Month: February 2017
There is an interesting thing that happens when one is faced with their own mortality. Many people talk about a moment when time stands still. I’ve been arguing with myself about writing this, but I’ve decided to go ahead and write about what happened and share it, and the message, with the general public.
It was a Saturday and I was driving to Washington DC to meet some of my friends at a conference. I had decided to grab some shrimp from a birthday party earlier that day. I had no idea I was allergic to shrimp, because I have eaten shrimp without a problem in the past.
Well, half a pound of shrimp and thirty minutes later, I’m walking down the street and feel the beginnings of hives. This was different than a “normal” outbreak of hives (I have several food allergies and unfortunately hives are a way of living for me) and grasped the severity of it when I felt my face swelling. I was 2 blocks away, and turned back to go to Union Station. By the time I walked hurriedly to Walgreens to get some benadryl, my hands, feet, arms, legs, and face all felt swollen. My eyes were beginning to swell shut and I felt the onset of tinnitus. 15 minutes had elapsed.
Upon entering, I looked at the cash register person and announced, “This is a medical emergency, where is your benadryl?”
The man at the counter looked up and stuttered, it was obvious by his reaction that my face was visibly swollen. He pointed me in the direction of the “back” and simply said “Along the wall, I’ll be there to help you in a moment.”
On my way to the back, as I rushed – I walked up to a group of three employees. I announced the same thing, “This is a medical emergency. I need benadryl. Where’s your benadryl?”
One kind gentleman brought me exactly to the wall where I needed to be, and I grabbed the first box that I saw. By the time I got up to the front of the store, I collapsed. I shakily got out my wallet and threw my credit card at the cash register man, asking for a bottle of water while on the floor. By the time they handed it all back to me, I was shaking so bad and my hands were so swollen that it was hard to open the packages. I somehow managed to do it and got 3 pills down with a whole bottle of water.
That’s when I noticed it was difficult to swallow.
I vocalized this to the people standing around, and this was where my senses started getting hazy. The manager walked by and informed me that she called the ambulance and the Union Station medic. By the time the medic got to me, I still had the ability to speak and gave him my information. I shakily handed him my driver’s license and let him know my age, address, and phone number. It was at this time when my sight started to waiver.
When the paramedics arrived on scene, that’s when my body started becoming limp. I couldn’t really see anything, because at this point I went physically blind. I forced myself to breathe and stay in my body, because I noticed that it was easy for me to not be present. I felt this calm sense of urgency surging through my blood to be present, and I took it one breath at a time.
When my vision went completely black, it was strange because I could still “see”. I couldn’t really see around me, but my senses were heightened in a way. I began to see energy. It was at this time when a great Buffalo Spirit came to stand beside me. I felt the energy shift at the presence.
The buffalo spoke and said, “You have two options. You can either stay here, or you can come with me.”
I knew deep down in my core the ultimatum he presented to me. My first thoughts were of my son. The second were of all of the work I had yet to do in this lifetime. I mentally told him a firm no and instead focused hard on staying in my body and breathing.
It was hard to breathe, it felt like breathing through a straw. I knew that I shouldn’t panic, because if I did, that would make the air not come. Slow, even, controlled breathing, like in my sitting practices…even though I was dying.
That was when I heard one of the medics say my blood pressure wasn’t reading. I remembered one of them saying they couldn’t feel a pulse. I remembered the high pitched hum of a defibrillator firing up. I remember someone shouting, “Ma’am, stay with us.” I know it might sound odd, but I could have swore I heard a medic “think”, “I don’t think the epinephrine is working, we might have given it too late.”
Still breathing, the only thoughts in my mind were of my son, and the beautiful world that I still had show to him. I had to stay. I forced myself to breathe. I couldn’t leave him.
This was when the Buffalo spirit nodded.
At that exact moment, I started coming back to life and vomited all of the shrimp in my stomach. I vomited for a good 5 minutes, and then that’s when I began to have seizures/tremors from the epinephrine. I remember being paralyzed and cognizant of what was happening, but not being able to speak or move voluntarily. I was so cold. It was terrifying with that lack of control, but at the same time, I was just so in the moment, that I couldn’t think of anything else. Nothing else runs through your mind when you’re in that state.
When I came too, the only thing I could think of was to apologize to the nice Walgreens employees who had to clean up the vomit on their floor. They kept telling me, “It’s okay ma’am.”
Eventually, after the tremors had eased to the point of me being able to speak and move of my own accord, the paramedics helped me stand and get to the stretcher. That was when I noticed the IV line in my arm, and one of them had reported my blood pressure being close to 50/30. Hey, that was an improvement from not having one at all.
Since I was coming out of it, I decided to grab my phone and begin calling/texting all of the people who I was supposed to be meeting that evening, as well as inform my housemate and the one watching my child. I was told it was quite comical to see a woman who was pale as a sheet from anaphylaxis on a cell phone, while holding up her own fluid bag as two paramedics wheeled her through Union Station on a stretcher.
I couldn’t stop shaking, and the tremors continued for two and a half hours. My fingernails were blue, and my blood pressure was still pretty low. The details of my escapades aren’t really that poignant for me to explain, but I do wish to express the spiritual type of experience that one walks away with from something like this. Yes, the experience was something simple and mundane (eating shrimp) – but it almost cost me my life. Why did I choose to bring up the Buffalo in this post when I could have just as easily left it out? Because to me, the Buffalo represents a choice, and represents a power that everyone has access to.
As most know from the topic of my website, as well as my business, that I am a Shamanic practitioner and energy worker. Most know that my descriptions of events and presentation are going to have a more “spiritual” aspect to things. I host a bi-weekly Shamanic Journey Group and frequently introduce the concepts of Helping Spirits/Guides to people – because we don’t need to have a near death experience in order to have a connection to one of them. The Buffalo that came to me was not an average helping spirit that one would journey and find on first encounter. The Buffalo stood for, and represented, a connection to a greater purpose.
Malidoma Patrice Some is a wonderful Shaman of the Dagara tradition. He explains this concept beautifully, where everyone carries a certain “responsibility” with them by just existing. If a person is alive, they take resources to live. They require food, water, shelter, etc. If a person were to appreciate what they have, then they would have gratitude and know that in order to live, it takes resources. Life doesn’t freely give without any expectation of not getting anything back. There is a sacred giving and receiving, and an awareness that you are a part of a greater whole, a greater collective. If you take resources from the great web of life – that means you must give back. In the Dagara tradition, the way you give back to the great web of life is by living your life’s purpose, or living your own unique genius. I’ve talked about this before in previous posts, and on the main page of my website. I believe that we were all born into this world for a reason. Your unique set of gifts, experiences, and the way you live your life right here and right now are a type of medicine. It’s something that you bring to this world that no one else can offer. Most people choose to not see themselves as a gift, and most people avoid stepping into their power – choosing to give their power over to someone else. It is this lack of responsibility and hoping that someone is going to come along and “save them” that gets them into trouble. We lack good leadership in this culture because we are projecting our leadership on those in “positions of power”, instead of finding the leadership where it really needs to stem from. Within ourselves.
What most people don’t realize is that they are holding themselves back when they do this. When we expect other people to do the work for us, or when we don’t think that we could do the work ourselves, we cheat ourselves into superficiality. We take the “easy” way out. We were born into this life for a reason, and I believe that the purpose we have as we live our lives, is to really awaken into who we are. To be the Medicine that we came here to be.
There are three stages to becoming the medicine you really are in this world. When we first learn to pick up our medicine, it acts as a poison in our life. This is what is meant when we are “toxic”, or when people express an “ickyness” when interacting with a person. It’s because they’re spewing energetically out of a wound, and that manifests as unhealthy reactions and relationships. It’s not until we stop pushing away this “poison” and allow this poison to truly transform us. There are many people who take a spiritual by-pass to this work and say something along the lines of, “Just send love and light” without diving deep into what is driving us to act this way. It’s not until we stop and really evaluate why things are happening, and why patterns keep repeating – that we are able to come to a full understanding of an unhealthy/destructive pattern we have.
When we allow the poison to truly touch us – we are transformed. Through this transformation, we are changed and we can’t fathom being the same person that we were before. It it through this, that we touch the poison as this transformed “antidote”. This is the transformation of poison into medicine through our own direct revelation. This is the second stage.
The third and last stage is taking that medicine, picking it up, and bringing it out into the world. If we have done the work to transform ourselves and transform our poison – it’s now considered our job and our responsibility to bring that medicine out into the world to help other people.
In an indigenous culture, it would be an abuse of power to not pick up your medicine, or step into your power – when we deny ourselves what we have worked so hard to achieve. Most people don’t realize the toxic behavior they do have, and they sit there waiting for someone else to save them, destroying themselves and their relationships in the meantime.
Wake up. Realize you have the ability to do something. Every process begins within. When something upsets you in your environment, take the time to see why it really upset you. Dive into your own wounds and see what makes you tick. Who knows, maybe what really hurts you inside is a gift that’s waiting to be surfaced and you just need to wade through the poison and allow yourself to change so you can be the medicine this world needs.
All I know is that I walked out of that Emergency room a changed person. I realized that I had a lot more things in this life to live for, and at any moment it could be taken away from me. I was lucky enough to be given a choice to stay or go. It would have been so easy to have been selfish, to have looked at everything that I don’t have in this life, to look at my struggles and just have easily gone to go with Buffalo. But you know what? I chose to stay. I chose to be the medicine, because my son needs me in this world. Maybe he doesn’t know it right now, but I chose to stay for him and his generation. The ones that are just learning how to walk and talk need us here, and they need us to be fully awake and aware. We damage others when we are not aware of our actions and spread toxicity in this world.
Everyone was born into this life for a reason. The earth is in need of medicine. You are the medicine. And I am the medicine. We all are the medicine. And the earth is going to pull this medicine out of us no matter what state we are in.
The choice is yours:
Are you the medicine, or the poison?
Winter is typically a time to go within and to rest, reflecting the Earth and how it gets covered by a blanket of snow. As we enter into the spring in the Northern Hemisphere, there is a tendency to emphasize a theme that leans toward planting seeds and beginning to emerge from the slumber that is winter. As we unfold and begin to awaken, the Journey group shall reflect upon basic foundational understandings and go back to the simplicity that is the elements. We did this in 2016, and you read the summary post from last year here.
What are the elements? How do we relate to them? Can we harness the wisdom inherent in them to find deeper meaning within ourselves and others?
There are many cosmologies out there that deal with the foundations of the elemental systems. They span anywhere from a three element system, to a seven element system (sometimes even more). They are akin to an operating system on a computer, and each works better for different individuals and for different purposes. There’s nothing wrong with preferring a Mac over a PC, or vice versa. The problem that we encounter most, is that a lot of people are running on autopilot, not aware of how they operate on a foundational level. All of these systems are correct in their own way, and the purpose of these journey groups is to find out what your personal foundation is, and to create/maintain an operating system that is right for you.
I will be introducing these concepts from a four element perspective because that is what I am most comfortable with. I do not want the individuals attending to limit themselves to condensing to my viewpoint of how I see things. For the pace of this Journey Group, it would be helpful if you did minimal research on how to journey so you can join along in conversation so we don’t have to back track on what exactly journeying is. If you follow one of the other numbered element systems, feel free to read through these blog posts and take what you need. Come to the groups and share your knowledge. Find the hidden gems to deepen your own practice. All paths are welcome, and I encourage others with different viewpoints to come. It brings diversity and a clarity of shared vision to the whole.
If we go back to the elements, we go back to the simple nature of the way things used to be before humans even arrived. Human beings have this tendency to add layers of complexity. We can find a lot of deep and meaningful teachings in nature, because Nature is one of the first teachers that we, as human beings, learned from. The elements are the core basics of everything that exists on this planet, and every material has reflections of these elements. Sandra Ingerman always says that the Microcosm of our Universe (within us) reflects the Macrocosm of the Universe (outside us), and vice versa.
So how do we take these elements and apply them to our lives? It’s not going to be in the literal sense that we find these answers, but the metaphoric. Surely we are in human bodies, so how can we find earth or fire in us? When we journey to our helping spirits, they will speak with us in metaphor. It’s rare that they’ll speak directly in English or our native tongue. Most of the time they give us thoughts, feelings, or images. It’s when we work with them that we begin to develop this symbology of how they speak with us.
How are we able to assess our stability, the ground we walk on, and do we have enough to feed and nourish ourselves? This is our sense of earth, and asking the element of earth is akin to asking our physical body (because our body is manifest) what exactly it needs. Earth helps us answer our basic needs, self care, as well as our stand in the world. This is how we define who we are, what we stand for, and why we stand for it. If our ground is unstable, and cracked – that can represent that we don’t feel secure with ourselves or feel like we’re living two different lives. Our mind might say one thing, but our heart says another, and in that, we can create shifting sand or something that may seem stable at first, but as soon as you put any pressure, you start sinking down and find that it’s mud.
When we take a look at our mental capacity and sometimes find that our thought swirl too fast in our head, we feel stuck in being able to see what is coming, can’t come up with new ideas or even having too many ideas which can lead to planning our next day instead of sleeping – this could be an out of balance relationship with air. Air represents our mental body, the strength of relationship we have with our minds. Lots of people in this society tend to be overactive and over-stress our mental bodies. This can lead to actions without a lot of thought, as well as doing things on “autopilot” because we’re constantly thinking of the next step instead of enjoying what’s in front of us. Sometimes it could feel like we are suffocating, or it feels like the air isn’t moving terribly well. If we get to our inner world and we find that there’s a metallic taste to the air, or there’s smog that makes us cough – it’s a metaphor that our minds/mental body is not as clear as it could be. We could be feeling “foggy” or we might not be thinking as clearly.
When sometimes it feels like our motivation is waning, we don’t feel like getting ourselves out of bed, or it’s the opposite and we are too emotional, too creative, too expressive, over share, and get really enthusiastic about a project but then fizzle halfway through – this could be an out of balance relationship with fire. Fire tends to be our energy production/level, as well as our connection to Spirit. When it’s out of balance, it can burn out of control, or feel like we’ve got nothing left to give. A fire that burns very hot takes a lot of energy and resources to keep going. If you enter into journey space and you see that there’s a fire that’s burning so fiercely it’s consuming things without control, then are you the type of person that tends to go off of whim and whatever good feeling you have? When you crash, do you find yourself feeding yourself caffeine or sugar in order to help cope? A fire that is forced is generally not going to be using all of the resources it has to it’s fullest potential. Do you see a path that the fire has burned, or does it have a stable place to burn and you are wise about what you feed it? If a fire is generally low, then that could mean we need to think about self care and how we are feeding ourselves spiritually. Are you giving too much to your relationships and not to yourself? These are all questions when we go to the fire.
Water represents our emotional body. It is our relationship with our emotions and the expressions of them. Emotions are not meant to rule us, they are meant to be flags for knowing if we are on the right track, or if we have a boundary violation. Western contemporary culture tends to flip flop on two extremes – either emotional indulgence or a shutting down of emotions. With a tendency for shutting down, we might be playing in the “shallow end” of the pool, or hanging out near the beach where if we fall down, we don’t have far to fall. We don’t have to swim. We can still get back up. In this, we don’t have to risk getting hurt by drowning, or have the fear of getting caught out in the rip tide. If we are too emotionally indulgent, do we happen to be swimming constantly? Diving in, even when we know we are not the best swimmer? The point of our emotions is not to get lost in them and have them control/power our actions – we are supposed to use them to float on top and to carry us to our deeper meaning experiences. To be present in the moment, and figure out how we feel in the moment. How deep of a person are you? Do you ride the wave, or do you allow the wave to ride you?
Now that we have briefly explored the elements, the next layer is how we view their relationships with each other. If there is too much water, then our fire cannot burn bright. If we have too much air (ideas and inspiration), our fire can burn out of control. If there is too much water (emotions) in our earth, then our stability gets muddy, and we begin to sink when we stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. This concept is known as complimentary dualism. In a lot of Eastern Traditions, it’s best explained as yin and yang. Yin is a word used to describe the inner aspect, while yang represents the outer. Everything has a yin and yang aspect. When there is too much yin energy present, that leads to a stagnation. If there is too much yang energy, that leads to a depletion. When looking at the elements in this four element system we will be exploring, the elements that represent more of a yin quality are water and earth. These are the elements that are restorative, that which we lean into when we feel tired or exhausted. They are replenishing, refreshing, and rejuvenating. The yang elements are represented by the fire and air. We typically go to these elements to carry out certain actions, or to be viewed by other people in a larger setting. They are how we interact with each other (one of the main archetypes that air typically brings is communication). Fire is interesting because it’s an element that requires the other elements to even be initiated. The environment has to be right, and the right potential for combustion needs to be present. Fire needs to constantly be fed, and all of the other elements need to be in balance for a fire to be more properly utilized – otherwise it burns out of control and causes chaos, or it is suffocated and cannot burn.
Having a more shamanic view of life is also about relationship, and if we view these relationships with our elements and assess the quality of them – it can provide a tremendous amount of introspection that can be transforming. Sometimes, being able to work with a metaphor can help us figure out what we need to do, in order to clear the pollution we find in them. Once we see the state that something is in, we can ask our guide what the next step is to create a healthier relationship with that aspect of ourselves. This is the gift of journeying – to be a powerful tool to help us see the imbalances and apply them in our life so we can learn to be in good relationship with the world around us. It all starts with our relationship with our self, and being honest with our self.
For a deeper look and practical application on how we can begin to work with these concepts, let’s explore each element individually:
Air – Mental Body
Fire – Spiritual Body
Water – Emotional Body (coming soon)
For those that tend to be auditory learners, the inspiration behind this series of posts are a grouping of podcasts from Why Shamanism Now. Feel free to listen to the originals listed here: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Each podcast is about 45-50 minutes long.
The beginning of February is the middle point between the middle of winter and the middle of spring. It is generally the beginning of spring, as well as a metaphoric time to begin thinking of what we will be planting in the months to come. It can be a rich time as we begin to come out of our hibernation of winter. In winter, a lot of people tend to go inward, reflect upon their year, and take more breaks then normal. It is our time to rest, relax, and recharge to prepare for the coming year.
The Fairfax Shamanic Journey Group tends to look at themes that arise in nature and questions how we can apply the teachings of nature into our very own lives. For the next two months, we will be pulling wisdom from the earth and seeing how the archetype of earth can be applied into our every day lives. If you have not journeyed before, it is helpful to at least read up on it briefly before attending. It’s completely okay if you are new to it and want to give it a try. There is a mixed group of practitioners that come, some that have no experience with journeying, and some that have quite the experience. The more advanced journeyers help hold the space for the beginning journeyers, and we find an interesting array of experiences as we open the forum of discussion to the whole group. Please do not feel pressured to share your journeys – just share if you feel called too.
If you would like to keep up to date, we have a discussion forum on Facebook (which right now I look pretty egotistical and just posting journey group topics in there) that I would love for participants to start commenting on or to sharing their experiences about journeys experienced at home. It’s meant to be a safe space for people to explore their journeys without fear of judgement. It can also be a place for people to share helpful links that they shared during the group. You can feel free to read our newsletter for this month for some of the other events, as well as events from others in the area.
Now – down to the nitty gritty! Journey dates as follows! (Date also links directly to the meetup event so you can RSVP to the event if you wish)
Feb 9th – This particular session will be about the four elements, what they mean, and the interconnectedness between all of the elements. This is where we discuss the concept of complimentary dualism and how that can affect our lives. This is the introductory topic, and explores the four-element-system as a whole.
Feb 23rd – What is the earth element? How does it correspond metaphorically and apply in our lives? Here is where we look at our groundedness, our ability to stay in the present moment, and explore some metaphors surrounding our boundaries. What beliefs do we hold very concretely that are the foundations of what we stand on?
March 9th – How do we create presence and autonomy in our lives? In a world where isolation and loneliness fuel depression, there is big medicine to be found in the ability to work with the earth to create a sense of belonging, connection within, and interconnection with the larger reality.
March 23rd – Where there is light, there is always the shadow that is cast. The shadow is not a bad thing, it is the unspoken aspects of ourselves and of larger archetypes. The earth itself has a shadow, and it is the earthquake. The earthquake is what happens when we hold onto our beliefs too tight, our foundation becomes rigid, and things have become so stagnant that the only choice left is to shake things up. What happens when our world seemingly “falls apart”, and what wisdom can come of it?
So exciting to be doing this with a new community of people! If you guys have any questions or concerns, please feel free to text/call 571.306.3197, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fly high these next two months!