Category Archives: shamanism

Beauty Report: The beach and being in the present moment

Sandy beach, Long Beach. Long Island, New York, USAMy partner and I went to the beach on Monday. Being at the beach erases all troubles and allows us to be our most natural selves. When we’re at the beach, everything is ok. The sound of the waves caressing the shore lulls me to sleep. We soak in the rays of the sun, build sandcastles, watch seagulls. In this moment, life is perfect and beautiful. As we live only in the present moment, let me rephrase that to say…life is perfect and beautiful.

There is nothing like being in nature to reconnect us to Beauty. Nature soothes. Without distractions of phones, computers, traffic, noises, advertisements, or schedules, we can simply experience ourselves as human animal, primal, perfectly made for basking in the sun and playing in the waves. This is healing.

Beauty Reports are something we do in Forrest Yoga to acknowledge the overwhelming beauty of our lives, and to help us reconnect to our spirits, the things that feed us. A-ho.

 

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Shamanic Reiki

Shamanic Reiki blends wisdom from many traditions, including Mayan, Native American, Earth-based wisdom, etc.

Shamanic Reiki blends wisdom from many traditions, including Mayan, Native American, Earth-based wisdom, etc.

I recently completed a Level 2 Shamanic Reiki certification with Stacey “Sky” Gibbons, a Forrest Yoga teacher and Reiki master. I completed Level 1 with Stacey in October 2012. Level 2, as Stacey noted, is a much deeper attunement than the Reiki 1 attunement. But wait. What’s an attunement? A reiki attunement is given by the Reiki  master to the student. An attunement is a series of reiki hand positions, symbols, and breath techniques to transmit the energy of the reiki master, along with his or her lineage of reiki masters, to the student, empowering him or her to give the reiki treatment at that level.

Symbols are used in reiki. These symbols were said to have appeared to Dr. Usui, the founder of the system of reiki that has since been used as a platform to evolve new styles of reiki (in a nutshell, “traditional” vs. “Western” reiki). Symbols are given in level 2 that allow the practitioner to send reiki at a distance, or in other words, to perform distance healing. In the reiki system, “distance” can be interpreted as physical distance or linearly, as in time (sending reiki to events in the past, for instance).

Shamanic Reiki differs from tradition reiki in that shamanic techniques are layered on top of the reiki energy treatment to give, in my opinion, a much more complete and personal healing experience. Some of the shamanic techniques we learned and practiced during this training included shamanic journeying, the use of stones/crystals/plants or other earth elements in the reiki session, and “cutting cords,” or energetically severing ties between people.

As reiki sees “no future, no past, no present,” energetic ties to people from our past can persist to this day. Stacey even told us that women retain energetic ties to any man she has ever been intimate with. It was in this context that we performed the cord cutting ceremony, to allow the energy that woman naturally gives out to come back to her luminous field, aka her light body or energy body. Stacey taught us that feminine polarity is give/receive, symbolized by the void of her vagina/uterus, so the woman continues to draw energy, much in the way the Galactic Center continuously pulls things towards it. She compared this to the masculine polarity which is a more outward-directed/searching energy and is fed by movement, variety, and conquering. This is a blog post in itself, so let me stop here before getting carried away…

Using shamanic techniques before, during, or after reiki treatment brings added insight. Reiki moves energy in a very palpable way for those sensitive to such things. For example, during a treatment I thought for sure the person treating me had her hands on my right hip. It was not the case. She was not touching my right hip, but I felt the most heat, pressure, and sensation in that area. In other scenario, a woman receiving reiki treatment could not stop a tremor in her shoulder, even though reiki hands were not on her shoulder. Reiki students are taught that reiki energy goes where it is needed, so while hands may be on one part of the body, the energy is activated throughout the body. Shamanic techniques add another layer of insight to what is going on in the body, so a student could connect to the areas of greatest sensation and use visualization, for instance, to see his/her energy body as a transparent crystal, then look for “occlusions” in the crystal body. The seeing is done intuitively, and this is an area where Shamanic Reiki shines, for intuition is a major tool of the shaman.

On the first night of our training, after receiving the Reiki 2 symbols, I was exhausted. The same thing was reported by most of my fellow students in the training, due to having loads of energy moved in the work we did that day. On the 2nd day, we felt much revived, and the evening of day 2 I did not feel so wiped out. Stacey told us that over the next 21 days, the energy from the attunement will settle and move within us, and to be alert to changes subtle or overt. Within 24 hours of completing the training, I broke out with pimples and a cold sore! It was like my body was literally erupting and purging. Break outs are not too common for me, and I felt like this was directly tied to energy I was moving via the work. The training did help me bring to the surface a few issues that had been rattling around in my brain, which I did not know needed as much ventilation as they did, but I found out just how much I needed to release these energies by sobbing quietly throughout an entire 30 minute reiki treatment. During this experienced, I observed which hand positions caused tears to well up, and which helped them subside. Placements over the heart center definitely welled up more tears, while positions over the crown chakra helped them dissipate.

Shamanic Reiki both strengthens and reinforces intuitive power, in both the giver and receiver. Shamanism gives a new context in which to practice reiki, and the combined forces are far greater their either on its own. I will write more about my experiences working with reiki energy and shamanism as I continue learning. I am grateful to be part of this lineage of healers, which goes back to my teacher’s teacher, Llyn Roberts.

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Juvenile Red-Tail Hawk in Jersey City, NJ

Juvenile Red-Tail Hawk in Jersey City, NJ

Juvenile red-tail hawk with prey near Journal Square.

Red-tail hawks have been spotted in Jersey City since 2009 (at least according to a quick Google search). This forum post, started in September of 2009, shows a photo of an adult red-tail hawk perched near Journal Square’s PATH station. The Jersey Journal also photographed a hawk (same one?) in 2009, this photo taken a few weeks earlier in August. Then, fast forward to February 2012, and we have video footage of a red-tail hawk atop St. Bridget’s Church in Jersey City.

The above hawk being a juvenile leads me to think that the adult from 2009 has reared offspring in this area.

The animal totem of hawk governs visionary abilities and guardianship. The red-tail hawk is considered a messenger. Whenever it shows up, a message is coming. This is a powerful totem having to do with discovering and living from your life purpose, or said another way, living your dharma.

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January 21, 2013 · 3:09 pm

Ana Forrest on Stalking Fear and Triggers

With thanks to Barbara Passy’s Vimeo account for the original videos

Ana Forrest: Fierce Medicine Reading and Workshop at Wind Horse, 2012 from barbara passy on Vimeo.

Ana Forrest : Fierce Medicine Reading at Wind Horse, 2012- Stalk Fear and Understand Triggers from barbara passy on Vimeo.

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“Grabbing the Cat”

grab the catLast night in the New Moon Shakti Circle at Bija Yoga, we discussed “Goddess Archetypes.” Our facilitator Lisa Kazmer had printed out several pages of pictures we’d uploaded to the Facebook invite for the night, grouped by theme or archetype. We had a page for mother goddesses (Gaia, Oshun, Mother Mary), a page for warrior/chaos/transformation goddesses (Kali, Oya), a page for lunar goddesses, a page for the triple goddess/crone, and so on. We looked at the photos and explored our reactions to each, wrote down keywords or phrases that came up as we discussed each archetype, and talked about how we related to each (or didn’t), and what energy we felt we needed more (or less) of in our lives.

The title of this blog came about in our discussion of the warrior/chaos/destruction/transformation goddesses, namely Kali and Oya. One of the participants (and a friend of mine, and fellow yoga teacher) relayed a funny story about how the intense energy of warrior goddesses can sometimes have unintended consequences.

I’ll her refer to her by her first initial. A., with her trademark awesome sense of humor, told us how her intense energy can sometimes be overwhelming. She “grabs the cat.”

“Whenever I go to my brother’s house, I look for the cat. I just love that cat. But it always tries to get away from me. Maybe it’s because I grab it…and then pet it real hard.” We were all cracking up at the image of this poor cat, being overwhelmed at being grabbed at with A.’s strong desire to show love.

This is a real thing, tho! How many times, in your enthusiasm, have you ever knocked something over, tripped over something, or even hurt someone because you just HAD TO show them how you felt? That’s the energy of Kali or Oya, coming in like a hurricane force and literally tearing sh*t up.

How often have you tried to “grab the cat” in your yoga practice? We weren’t really talking about yoga, per se, but we were mostly yoga teachers in circle last night, so my mind went to how many times I have “grabbed the cat” in my practice and ended up hurting myself. Injury is one of my teachers in the infinite lesson of getting softer, but it’s a lesson I keep repeating as my practice and my awareness gets more subtle.

As above, so below. So when we see our habits and tendencies in our yoga practice, it’s very likely these tendencies come about in our off-the-mat lives too. This is one of the ways to use Goddess archetype work in your yoga practice (and in your off-the-mat life). Where could you use a little more Moon Goddess energy and just receive and reflect? How about the wisdom of the crone or the nurturing energy of the Earth Goddesses?

As women, we have all these energies within us. Some of us are naturally more Kali and others naturally more Gaia. Working with the archetypes helps us identify these primal energy patterns within ourselves and others, and in our life’s unfolding story.

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Filed under mind body spirit, shamanism, tantra, yoga

New Decks: Pathfinder, The Animal Totem Deck & Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards

I’ve always been interested in tarot, but it was my Sensual Shaman Immersion that really brought me face-to-face with animal totems. I’ve always had a passing interest in animal totems and guides, and had even downloaded some basic apps to my phone that I could look up an animal if one randomly crossed my path in a way that made me take notice. But I’d never explored it with the depth I found out this subject area has.

I’m an animal lover and have been all my life. If I could do my life over, I would totally become a zoologist or some kind of person that works directly with a wide variety of animals, not in a veterinary setting, more in a behavioral and observation setting, like a zoo keeper or other animal handler. So animals and animal symbolism have always played a role in my life. When I discovered the Pathfinder deck, I knew I had to bring it into my world and learn more about working with animals as totems and guides.

The Pathfinder deck is an 83-card deck that features a different animal portrait on each card. The Pathfinder can be used in much the same way any tarot deck is used, although there are some readings designed specifically for this deck, like the “Cat’s Paw” and “Bird Claw or Talon” spread. Each of the animal portraits was commissioned to an artist, and the cards were then sold online, mostly via word-of-mouth, by each individual artist and at a site about the cards. There’s even a blogger who dedicated a blog solely to readings done using the Pathfinder cards, but she seems to have abandoned the project since 2011. There’s still some interesting reading there.

Another deck I was recently introduced to is Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards. This deck uses animal symbolism but in a very different way than the Pathfinder deck does. Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards have an image of an animal included amongst three other images: a plant life, a crystal, and a human. Tuning into the animal, crystal, plant, and human for “entrainment” (aligning your vibration with; coming into vibrational harmony with) to these different energies allows users of the Shaman cards to explore these energies and archetypes which are part of our collective consciousness.

The Shaman cards are used differently from typical tarot. First of all, the cards are large, about the size of a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Each card has so many opportunities for entrainment that you really don’t need more than one card, although I’m sure someone has devised readings using multiple cards. But each individual Shaman card has so much to offer that it takes time getting through just one. The first step is entraining to each of the four energies (plant, animal, crystal, and human) on the card face, then entraining to the concept in the center (in the image I used to illustrate the Shaman Cards, it is “Strength”). Then you entrain to the concept, and how the four energies on the card relate to the concept in the center. It is a fascinating process that has much to reveal. For more details on how to use the Shaman Cards, as well as how to order them, check out Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ site.

I’m definitely a fan of animal symbology on both cards and in life. As I was just writing that sentence, two pigeons swooped by my window. Pigeons are common in the Northeast urban centers, but I checked Pigeon animal totemism anyway, and it says “love of home, love of community. Security in family and numbers. Your foundation, your heritage. The promise of a loving home.” Sitting here at my desk, clacking away at my laptop while looking out the window, I am in full glow of the love of my home, the love of my foundations, feeling the community I am blessed to have that offers me strength, love, and common bonds.

If you have any interest in animal totemism, symbology, or animal guides, I encourage you to look into it because it is an area rich in information. Are there any animals that speak to you? Do you have any memories of a particular incident involving an animal? Is there an animal you feel a particular affinity towards? These might be clues that may help you discover one of your animal guides.

During Isis Pheonix’s Sensual Shaman Immersion, we used shamanic journeying to discover our animal guide. In a complete surprise, mine was Eel. I will blog about that at some other time. Not a few days after discovering my totem animal through shamanic journeying, I literally came face-to-face with another animal that had uncannily similar information to Eel to offer me. That was American Woodcock, a lovely round bird that shouldn’t be in New York City, but was probably flying through on a migratory route, hit a window, and was injured and afraid when I found him huddled in a corner on 3rd Ave. and 43rd St. I’ll blog about him soon too. Then all weekend, I have had a fly in my apartment. I even opened the door, shooed him out, and he returned (or another, bigger hairier blacker fly took his place). Fly teaches adaptation, making the best even out of displeasurable circumstances. Fly can also warm us about our ego. Perhaps we are “bugging people” with our big buzzy ego. Maybe we are annoying someone just for kicks, to instigate something for fun or to get things moving.

Animal totemism can work like tarot in that it offers us a lens into our current inner world and allows us to organize our thoughts, perhaps even revealing things to use which we might not see if we were observing our situation just in a literal sense. Allow animals to speak to you and enter the world at a level beyond conscious thought; engage with the universe archetypically.

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