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Just a reminder that we don’t need to accept being bullied, whether in our personal or professional life. Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves in different ways depending on the situation, but remember – you are loved, you are worthy of respect, and you don’t need to diagnose or treat a mentally unstable or unwell person unless you are qualified to do so. You don’t need to cover or make excuses for someone who is treating you badly. Again, remember, you are worth being treated well. Love yourself.

Lynda Skeen's Shamanic Musings

Emotional bullies show up in all walks of life, and can be psychologically immature or very sophisticated.  Whether you’re a shamanic practitioner, a bus driver, a school teacher, doctor, office worker, or waitress, it’s important to maintain healthy boundaries while you’re working with other people.  It’s not only ok to have healthy boundaries, but it’s crucial if you want to maintain your own health and sanity, which you’ll need if you want to be able to continue to be of service. 

A tree without healthy boundaries can’t be a tree.

“You can’t reason with unreasonableness,” a dear friend once told me.  If you’ve considered another viewpoint and still come back to your own as true for you, some will call you stubborn and close minded.  But it’s not stubbornness to have a point of view.  And it’s not stubbornness to walk away from anyone in your life, including clients, who…

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No mud, no lotus (a beautiful saying of Thich Nhat Hanh’s).
No lotus, no more mud.
No more mud, no more lotus.

No compost, no food.
No food, no shit.
No shit, no more compost.
No more compost, no more food.

If there’s shadow,
there’s light.

If you’re in one of those muddy, shitty, shadowy places,
hang in there. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

© Lynda Skeen

Lotus in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, © Lynda Skeen

Worms
after St. Francis of Assisi’s “Prayer for Peace”

Ahhh…

Surrender to our subtle, quiet mysteries,
and let us help you find peace.
Where there are stormy fires of undigested passion,
where there is the new pain of unreleased injury,
we offer you the cool salve of earth and silence.
Where there is doubt and mistrust,
we offer you the imperturbable elegance
of transformation.
When you are stifled by despair,
we offer our rich castings of promise.
For your sadness, we offer the gentle smiles of our curves.
In our darkness, feel the comfort of shadow.

Release all that no longer nourishes you.
Allow yourselves to slough off the old, to grow,
to acknowledge mistakes,
to say, “this isn’t working anymore, this isn’t right,
this isn’t doing anyone any good.”
Together let us explore the silent, mysterious journey,
the non-linear churnings,
the indispensable winding detours.
Let us turn your leftover mustard greens and sweet melon rinds,
your jagged egg shells and ignorance
into new gardens flowering with broccoli and lettuce,
cherry tomatoes, daffodils, and wisdom.
Let us teach you
of time’s unhurried alchemy.

Till your gardens with kindness.
Slip under the earth’s brittle crust with us
and delight in the infinite, hushed shades of our brownness,
and the fertility of decomposition,
as we wrap our long, comfortable bodies around the world,
transforming the world
one moment at a time.

May the cycle of blessings
and the blessings of the cycle
nourish, sustain, and intrigue you.

Ahhh…

Amen.

(“Worms” © Lynda Skeen, with thanks to the publications Abalone Moon and Tiger’s Eye where it was previously published)

Saving a Worm on a Rainy Day in Seattle, © Lynda Skeen

Saving a Worm on a Rainy Day in Seattle, © Lynda Skeen

There are so many ways to connect with and receive guidance from Spirit. A favorite of mine is to go on a medicine walk. While we can receive insights on any walk, a medicine walk is an intentional walk for guidance where we open up to our connection to All That Is for information. The closer to Nature we can get, the better, but urban walks can work as well. The key is to create sacred space beforehand as you would before doing any kind of ceremony or healing work to distinguish it from ordinary reality.

 
So to begin, set your intention for the question you would like information on, and create sacred space in your usual way. For me this includes greeting and welcoming the directions, my helping spirits, my highest self, and the land where I’m working, and allowing my body / mind / spirit to shift resonance by rattling, drumming, singing / etc. Once sacred space and intention are set, basically everything that happens during the walk can be considered part of the answer to the question that you are asking, as in journeying.

A medicine walk is a way to bring out your own spirit’s wisdom and to connect to Spirit’s wisdom, to be supported by the other compassionate beings around us who are available to offer their perspective, healing, and wisdom. Pay attention to anything unusual in your surroundings, anything that catches your attention and strikes an emotional chord. Pay attention to your body, to memories, to thoughts that wander through. Sink into your heart as you walk and invite Spirit to connect with you. You are loved and supported. Listen. Breathe. Feel yourself shift into sacred space.

Hold what your experience lightly, perhaps asking as something catches your attention, “If that were an answer, what would it be?” Let it unfold in its own time, which won’t necessarily be instantaneous, although sometimes we do experience the grace of immediate revelations, whose meanings may continue to unfold long after we take off our walking shoes.

I recently went for a medicine walk into the Angeles Mountains to gain some clarity around a difficult relationship. After about a mile along the trail, I turned a corner and, even though I’d been seeing the results of fire damage all along, I had to catch my breath at the particularly profound destruction in this one area. I found myself weeping at the sea of charcoal surrounding me, ashes where pine trees used to rise healthy and green. As I stood on the trail trying to compose myself, a hawk flew from a burnt limb on a closeby trees to a burnt limb on another, and I caught my breath again, this time with joy. I love hawks, and actually don’t get to see them often in this area of the mountains.  I stood still and heard the thought, “Wait… wait…” After a few minutes, the hawk’s mate flew over, and the pair rose out of the trees and circled low over my head for several minutes. I found myself crying from sadness and joy all at the same time.

I had my answer about the relationship – it was about sadness and the joy – not one or the other.  It was about ALL OF IT. It’s about holding both at the same time in my heart.

That was a piece of what I was shown on the walk, to give you a sense of how a medicine walk can work.

It’s important to end your walk in some way other than just getting in your car and going home. It’s a ceremony, and effective ceremonies need a beginning, middle, and end, so make sure to offer gratitude to the beings that supported you on your walk. Thank the directions, the land, Spirit, your own highest self, and any other helpers who worked with you. If your habit is to offer corn meal or tobacco, make an offering, or you can sing, offer a prayer, leave a strand of hair, or offer gratitude in whatever form works for you.

Nature is always speaking to us.  We ARE nature. A medicine walk just opens up the portal of communication between ordinary and non-ordinary reality so we can hear more clearly what Nature is saying.

 

Happy Walking!

Hawk in Burned-Out Tree, © Lynda Skeen

Hawk in Burned-Out Tree, © Lynda Skeen



Hawk and Mountains, © Lynda Skeen

Hawk and Mountains, © Lynda Skeen

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” Pema Chodron

Hawks Circling Overhead © Lynda Skeen

Hawks Circling Overhead
© Lynda Skeen

One of the things I do before starting a healing session is call in the directions and my helping spirits, including my ancestors and descendants.

One time in particular a couple of weeks ago as I was connecting with my ancestors and descendants, I was struck with a deep, visceral understanding that our ancestors and descendants are not just our blood relatives. Most of our ancestral lines are so complex as to be almost a moot point anyway – which branch do we follow, and don’t we all end up reconvening in the same place? Our bones are made of the same earth, we breathe the same air that has been moving in and out of lungs since the beginning of time, the same water that flows through the planet’s streams and rivers and surges in the oceans is the same the runs through our bodies. All of our bodies. The fire of the sun burns in our bellies and hearts, propelling us forward.

Everything that is here has been something else before. And our descendants, all those who come after us, inherit the quality of air, earth, and water we leave behind. Our bodies will decompose or be burned and transmute into other beings, other bodies, starting the whole process again. (A great book about the afterlife of our bodies is Mary Roach’s Stiff). Our descendants inherit the legacy of our actions, the results of our words, the energy of our hearts and intentions.

We are all of the same family, descended from the same ancestors, creating a future together, breath by breath.

“You are made of stars.” – Serbian Proverb

Joshua Tree Sunset, © Lynda Skeen

Joshua Tree Sunset, © Lynda Skeen

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ridden on a horse, and I’d never been in the ring working with a horse before recently when I participated with a group of colleagues in a one-day equine therapy program run by Talley Hutcherson at the Shalom Institute in Malibu.  It was an amazing, special day, and I encourage anyone who is interested to pursue it; they also have a ranch in Burbank, which is easier to get to, but perhaps less “away from it all.”

I am experiencing some challenges in my life these days, as everyone is to varying degrees, and I connected with a horse named Lindsay whose wisdom and compassion I hope I will always remember.  One of Lindsay’s gifts was the experience of peace – deep, in-your-bones, peace.  I hope to go back to the ranch to visit, actually, if not for more classes.

The human teachers were also very gifted, and I continue to absorb some of their insights:  we are all doing the best we can in this moment, and to envision love and light around difficult people and situations.  Compassion starts with being compassionate with ourselves.

I was never one of those teenage girls obsessed with horses, although some of my friends were, and although I do bring back horses from time to time for people as power animals, I had never fully understood their allure until now.  I have now fallen in love with a horse and her wisdom.

© Lynda Skeen

© Lynda Skeen

© Lynda Skeen

© Lynda Skeen

Writing and spirituality have been two of the constants in my life. Spirit yearns for a voice, and writing has been one of the ways I’ve been able to express it. It’s not always about “big things” – it can be about simply noticing the beauty of a plant, or honoring a moment of kindness.

Memoir is one of my favorite genres, and I love reading about other people’s journeys. My sense of community expands with each new discovery.

When I recently found How the Light Gets In: Writing As Spiritual Practice by Pat Schneider, my heart soared. It’s such a beautiful tribute to the writing process and its connection to spirituality.   She shares her personal path as well as encouragement for others who feel the urge to put pen to paper and share their story. It was like meeting a kindred spirit – like finding a new treasured friend.

In fact, Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir is called just that – with our self being the friend. It’s is a great collection of exercises and inspiring stories for anyone working on writing a memoir or even those of us who currently aren’t working on one but who need some juice for our writing in general. She has such a wonderful way of inspiring joy and freshness, of honoring our existence and relationship to the Mystery. Highly recommended.

Another spiritual memoir I’ve been reading recently is by Izhtak Beery, The Gift of Shamanism: Visionary Power Ayahuasca Dreams, and Journeys to Other Realms about his journey from being a skeptical atheist to a practicing shaman. Although I don’t agree with his premise that everyone can be a shaman, I do believe everyone can learn some shamanic skills. It is our birthright to connect to spirit, but learning how to dream and journey doesn’t make a person a shaman any more than learning how to use a Band-Aid or set a splint makes someone a surgeon. But the book is engaging and gives lots of food for thought. You might also want to check out the website he hosts, www.shamanportal.org, a collection of information and resources of all things shamanic.

I’ve also been enjoying Sarah Petruno’s blog, “Sarah Petruno Shamanism” (http://www.sarahpetrunoshamanism.com). Her March 29th post, “How I Learned to be a Shaman,” is about just that, and I loved the uniqueness of her path. Taught directly by her ancestors and the spirits, she didn’t follow the path so many current Western practitioners follow of workshops and certificate programs. While workshops absolutely have value, only the spirits can initiate someone to be a healer. Her path and her honesty are truly inspiring.

Ultimately, as spirits, we are more than our stories, but as humans, we yearn for story.

What are some of the stories rumbling around inside your soul?

Happy reading – and writing!

So last November I finally tried a Holotropic Breathwork workshop, which I’d had my eye on for a long time.  Stanislov Grov developed Holotropic Breathwork as an alternate way to access non-ordinary reality and the transpersonal realms, and I’d heard good things about it, so I attended a workshop in Topanga Canyon facilitated by local practitioner Michael Stone. I enjoyed the work so much that I had planned to attend another workshop this month, but I’m actually digesting the material that came up for me last time, so I’m going to wait a beat before going to another session.  I’ve found that too much healing and growth without integration isn’t productive for me, like binge eating, so I try to pace myself.

 

What came up for me at November’s workshop dovetailed beautifully with the material on shadowwork I’d been working with.  During my session as a “breather” (during the workshop you are both a breather and a sitter, where you support another participant during their breathwork), I was shown that I needed to develop a healthier relationship with chaos.  I was shown that my intense reaction to people who use cell phones during a movie in a movie theatre, for instance, was a pointer to this need to loosen the boundaries of control.  When we find our buttons pushed in a way that’s out of proportion to the circumstances, if we pay attention, we’ll find pointers to areas of growth – if we listen.

 

So, how to develop a “healthier relationship with chaos”?  What did that mean?  Should I not say anything when someone started texting next to me during a movie?

 

I was shown that if we don’t allow enough healthy chaos into our lives, it can escalate into more destructive, dangerous ways of getting our attention.  We can’t keep everything in life nice and tidy, and if we try, life has a way of rebelling.  One minute we’ll be exchanging Christmas presents with friends and the next minute we’ll be driving down the freeway in a friend’s Porsche at 102 miles an hour without a license.  (True story.) Developing a healthy relationship with chaos doesn’t mean putting ourselves or others in danger; it means creating a release valve so it doesn’t have to get to that point.

 

Some healthy ways to allow chaos in can be simple things like dancing formlessly around the house with the music turned up loud, writing stream of consciousness writing with no project in mind, leaving a patch of your backyard intentionally wild, spending time in the wilderness, buying some magic markers and a blank journal and letting ourselves play with colors for no reason other than the joy of it.  It’s about leaving room for creative chaos, moving from our heads and into our hearts, allowing some rough edges and unexplained questions, exploring the edges of our comfort zones.

IMG_3566 journal art

Journal art chaos, © Lynda Skeen

 

Navajo rug weavers, for instance, leave a mistake in their rugs. “The traditional teaching of the Navajo weaving is that you have to put a mistake in there….It must be done because only the creator is perfect. We’re not perfect, so we don’t make a perfect rug.” (http://www.nativetimes.com/archives/22/1217-navajo-weaver-shares-story-with-authentic-rugs).  Allowing some chaos into our lives is not just about being afraid of being imperfect, but honoring the fact that we are imperfect.  Perfectly and gloriously imperfect.

 

So now if I start getting pissed off in the movie theatre, I try to take a deep breath before saying anything and pay attention to what’s going on inside since I know this is a trigger point and a portal for growth for me.  I might still decide to say something, but it’s with the understanding that there’s a huge range of possibility between obeying the rules and existential chaos – the Holotropic Breathwork brought up that this was a false choice I had bought into somewhere along the line, that everyone needed to stay in line all the time or the world would fall apart.  It’s not how I thought I lived my life, but it revealed a cause for some underlying stress.

 

When we start allowing a bit of healthy chaos in, it opens the door for more compassion, more forgiveness, less suffering.  It’s so interesting to pay attention to how we react when we or someone else “colors outside the lines.”  Can we approach it with curiosity and kindness, or do we clamp down and try to squelch evolution from moving forward?  Because life is messy.  Growth is messy.  But allowing ourselves and others some elbow room can make the process a whole lot more pleasant.

IMG_3567 journal art

Journal chaos close-up, © Lynda Skeen

 

(For more information about Holotropic Breathwork,

see Michael Stone’s website:  www.holotropicbreathworkla.com.) 

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