Podcast Ep. 107: Practicing Love

Before I recorded this episode, I sat outside for meditation, as I do daily, watched the squirrels, and contemplated love. The squirrels have been flirting with each other of late, but the love I was thinking of was not the romantic kind, but the deeper, divine love at the center of our beings – yours, mine, the squirrels’, and all beings’. The practice offered is my twist on Metta, or the practice of loving kindness. You can sit for meditation anywhere you are comfortable.

Registration is open for Shamanic Reiki Level Two virtual training on March 5 and 6, 2022. You can get more information and register on the training page.

If you like this podcast and would like me to keep recording new episodes, please visit my Patreon page and become a patron for as little as one dollar a month. When you do, you will have access to patron-only guided shamanic journeys to meet animal helping spirits and read posts about the animals’ symbolism and archetypal energy as well as the natural history and conservation challenges those animal face in their living incarnation. As you work with different animals, you connect more deeply with the natural world and may be inspired to advocate for one of the wild beings you resonate with.

If you would like to chat about this episode and connect with others who share your love for the wild beings, join the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook and get the free Guide to Getting Real when you sign up for the email newsletter, which is full of moon magic and upcoming virtual events.

Much love and gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music. Blair is also an outstanding webmaster and makes sure I can share these episodes with you. Thank you, Blair!

While the yoga and other practices presented are intended to be accessible to most, please be open to practicing in an appropriate and safe way for you. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program and that at any time during a practice you feel nausea, dizziness, or pain you stop and seek medical advice. I accept no liability whatsoever for any damages arising from the use of my podcasts and, while I make all reasonable efforts to share accurate instruction, the podcast may contain unintended errors. Before all else, listen to your body and trust your inner knowing.

St. Francis of Assisi and the Wolf

statue of st francis of assisi petting a bug

Image by JulianaSaldanha from Pixabay

When I began my research into St. Francis of Assisi for an interfaith seminary essay, I knew little of him beyond his designation as patron saint of ecology and the animals. I was curious how he became associated with animals and found a story about a wolf that intrigued me, especially in the context of wolf conservation challenges in the United States.

According to the tale, at the time St. Francis was living in the town of Gubbio in Italy, a wolf began attacking the livestock for food. After a while, there were also human encounters with the wolf and some humans were killed and eaten. Hunters failed to kill the wolf and people were afraid to be outside the city’s gates, especially alone. Gubbio’s human citizens were basically besieged.

Then Francis announced he would go out and meet the wolf. With a small group of followers, he left the city and went to the wolf’s lair. The wolf rushed at Francis, but on Francis’ command laid down.

Recognizing that the wolf was acting out of hunger, he promised that the people of Gubbio would feed him if he would stop attacking them and their livestock. The wolf placed a paw in Francis’ hand in agreement, then tamely followed Francis into the city. The people believed this was a miracle and followed Francis’ instructions to feed the wolf. During the two years before the wolf passed away, he went from door to door every day and was well fed. A church was built in St. Francis’ honor on the site where the wolf was buried. The wolf’s skeleton was found in 1872 during renovations and was reinterred in a place of honor inside the church.

I read the tale of Gubbio while I was feeling frustrated by the wolf hunts that were legalized just last year in the American West, for the purported purpose of protecting livestock. I wondered if a modern-day St. Francis could convince ranchers to feed the wolves instead, before decades of wolf reintroduction and recovery are undone and they disappear forever.

Moon Magic: Second Quarter Moon in Taurus

Each New and Full Moon I dig into lunar astrology to write my newsletter and to set the theme for the associated Turtle Journey. I have recently begun to look at the Quarter Moons as well. I am not an astrologer, but I have enjoyed learning about this one aspect of astrology. I share some of what I am discovering here, along with a bit of magic.

When the Moon is half-full at the start of the second quarter, things that were set in motion with your New Moon intentions begin to gain momentum. The luminaries – the Sun and the Moon – are in a square aspect, which indicates tension between them. That tension can be channeled into your endeavors if you adjust and act.

The tricky bit is the Moon is in Taurus and you might be desiring your comfort zone. The stubborn bull is not in a hurry to change anything, especially if it means risking material comforts. If your New Moon intentions included building financial security or attracting abundance, however, Taurus will be more than happy to give you a push.

I was born under a Taurus Moon, so you would think I would be more in touch with my finances, but they have always created struggle for me. It may be because the Moon was waning then, creating different energy. Money magic never seemed to work, until I tried one that made all the difference. I am not sure where the idea came from, but it was not originally mine.

Put a jar on your altar or in another revered place and put some money in it. If you are really broke, like I was when I first did this, you might only be able to come up with one dollar. That is okay! Put the money in the jar and say, “Thank you. More please.” Then, every time money comes into your life unexpectedly, even if is a quarter you found in your pocket, put it in the jar and say, “Thank you. More please.” It may take some time, but when you work with both gratitude and the willingness to ask for what you want, money begins to flow. Leave the money in your jar until it is full or you have all you desire, then put it to use.

Instead of the jar, I use the process to check my bank balance every morning. No matter how much is in there, I write the balance in my day planner and label it “abundance.” Then I say, “Thank you. More please.” Any unexpected money that comes my way goes into that account. I have gotten through some tough times with that magic.

If you are not receiving my newsletter, please sign up. I send a newsletter only before each New and Full Moon with a reflection on the astrology and an invitation to the Turtle Journey – a 30-minute shamanic journey experience via conference call – and other upcoming events and classes.

St. Francis, Shaman

Last October I was asked to perform an informal blessing of the animals at my local community church on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I knew little about St. Francis beyond his designation as patron saint of ecology and the animals, so when he showed up as a choice for a research project for my interfaith seminary program, I dug in.

statue of st francis with a bird on his shoulder

Image by _Alicja_ from Pixabay

Despite years of working with guides during Shamanic Reiki sessions and in journeys, my logical mind tends to question what is going on when I am being called by Spirit to take some action. I project those doubts onto the visions of others, too, and wonder if their visions are just something they have conjured up in their imagination or the result of mental illness. All those questions surfaced when I read about Francis’ early life.

Francis, it turns out, liked to party. He came from wealth and privilege and behaved like a spoiled teenager. Francis thought it would be cool to be a knight, got himself top-of-the-line armor, and joined the army. Shortly after, Assisi went to war with Perugia and Francis’ first battle went horribly for Assisi. All of Francis’ friends and compatriots were killed, but Francis was taken prisoner because his expensive armor gave away his family’s wealth.

Francis was held prisoner in Perugia for a year while his ransom was negotiated. While imprisoned, Francis became seriously ill and began to receive messages from God.

Whoa. When I read that my alarm bells went off. Francis must have been insane, starving, or fevered when he “heard God,” right?

Contemplating further, I realized that most of the shamans and mystics I was aware of were fasting, praying, chanting, dancing, or meditating to intentionally alter their consciousness when they meet their guides. I use breathwork, drumming, and journeying to get myself in a receptive state. Perhaps the conditions of Francis’ imprisonment mimicked some of those practices, in the way that the initiation rites for shamans in some cultures did. Was St. Francis a shaman?

In one of his writings, Francis called his many illnesses “sisters,” which I interpret as acknowledging them as companions on his spiritual journey. I believe Francis understood that his illnesses created altered states which allowed him to hear messages from God, who was the spiritual guide of his understanding. While I suspect the Church would object to classifying St. Francis as such, in my mind he will always be a shaman.

Podcast Ep. 106: Yoga for a Warrior’s Heart

The yoga practice sequence in this episode, which I’m calling “Yoga for a Warrior’s Heart,” came out of a moment when I was demonstrating Warrior II for a virtual client and remembered one of Will Keepin’s principles of spiritual leadership. The principle is that love creates the form, just like an open heart creates the alignment in Warrior II. I will guide you through it so you can cultivate your own warrior’s heart.

You will find Pachamama Alliance and their Game Changer Intensive at https://www.pachamama.org/. The Intensive is offered four times a year.

If you like this podcast and would like me to keep recording new episodes, please visit my Patreon page and become a patron for as little as one dollar a month. When you do, you will have access to patron-only guided shamanic journeys to meet animal helping spirits and read posts about the animals’ symbolism and archetypal energy as well as the natural history and conservation challenges those animal face in their living incarnation. As you work with different animals, you connect more deeply with the natural world and may be inspired to advocate for one of the wild beings you resonate with.

If you would like to chat about this episode and connect with others who share your love for the wild beings, join the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook and get the free Guide to Getting Real when you sign up for the email newsletter, which is full of moon magic and upcoming virtual events.

Much love and gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music. Blair is also an outstanding webmaster and makes sure I can share these episodes with you. Thank you, Blair!

While the yoga and other practices presented are intended to be accessible to most, please be open to practicing in an appropriate and safe way for you. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program and that at any time during a practice you feel nausea, dizziness, or pain you stop and seek medical advice. I accept no liability whatsoever for any damages arising from the use of my podcasts and, while I make all reasonable efforts to share accurate instruction, the podcast may contain unintended errors. Before all else, listen to your body and trust your inner knowing.

A Blanket of Snow

After a warmer-than-average December melted the little snow we received and early January froze that into a dangerous coating of ice, I appreciate the blanket of snow I see now. Even very cold days are brightened by the sunlight reflecting off the ice crystals.

Perhaps it is due to pursuing interfaith seminary, Druidic studies, wildlife rehabilitation, and conservation at the same time that I am immensely curious about everything that catches my attention now. The latest snowfall was light, powdery, and very sparkly. I needed to know more about how snow worked.

grey squirrel moving through powdery snow

The grey squirrels are less enamored with dry snow, because all the nuts I toss disappear into the powder.

I learned that snow needs two things to form: an atmospheric temperature at or below freezing and moisture in the air. Basically, as I understand it, a cloud containing water droplets rises into the cooler part of the atmosphere or cold air moves down. Then water droplets within the cloud freeze into ice crystals. More droplets freeze onto each ice crystal until snowflakes are formed. Once a snowflake is heavy enough it falls towards the ground. If the ground is also cold, the snowflakes pile up without melting. If there are enough of them, we get blessed with a blanket of snow.

Dry snow, which means the air at ground level is cold enough to keep everything frozen, is the kind that sparkles. The individual ice crystals remain separated so there are lots of reflective surfaces. Wet snow, on the other hand, happens when warmer temperatures melt the crystals causing snowflakes stick together and to everything they touch, like trees. The wet stuff is great for building snowmen but is also heavy and hard to shovel.

This bit of knowledge has helped me to be less bothered by the deep freeze we have been experiencing. Although getting outdoors for morning meditation means putting on extra layers to protect myself from the cold, my mood is elevated by the glitter of snow.

Meeting the Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock branch covered in snow with cones hanging below

The abundance of cones this year was what drew my attention to this Eastern Hemlock.

It was an abundance of tiny pinecones dangling below the branches that brought my attention to the tree this winter. I had not paid much attention to this tree in the past, mostly because it was just one of the many evergreens that grow here, and I had not spent time getting to know them individually. It is probably no coincidence that the tree came into my awareness now when I have just stepped onto the Druidic path.

After some research I discovered that the tree was an Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), whose common name came from the poisonous European herb, perhaps because of a similar smell. This Hemlock tree is a pine. The branches are pretty and lacy, and the tree is loosely pyramid-shaped.

I was curious about the noticeably large number of cones this year but read that the Eastern Hemlock likes moist soil. Last summer was cool and very, very rainy. It seemed there were few hot, sunny days. I kept wishing it would dry out for a bit, but I guess the tree was happy.

The seeds in those cones are popular with some of the local wildlife, including red squirrels. My little friends must be eating well, as scales (the “petals” of the cone) litter the snow under the tree. Mice, voles, and even snowshoe hares will pick up any seeds that fall to the ground. A few of the winter birds, including black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed juncos, also enjoy the seeds. I also learned that porcupine like to dine on the bark and twigs of the Hemlock, but I have not seen one here.

Hemlocks grow slowly and make take 300 years to reach maturity. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect native to Japan and accidentally introduced to North America, is decimating our Hemlocks. An infestation leads to decline and mortality within ten years. Hemlock trees are dying all along the east coast of the United States. Because the cold seems to be the only thing that stops the Woolly Adelgids, the Hemlocks here, in the Adirondacks, have been spared. Since the average temperature is rising due to climate change, our Hemlocks may not be safe for too much longer, though.

I will be monitoring my new acquaintance, the Eastern Hemlock, for signs of Woolly Adelgid while I observe the tree’s seasonal changes. If watching the tree means I am likely to spot a red squirrel scurrying across a branch, all the better. I feel blessed that I was invited to meet this tree.

Moon Magic: New Moon in Aquarius

Each New and Full Moon I dig into lunar astrology to write my newsletter and to set the theme for the associated Turtle Journey. I am not an astrologer, but I have enjoyed learning about this one aspect of astrology. I share some of what I am discovering here, along with a bit of magic.

sliver of moon against black sky

Image by Ponciano from Pixabay

The theme I worked with for today’s New Moon in Aquarius is “rebel with a cause.” More than any past year, I am feeling a growing discontent with societal norms and an almost equal resistance to change. In the United States, which will experience its Pluto return later this month, the tension between the two feels oppressive.

The recent loss of two great rebels, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Thich Nhat Hanh, has me wondering who will lead us forward now. There are many who are “in charge” of things, but few who lead as they did with compassion and love when those qualities are so needed. Perhaps it is you. Today’s moon might help you see that.

Aquarius is an air sign, which might dampen the influence of the emotional moon, but concern for the group can drive pragmatic humanitarian action even if your heart stays home. While you are in your head, consider the circles you fit in with. What are the common ideals? What values does the group no longer align with but have been allowed to stand? What intentions can you set to change things for the better?

My go-to for spell work is my journal, and this thought-focused New Moon is an ideal time to do some writing magic. To get started, create a sacred space, which can be as simple as lighting a candle if you do so with intention. Then, in your journal, write about what is no longer serving the common good. List everything you desire to release from societal norms. When you have written as many as you can think of, turn the page and write about what would be better. What is your vision for an evolved humanity? When you are complete, sit for a moment, then read through your vision for a better world. Read it again, as if you were reading a news report – nothing but the facts. Read it one more time, and believe it is true. Close with gratitude for your sacred space.

If you are not receiving my newsletter, please sign up. I send a newsletter only before each New and Full Moon with a reflection on the astrology and an invitation to the Turtle Journey – a 30-minute shamanic journey experience via conference call – and other upcoming events and classes.

Podcast Ep. 105: Yoga to Ignite Your Core

We have been on a journey with the wolves, from soothing despair and frustration to recentering to, now, feeling ready to get charged up again. To ignite your core and build strength, try this heat-building yoga practice. If you find balance poses challenging, practice near a wall or have a sturdy chair handy.

We are celebrating Imbolc with journey and ritual on Zoom on Thursday, February 3rd. Information and registration is available on the ceremonies page. And the next Shamanic Reiki Level One virtual training is coming up on February 5th and 6th, 2022. Visit my Shamanic Reiki training page for more information and online registration.

If you like this podcast and would like me to keep recording new episodes, please visit my Patreon page and become a patron for as little as one dollar a month. When you do, you will have access to patron-only guided shamanic journeys to meet animal helping spirits and read posts about the animals’ symbolism and archetypal energy as well as the natural history and conservation challenges those animal face in their living incarnation. As you work with different animals, you connect more deeply with the natural world and may be inspired to advocate for one of the wild beings you resonate with.

If you would like to chat about this episode and connect with others who share your love for the wild beings, join the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook. And get the free Guide to Getting Real when you sign up for the email newsletter, which is full of moon magic and upcoming virtual events.

Much love and gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music. Blair is also an outstanding webmaster and makes sure I can share these episodes with you. Thank you, Blair!

While the yoga and other practices presented are intended to be accessible to most, please be open to practicing in an appropriate and safe way for you. It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program and that at any time during a practice you feel nausea, dizziness, or pain you stop and seek medical advice. I accept no liability whatsoever for any damages arising from the use of my podcasts and, while I make all reasonable efforts to share accurate instruction, the podcast may contain unintended errors. Before all else, listen to your body and trust your inner knowing.

Good Morning, Blue Jays (Part 2)

About the same time the “Vs” of geese could be seen heading south, the blue jay who had become my friend disappeared. For a few days I continued to leave peanuts then, assuming the blue jays had followed the geese, gave up and stood the canning jar that held the few remaining nuts on the floor inside the door. By the time the snow melted the following spring, I had all but forgotten about the jar and its contents.

one of the blue jays sitting on a branch over snowBy May, mornings include a cacophony of all the returning species. It was during an early morning interlude that I heard the familiar caw of a blue jay. I jumped out of bed, donned my bathrobe, and dug the canning jar out from under the snow boots piled by the back door. I left a peanut on the rail and called out, “Good morning, blue jay. Welcome back!”

The peanut was gone the next morning when I brought another peanut from my now refreshed supply and called out my greeting. After only a few days, the blue jay was sitting in the tree before I opened the back door. We enjoyed another summer of our brief daily encounters before the fall sent him away again.

The following spring he returned, but not alone. I heard the pair of blue jays calling to each other from tree to tree, and occasionally caught sight of the two following each other across the sky. I upped the daily peanut ration to there was enough for both. By the end of that summer I counted four blue jays perching in the trees and it appeared their family had grown.

Fall came, but the blue jay pair did not leave. Their fledges seemed to have moved on, but the two were still visiting the tree overhanging the deck once or twice a week. Now, a few years later, even the youngsters stay. I am blessed to see them daily and to say, “Good morning, blue jays!”