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Coming back from the holidays is sometimes more stressful than the holidays themselves, so I thought I’d repost last year’s post about easing holiday anxiety. Happy New Year ūüôā

Lynda Skeen's Shamanic Musings

This time of year can be especially stressful for those of us prone to free-floating anxiety.  One of my strategies for coping with anxiety is simplifying my to-do list, which is one reason I haven’t been updating my blog much lately.  But I thought it might be helpful to collect and share my thoughts about what works for me to ease stress.  Please note that these are just my two-cents; I am not a medical practitioner; these are just my personal experiences, observations, and suggestions.

When we’re in the throes of feeling panicky, whether it’s a full-blown panic attack or the precursor stages of your brain freezing up and your palms sweating, it’s a little late to do any prep work.  So I’ll start by offering some suggesting for triage, things that have helped me get back in my body and functioning again.

  1. The very first thing to do is…

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Happy New Year

Happy 2015 everyone.  May we be brave enough to face our shadows and courageous enough to claim our light this year.

——————————————–

St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for Peace

 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may seek not so much

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying

That we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

–St. Francis of Assisi

© Lynda Skeen - Aspens in the Sierras

© Lynda Skeen РAspens in the Sierras

Shamanic Shadow Work

Shadow work allows us to acknowledge and integrate as much of our multidimensional selves as we are able, enriching our lives and our capacity for more growth. While Marianne Williamson might say in A Return to Love that ‚ÄúIt is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us,‚ÄĚ* I know from personal experience that the dark can be terrifying as well. And if the light is frightening, maybe it‚Äôs not only for its sheer power, but for its power to reveal our ‚Äúdarkness,‚ÄĚ our shadows, the totality of who we are. Shadow work is important because our unexplored parts are part of who we are, and it‚Äôs important to get to know as much of ourselves as possible so we won‚Äôt be blindsided by our own secrets, and so we can harness all of our energies for our highest good.¬†¬† What do we keep hidden from ourselves and others, and what is our fear we have of it being seen? That is one of the basic questions of shadow work.

 

To begin, an initial journey you might want to do is re what does the shadow mean to you, apart from anyone else’s definition?

 

Here are some of my thoughts about ways of working shamanically with the shadow:

 

  • We can work with the Jungian definition of our shadow parts, which are aspects of ourselves our ego casts off / doesn‚Äôt accept. These are parts of ourselves that need to be acknowledged and integrated; I wouldn‚Äôt suggest merging with them too soon though or give them what they want necessarily; they can tend to be like wounded children who need love and acceptance so their true gifts can be revealed. Sometimes all they need is to be acknowledged; sometimes the integration work is more complex.

 

Here are some journeys you can do:

  • Journey to see if there‚Äôs a helping spirit that wants to be your specialist for this (might be someone you already work with; might not).
  • Then ask to meet one shadow part at a time.
  • Acknowledge it with love and compassion.
  • Ask if it needs anything.
  • Ask what its true nature is.
  • What is its purpose?
  • What is its medicine?
  • Journey to your True Self and ask what you need to do to be able to accept this part.
  • What healing do you need to do?
  • Does that shadow part need any healing?
  • And then work with your helping spirits to offer it the healing it asks for.

 

It‚Äôs a good idea to do this work with a trusted Helping Spirit, and ask them to facilitate anything that your Shadow might ask for. Remember, you can always come out of a Journey if it gets too intense or unpleasant; you can always say ‚Äúno;‚ÄĚ you always have free will. Your intent is to bring only what is for your highest good into your life.

 

  • Another obvious definition of our shadow that I‚Äôve been shown is that ‚Äúshadow is [just] the response of light to form.‚ÄĚ While we‚Äôre in physical form, we‚Äôre going to throw a shadow, i.e. take up space. So a nice way of approaching this is to journey to the shadow your physical presence casts and acknowledge that it‚Äôs ok to exist as a physical being. Acknowledge and appreciate all that happens in the shade. Explore what is this Self that casts a shadow? What are your gifts and talents?

 

  • Along these lines is approaching shadow as a gift ‚Äď darkness as grace. Mary Oliver writes in her wonderful poem Sleeping in the Forest, ‚ÄúAll night / I heard the small kingdoms breathing / around me, the insects, and the birds / who do their work in the darkness.‚ÄĚ** ¬†We need the darkness. We need sleep and worms who burrow in the earth. We need to appreciate the beauty of mystery and creative chaos and the shroud of ‚Äúdarkness‚ÄĚ around All That Is. Without the quiet space between notes there would be no music.

 

Journey to Mystery! Get to know your subconscious, that rich, fertile soil that lies within us. And acknowledge that much will never be understood or grasped consciously. Allow yourself time to explore silence and uninterrupted, unplanned time to go deep into yourself. Allow yourself to ‚Äúbe in the dark‚ÄĚ about things ‚Äď to not always have to know. Explore what are your shadows about but gently.

 

This is actually one of the hard things about living here in such a beautiful place like Los Angeles ‚Äď there are so few rainy days to burrow in under a blanket and explore your interior world without the exterior, sunny world calling loudly to you. But here in the Northern Hemisphere the days are cooling off and getting shorter, and even in LA we‚Äôll be getting some rain, so interior work gets easier.

 

Eucalyptus tree shadows - Golden Gate Park - © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus tree shadows РGolden Gate Park Р© Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus Tree shadows - Golden Gate Park - © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus tree РGolden Gate Park Р© Lynda Skeen

 

  • Another way to explore the shadow is as the flip side of our strengths ‚Äď the shadow of our light ‚Äď the yang to our yin ‚Äď the other side of the coin.
    • For instance, we can understand Love because its opposite exists. Acknowledge your capacity for the full gamut of emotions. You don‚Äôt have to act on them all; just acknowledge their existence.
    • And explore how on this plane of duality, energies and emotions can be expressed and experienced in ‚Äúpositive‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúnegative‚ÄĚ ways. It can be enlightening to explore how your passion for peace might actually be an expression violence (‚Äúhating war‚ÄĚ more than ‚Äúloving peace‚ÄĚ), or how your ‚Äúlove‚ÄĚ for someone is actually more a form of clinging out of your own insecurity. When you feel a twinge of discomfort about an action you are taking, that is a clue it‚Äôs something you might want to explore in terms of the shadow. Emotions have a huge spectrum ‚Äď exploring them and shifting where you sit on the spectrum can be extremely empowering.

 

Soul retrieval, extraction, ancestral healing, energy work, and other forms of shamanic work can greatly assist with shadow work Рbefore, during, and after. It’s important to sort out what energies are actually yours and what you’ve been holding onto from others, what have glommed onto you that aren’t actually yours; and what energies have you lost touch with along the way. It’s a spiral, not a linear process. The more whole and healthy you are, the better able you are to accept and integrate the shadow side of yourself, and the more of yourself you can accept and integrate, the more whole and healthy you become.

 

In addition to shamanic work, here are some suggestions for other ways in and to process what you’re shown:

 

  • Depending on what comes up, you might want to engage the help of a therapist to work on a psychological level. Regardless of whether or not you decide to work with a professional, it‚Äôs important to have emotional support during this process, a loved one or group of close friends who will be there for you as you do your work
  • Ask for insight from dreams before you go to sleep
  • Body work, both to help release some of the energies and to process them after they are released ‚Äď including acupuncture, massage, etc. ‚Äď keep the energies circulating and integrating
  • Meditation, acknowledging but not focusing on whatever comes up
  • Stream of consciousness art/music/ writing
  • Being out in nature, feeling your feet on the ground, acknowledging the four directions and your physical place in the world
  • Yoga and other forms of exercise the connect the body, mind and spirit

I hope these ideas might be useful springboards in your shadow work explorations. Take your time, be gentle and curious with yourself and the process, and remember that this work doesn’t end!

 

Many blessings on your process.

 

Joshua Tree rock spiral - © Lynda Skeen

Joshua Tree rock spiral Р© Lynda Skeen

 

 

 

*http://www.marianne.com

**from Mary Oliver’s collection Twelve Moons , p. 3; available online at http://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/mary-oliver/mary-oliver-poems/sleeping-in-the-forest/

 

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The Poet in Bed in the Morning

 

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out…
–Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry”

 

She drops a mouse into her bed of poems
to see what it would do ‚Äď what she would do.
It crawls across her covered feet,
then wraps its tail around her bedpost
like a string around its finger,
not wanting to forget its strength
(it can do this ‚Äď
it can do this).
She picks some words from between her teeth
and holds them out to the mouse.
“Come back,” she says.
But the mouse leaps onto a window ledge
then disappears through a slit in the screen.

So she licks the words from her fingers,
leans back,
and looks at the day.
She is a child under a sprinkler,
a baby at its mother’s breast.
She has no idea what to do
with either words or nourishment.
Drinks too much.
Lets herself feel full and dull and stupid.
Maybe she should shave her head.

Instead, she muffles the day with ear plugs,
rolls over around a pillow,
covers her eyes with a blanket,
and releases herself again
to the dark.

 

© Lynda Skeen

 

Apparently my last post about connecting to the cockroach deva creeped peopled out rather than inspiring them to connect to nature spirits, which wasn’t my intention. So I thought I’d share some of the books that inspired me along this path with their stories of connection and magic. I hope they inspire you as well.

  • The Findhorn Garden ‚Äď Pioneering a New Vision of Man and Nature in Cooperation, by The Findhorn Garden
  • Behaving as if the God in all Life Mattered ‚Äď A New Age Ecology, by Machaelle Small Wright
  • Three by Miachael J. Roads:
    • Talking with Nature ‚Äď Sharing the Energies and Spirit of Trees, Plants, Birds, and Earth
    • Journey Into Nature ‚Äď A Spiritual Adventure
    • Journey Into Oneness ‚Äď A Spiritual Odyssey

My first helping spirit that I was conscious of was (and is) a eucalyptus tree spirit in Golden Gate Park. Trees love to connect with us, and are a great place to start if you’ve never journeyed to a nature spirit before.  (What are some of yours? Would love to hear your favorites.)

And if you‚Äôve never journeyed before, or if you don‚Äôt have a shamanic practitioner to work with, a great resource is Sandra Ingerman‚Äôs Shamanic Journeying ‚Äď A Beginner‚Äôs Guide, which comes with a drumming cd. I also have some drumming music you can download for free from my website (www.lyndaskeen.com).

Many blessings.

© 2014 Lynda Skeen, Fall Color in  the Sierras

© 2014 Lynda Skeen, Fall Color in the Sierras

Journey to a Bug Deva

The more I learn about Spirit, journeying, and the mysteries of what it means to be human and divine at the same time, the more I realize how little I know. Sometimes I have to remind myself of the basics of what I have been shown, the essence of what I have experienced since I began on the shamanic path over 20 years ago:

– everything is alive
– everything is sacred
– everything is connected
– everything can be communicated with

When I was first learning to journey, I was living in a studio apartment in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, taking public transportation wherever I needed to go, working in the Financial District, and suddenly seeing cockroaches everywhere. As a writer, I noticed the pattern and took notes as they appeared on buses, in my apartment, in the office…, did some research, then decided to journey to the cockroach deva, the oversoul of cockroaches, to see if I could connect with its spirit and find a way to make sense of these bugs that creeped me out and intrigued me at the same time.

I’m sharing below the poem that came from that journey, and want to encourage anyone who knows how to journey to connect with the the other life forms that are in your life. Everything is alive, sacred, connected, and can be communicated with. And if you don’t know how to journey, please contact a shamanic practitioner to learn!

Many blessings!

—————————————-

Visit with a Pregnant Cockroach

i visited her or maybe
she visited me
with her ribbed sack of eggs,
just as pregnant as she could be

she burst into my world and
had plenty to say
although all I wanted was for
her to go away

but a cockroach is a cockroach
and¬†they¬†don’t¬†easily¬†quit
but¬†at¬†least¬†there’s¬†no¬†venom
(they¬†don’t¬†sting¬†or¬†spit)

but¬†they’ll¬†jump¬†off¬†your¬†ceiling
and land in your bed then
crawl up your body and
onto your head
they’ll¬†chew¬†through¬†your¬†earplugs¬†and
into your brain then
fester and simmer and drive you insane

and indeed i became her and
she became me and i
went into a creepy creepy place
to be

she said,

we’ll¬†drink¬†from¬†your¬†eye¬†lids¬†at¬†night¬†while¬†you¬†sleep¬†and
nibble on scabs
after¬†all¬†you¬†can’t¬†keep
them you just want to peel them and
give them away
like us but you know that
we’re¬†here
to stay

we’ll¬†outlive¬†your¬†wars¬†and¬†your¬†sprays¬†and¬†your¬†bombs
your chalk and your traps and hotels of glued aplomb
we’ll¬†eat¬†up¬†your¬†food¬†while¬†you’re¬†gone¬†away¬†at¬†work
you¬†know¬†we’re¬†not¬†proud¬†and
at¬†stealing¬†don’t¬†shirk

we just do what we do as
you do what you must

excuse¬†me¬†a¬†second¬†my¬†sack’s¬†about¬†to¬†bust

how did i get here
and why must i stay?
i¬†know¬†you’re¬†just¬†antsy¬†to
give me away but
i rode across town on a #2 bus in a
black leather jacket on a young boy named Russ
he had short blond hair and a cute little smile
so¬†cute,¬†in¬†fact,¬†i¬†thought¬†i’d¬†stay¬†awhile

my brother was killed in a late night attack
by a woman in pink slippers who
got up to fix a snack
she saw him and screamed and threw down her knife ­
it cut him in two and
i had to tell his wife
he lived for a week without his whole head until
he starved to death and
then he was dead

we had him for lunch the very next day
now stop, close your mouth,
i¬†know¬†what¬†you’re¬†going¬†to¬†say
but¬†we’ve¬†heard¬†a¬†few¬†tales¬†of¬†you
eating your own
sometimes for pleasure in
the privacy of your home

we just do what we do
as you do too ­
true?

oh by the way, i almost forgot
(i had a big breakfast and
my¬†memory’s¬†shot)
a woman she sat with her pants at her ankles in the
gutter of 3rd as she squatted to tinkle ­
my¬†sister¬†she¬†jumped¬†right¬†in¬†that¬†chick’s¬†shoes¬†and
while she waited for her ride she took a little snooze

she sent me a dream and let me know she was fine
she’s¬†expecting¬†too¬†and¬†i¬†hope¬†you¬†don’t¬†mind
i invited her family to stay in my nest
i filled it with things from your kitchen ­the best

we’ll¬†stay¬†here¬†and¬†grow¬†and¬†multiply¬†some¬†more
first one, then two, then three, then four
thousand¬†of¬†us¬†and¬†we’ll¬†just¬†keep¬†on¬†fucking
like you
and¬†we’ll¬†breed
for¬†as¬†long¬†as¬†we’re¬†lucky

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I dusted off our copies of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, and headed to a local cafe for some coffee and timed writing exercises. Sometimes these exercises yield fully-formed surprises, and sometimes they just clear they cobwebs from our minds. I was surprised to meet a new character in the first exercise we did called “Legs,” and have a some working notes for a poem about mushrooms that I am sitting with from the second exercise we did. By the third exercise, we were both burned out, but happy.

I am reading Goldberg’s new book now, The True Secret of Writing. She’s pretty adamant that everyone should include writing as part of their spiritual practice. While I would definitely suggest trying it and seeing if it resonates with you, more importantly, I want to encourage you to find a way to consciously connect with your own creativity in whatever way speaks to you.

Creativity is Spirit’s breath. It opens the space for new experiences, new creations, new ways of looking at things – whether you connect through the arts, taking a different turn down a road, designing a new car, experimenting with a new different spice while cooking dinner, or changing an habitual pattern to not stay with anything for very long and deciding to persevere with something that’s important to you. “Creativity” isn’t just about painting or writing or singing – it’s about a connection to heart, a consistency of practice, and honoring your connection to Spirit.

Find your passion. What makes your heart sing? And appreciate others’ creativity – their flair for organizing their office space or helping their neighbors. Gratitude for others can be a doorway into your own creativity.

Writing is a great practice and is not mutually exclusive with other creative or spiritual practices. Natalie Goldberg’s books are a great place to start exploring if you feel drawn to exploring that path.

I’d like to share the “Legs” piece I wrote the other day. The character came out so fully formed and heart-felt, I want to share her. Many blessings on your own explorations!

————————–

“Legs”

From one end of her body to the other, feeling the pull of age, the dimples of days, the difference in the mirror. She still dances, but the steps are different, and when she wears short skirts, men look at her for different reasons. She was twirling on the street the other day, happy, her favorite red shawl swirling around her, her short layered skirt billowing up and down as she let the music in her head gust and subside, when she felt a tap on her shoulder.

“Ma’am?” the adorable young man said.

She reached out her hand, ready for him to move into step with her.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

Her head dropped as quickly as her hand, and she walked in the opposite direction from him, the music silent.

But her legs felt so strong. It didn’t make sense. She passed a plate-glass store front and caught her breath. The woman in her head and the woman in the reflection were not the same person. The sunlight was playing tricks again!

She rubbed her eyes and swung her head back and forth a few times until the music started back up, then bent over and looked upside down between her legs. Peek-a-boo world beautiful world my beautiful flexible legs holding me here – how many other women my age can still do this? Ha!

A dog ran up and licked her face. She giggled and started coughing, her upside-down phlegm catching her off guard.

“Rocky, come here!” the voice called the dog away, snapping on a leash and shooting a fearful face in her direction as she righted herself on the sidewalk, stretching her legs out in front of her.

Plank pose. Was that what they used to call it in yoga class? She took a deep breath, straightened her spine, elongated her arms, closed her eyes, let the footsteps around her morph into beautiful drumming music, a kirtan to which she chanted back “Om” over and over and over, her legs strong and flexible and beautiful even on the stretcher as they carried her like an Egyptian princess to somewhere she could get a good rest.

“Om…”

A few weeks ago, I was in a bad car accident that could have been much worse.  Turning onto Melrose from a side street, I waited a beat when my light turned green, and honked my horn at a truck as it barreled through the red light.  Thinking it was then safe, I pulled into the intersection.  But a second car ran the red light and broadsided me on the driver’s side.  I remember screaming as I saw the shadow of the car plow into me, and I remember noticing the car pull over to the side of the road a block behind me in my rear view mirror, but I don’t remember how I got on to the other side of the street, or other details of the accident.
By the time I finally got my wits about me enough to get out my car and to see that I was actually ok, the driver of the other car had taken off.  No other witnesses had stopped to take his/her license plate, and the security cameras that actually were able to capture footage of the accident weren’t able to pull the plates either.  The police and some very helpful coworkers sat with me and made sure I was ok until my husband got there, putting ice packs on my neck and reminding me to breathe.  X-rays and cat scans at the emergency room that evening showed everything really was ok on my end, but I was given a prescription for some painkillers for the soreness they warned me I would have over the next few days.
I’d never been in a car accident before, other than a couple of small fender benders, and didn’t know what to expect.  I braced myself for the soreness and bruising, which did come, but was very aware that things could have been a lot worse, and was (and am) incredibly grateful that I got out of it relatively unscathed.  Clearly I still have work to do here on the planet!  My car, however, wasn’t as lucky.  It was old and had very low mileage, and when the insurance company decided it was a total loss, we had to take out a loan to replace it, something we weren’t financially prepared to do, but again, I am so grateful we were able to do it.
Over the following couple of weeks, the image of the other car plowing into me looped through my head at random times throughout the day, especially as I was falling asleep.  I’d never experienced this kind of PTSD before, and am actually grateful for the experience as it broadens my compassion and understanding of it.  From a shamanic standpoint I knew to look for soul loss, so I did some of my own work around that and had some other practitioners working on my behalf as well. The sooner you can collect your scattered energy, the better.  I did find some soul parts that were still at the site of the accident, and another practitioner found some smaller parts that were still there a few weeks later.  Having them returned to me was very helpful, as was looking at the security footage of the accident, breathing breathing breathing deeply and saying prayers of gratitude as I watched it.
Something else that was a lovely surprise in helping me process the accident was Neil deGrasse Tyson‚Äôs TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a follow-up series to Carl Sagan‚Äôs 1980 series¬†Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.¬† I loved this series for a lot of reasons, but the final episode was especially powerful, particularly the segment expanding on Sagan‚Äôs ‚ÄúPale Blue Dot‚ÄĚ 1994 speech at Cornell University.¬† As Tyson quoted from his mentor‚Äôs speech, the on-screen visuals pulled back from earth farther and farther back across the universe, until earth was indeed just a ‚Äúpale blue dot.‚Ä̬† Instead of belittling life on earth though, the brilliance of the speech was its ability to be humbling and empowering at the same time, to highlight in a very dramatic way our short life spans and place in the universe, as well as our choice of whether to treat each other with kindness or cruelty.¬† It also helped put me put my accident into perspective ‚Äď not to belittle it, but to put it into a broader picture.¬† As I feel when I am connected to Spirit in other ways, watching Cosmos filled me with awe at the breadth and mystery of the universe, and reminded me to not take everything so seriously or to even pretend to think I understand it all.¬† (check out Sagan‚Äôs speech is available on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wupToqz1e2g and on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot).
I’m happy to still be on our beautiful planet earth, with all you other beautiful people.  May we treat each other with kindness always, never knowing when our time here will be over.
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