming, thrashing thunderstorm and I run to close the door and a snake is side-winding up the screen door trying to get in…

This type of snakey-thing went on for MONTHS, and I had a deep primal fear of snakes. I could almost black out for seconds with the screaming fear when one got soooo close. I knew what Hi wanted. I was already deep onto my shamanic Path and I knew Hi wanted me as a partner. I resisted. I was terrified of snakes.

Finally…
One day I went on a hike, by myself, on a path in Sleepy Creek, WV to a rocky overlook. I needed to get away, maybe meditate, maybe cry. I got to the several hundred foot rocky drop where I often went to be alone. I always look for “others” before stepping out onto the edge of the rocky area to sit down. I
looked. Nobody there, 2 legged, 4 legged, winged or scaled. I stepped down from the path onto my favorite large “seat” boulder and stopped a moment to gaze over the valley in appreciation. Then I took off my pack and turned around to put it down…

and there Hi was.

A huge pile of snakey-ness. HUGE. Head up, arched back, attentive but not quite in strike pose. Rattle-end trembling oh so slightly, but not enough to make a sound.

HI. WAS. NOT. THERE. WHEN. I. STEPPED. DOWN. ONTO. THE. BOULDER. WE. NOW. SHARED.

Was NOT there. How could Hi have been? I had to STEP OVER this huge pile of snake to get where I was now- in between Hir and the side of the cliff.

In those seconds my body wanted to scream, jump backwards (!), leap over Hir huge poised head back to the safety of the path. Less than 2 feet between me and Hir. Less than a half foot between me and the edge of the cliff. On a semi-circular boulder with three current choices… OFF the cliff behind me, OVER Hir head onto the path, or remain very still.

I did one of those things, and I am thankful.

I froze. I stopped breathing. I broke out in goose-flesh and cold sweat and my hair stood on end. After an eternity of a few seconds, I silently said to Hir, something like…

“Please don’t hurt me. I mean no harm. I GET IT and I surrender to you. Please let me live and I will accept your offer”

Ever so slowly, Hi unfurled Hir lovely, horrible body and following the back edge of that boulder where it emerged from the ground, Hi moved away from me. Hir head disappeared over the edge of the boulder before Hir tail even moved. BIG. SNAKE. Timber rattler, I learned later…

I collapsed onto the boulder and cried. Huge shaking sobs. When I finally cried myself out, I had a new Power Animal. Snake. Serpent. Symbol of life, DNA, transmutation. Villain and hero in so many Creation stories from so many cultures.

Snake has been the most powerful Teacher and Companion in my spiritual life. Snake has shown me Who I Am in so many ways. Hi is not an easy Friend. Not warm and sweet like Deer nor strong like Bear. Snake is about transmutation. Snake teaches us to shed our skin when it is time to grow. Snake teaches that the physically fragile can be strong, sinuous, sensual, mystical. With Snake there are two choices: grow or die. Snake IS the DNA strand, the very DANCE of life. I am honored to have Hir.

This is the story of how we met.

***NOTES: Many people have asked me why I associate myself with a Snake. Snakes tend to create fear in us, and make us think of danger. Snake is not evil, bad or scary for me any longer but is a trusted friend.The pronouns Hi and Hir are intended to indicate both respect for the energy of Snake, and to honor Hir state of non-duality- Hi is genderless***

 

Didden and Dorsey: On Wholistic Health

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of co-hosting the weekly radio show called “7 Generations”. This radio show is the brainchild of Joe Gray. Joe says the show’s mission is to promote the sustainability of human and all life on the planet. The 7 Generations title is in honor of the North American Indian sacred practice of considering the impact seven generations into the future in all important decisions.

This day, we talked to Dr. Dave Didden, Dave is the physician and owner of Potomac Integrative Health is a new family micropractice in Shepherdstown, West Virginia started by Dr. Dave Didden, MD.  Dr. Dave grew up in Jefferson County, WV and received both his MD and completed his residency in family practice at the University of Virginia.  He has practiced medicine locally for 8 years and lives in Shepherdstown with his family.

We covered many topics! The discussion covered alternative paths to good health, pharmaceuticals, natural herbs, lifestyle and stress, vaccination and other related subjects.Please give a listen if you like, and join Joe on each Saturday’s edition of 7 Generations radio on 897wshc.org/listen-live at 11 AM.

You can listen to our conversation by CLICKING THIS LINK

 

The Pelican

He flew directly toward me, as though planning to crash-land on my head. His wingspan was huge, and he was coming in fast. The primal instinct that lives within and just under the surface told me to move away, to fling up my arms and guard myself from this huge bird. Another part of me sensed no harm in his intention, in that split second of decision…

I threw up my chin and opened my chest area to him, expressing my awareness and sending waves of welcoming, awestruck energy from my heart. He braked in mid-air and landed on the railing of the pier several feet from me and my companion. He landed facing me, and he stayed that way through the rest of the encounter. There were plenty of other places for him to land; the dock wasn’t particularly crowded with people or other birds.

Pelican

 

 

 

 

 

 

My companion and I were in Florida for a weekend this past March, escaping the harsh cold of Winter. We were preparing to return home, spending the last few precious hours of sunshine strolling the dock and enjoying the breeze. My companion had been standing to my left, but stepped away to take this picture of the encounter.

The pelican and I stood looking directly at each other. I greeted him with soft words and extended my energy body toward him. Extending one’s energy body is a Universal way of welcoming other beings- it is similar to a handshake. And, like a handshake, I simply extend the offer, while I wait for the response.

As I spoke softly to him with my words and energy, he gazed directly at me with his shiny brown eyes and responded by rapidly opening and closing his beak with small movements that made a gentle clicking sound. I continued to watch him with curiosity, wondering why he decided to commune with me in such a deliberate way. My companion had moved away- in nervousness or perhaps to be able to observe- I am not sure which.

I noticed then that the Pelican was trembling slightly, and holding up his foot. There was a large fish hook embedded in the webbing of his foot, and it was very clearly hurting him. “Ooooooh”, I said softly. “You are in pain.” He clicked his beak and wobbled his head a bit, still looking directly at me.

Noticing the fish hook
Noticing the fish hook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then began many moments of negotiation with the Pelican, where he and I truly attempted to cross the bridge of instinct that separated us. When I communicate with animals (and some people as well) I send images and feelings, which are part of the Universal language all entities share. I really wanted to reach out and cross the small three feet of space that separated us, so that I could remove that fish hook from his upheld foot.

We tried. I sent the image of me leaning forward, ever so slowly, extending my arm, and using my clever digits to grasp that fish hook. I showed him that it would cause pain when I removed it. I showed him my fear, too, that he would hurt me with his huge wings and beak. I apologized for the fish hook, knowing that it was my kind from whom the injury occurred, intentional or otherwise.

He looked back at me, chattering his beak intermittently, gazing away and then back again. I felt him consider and want what I offered. I felt the hot pain in his foot and the exhaustion from not being able to put weight on it. I felt his hunger. I felt his immense resistance toward me in the form of survival instinct. I asked him to take the first step, please, by moving a little closer. “Just a few inches” I said with my intention. “If you can do that, I will see it as consent and try to remove the hook”.

We just couldn’t bridge the gap. We both tried. That three feet between us was filled with too much. It wasn’t just him, either. I am also a creature of instinct. My eyes are tearing up now as I write about it. I think we could have gotten there eventually if time had been on our side. But I had a plane to catch, and a bewildered companion to think about. I was very aware of my companion’s energy, pressing against me, wondering what I was doing. Feeling concern for my safety. Being conscious of the time. And perhaps even feeling a little embarrassed, as I conversed with that great bird while people walked by.

In the end, the pelican and I negotiated energy work. I raised the palms of my hands slowly, holding them softly to imply no threat. Then I inched forward until I hit the energetic boundary of his “no further, or I must leave” edge. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, connecting to All That Is, gathering the abundant and freely available energy of Life, and breathed it out toward his foot.

I breathed relief of pain. I breathed an energy ring around the place where the fish hook penetrated his webbing. I breathed protection from infection. I breathed relaxation and rejuvenation for his trembling body. As I did this, my sweet friend lay down on his chest, resting, with his foot hanging over the edge of the railing. His eyes drooped a bit, and we both felt the safety and trust of our negotiation.

As I have said in past posts, animals receive energy well and very quickly. Soon we were done. Before I left him, I sent a final intention and request that the fish hook work itself out without further damage or pain to my friend. And I made one last offer to reach out and physically remove the hook. He remained on his chest, resting quietly. “OK” I said to him with my intention. “I am walking now to the land end of this pier. If you change your mind, come find me.”

I wish him well and think of him often. I am so grateful for the honor of his recognition of me and for our amazing encounter. I’m a lucky woman.

pelican
Pelican holding up his injured foot

 

 

 

Know… No… and the Sacred Maybe

no“NO!” I screamed inwardly, all my inner doors slamming shut with a resounding crash. Outwardly, not much had changed. I still sat attentively, with a smile on my face, body pointed toward the speaker, making the simple physical gestures of “I’m listening”. A person well versed in body-speak would likely have noticed a glazing over of my eyes, perhaps a slight twitch of a finger, maybe some rigidity in my shoulders…

“I know! That’s right!” I say with emphatic nods, leaning forward in anticipation of the moment when I can say what I have to say about the shared topic. The speaker feels affirmed, perhaps, but my body is not in a soft, receptive state. It is in an assertive, strong state. Agreement, yes, but how much listening is happening? And do I really know everything the speaker wishes to share? Unlikely…

“Watch your NOs” They told me. Not the one on my face between my eyes. The one between my ears. Additionally They told me to watch my KA-NOs (knows). “Piece of cake” I thought to myself. After all, am I not an open-minded, forward thinking, sometimes plain old weird person? Why would They even be advising this?

So I watched. And I cringed. I experienced my inner doors slamming shut on an alarmingly regular basis. I listened to myself say “yeah I know” in an habitual manner. These NOs and Ka-Nos came into focus and looked disturbingly like the tall, thick walls of a prison cell. A self-imposed cage. Yikes. “OK” I confessed. “You’ve got me. What now?” They told me to stop, of course…

“But I cannot simply go around saying YES to every little thing!” I ranted. Imagine it! Every request, every new idea, every activity, every…everything… yes??? What of good boundaries! What of taking care of me! What about “EN OH PERIOD” being a complete sentence! I recoiled. Bristled. Crossed my arms over my chest. Basically… I said no. Again.

Eventually I quieted; released my resistance; softened my body; relaxed my mind. My Guidance has been a most wonderful gift. I have learned to deeply trust this Inner Voice. Within this softer stance I realized that I was forgetting about an entire spectrum of gray space in between NO and YES. The Sacred Maybe.

I have begun to say maybe. I have only had a few months of this practice. Saying “maybe” keeps me soft and open. Flexible. Less brittle. Stronger. Saying maybe opens me to possibilities I had never even made room for. Maybe is also in no particular hurry- it is a patient place, slow and mellow. I can say “maybe” and set it aside to ripen. Often “maybe” ripens into “no”. But it is a soft no, an intentional no, a mindful no. A no full of compassion.

The best and most juicy part of my “maybe” practice is when it has become “yes”. A yes that was previously not a possibility. The birth of a new place. An entirely new landscape. The shape-shift of an habitual NO into a soft MAYBE which germinates into a fragile YES has been provocative. Already, this mindfulness practice of the Sacred Maybe has caused the ground to shift under my feet. Exciting.

I declare 2014 the year of the Sacred Maybe. I offer you a seat on the bus, a place in the pod. Be sure you are ready for the Journey, don’t take it lightly. When you are ready, grab your things and let’s go.

– NOTICE of every time you say NO or I KNOW. Pay attention to both the inner and outer instances. Of course, “no” and “I know” may be the exact right response at times. But when it is an habitual or learned response, just notice it.

-DECIDE to stand in the Sacred Maybe. This can be alarming or disconcerting at first. You are not saying yes, you are simply not saying no. The Sacred Maybe. Set this new maybe aside for as long as you need. Let it germinate into a mindful no or a possible yes.

-ALLOW the yeses that have been birthed to guide you into new places, experiences and paradigm shifts. And please share your experiences. We all benefit from the gift of your sharing. Enjoy!

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
We have refused
Again and again
Until now.
Until now. ~David Whyte