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Helping Spirit Troubles: Get Lost, Bluebird (Part 2)

In my last post, I shared the challenges I encountered while trying to shamanically connect with the bluebird helping spirit I had been gifted. I did not give up and leave the Shamanic Reiki Master Practitioner training at Omega Institute and, as a result, I learned not to limit my shamanic experiences to journeys.

After the frustrating morning session and needing something to distract me from my funk, I visited Omega’s bookstore during our lunch break. The shopkeepers routinely gathered books into a featured section based on the programs that were happening that week, and they had grouped books about shamanism and animal totems on shelves near the front. I scanned through the spines but did not see anything of interest.

Then I looked up.

On top of the bookcase on a display rack was a book called Bird Medicine. Curious, I flipped it open to a page in the middle, one of a set of glossy pages of pictures. There, on the page that I had opened to, was a photograph of a bluebird, sitting on a branch. Like my helping spirit, it had only a crescent-shaped stripe of orange on the top of its chest.

I read the caption. It was a western bluebird. The full orange chest of the angry bluebird meme was an eastern bluebird. Living my whole life on the east coast of the United States, I would have had no opportunity to see a western bluebird. The same was true of my partner, yet it was the western bluebird that came in her journey for me.

I decided to buy the book so I could read the bluebird legend and other information after our afternoon session. I returned the display copy and looked through the shelves for the rest of them. There were no others. The copy I had held and opened to the photograph of my bluebird guide was the only copy in the store.

I purchased the book and got back to learning how to be a Shamanic Reiki Master Practitioner.

Since that day I have journeyed with my bluebird guide countless times. Bluebird is rarely invited; instead he shows up when I am trying to force my scattered mind to focus. When bluebird is hopping around in my journey space, I know it is a signal that I am not in the right frame of mind to journey. The best thing I can do is let it go, and instead tune in to my intuition as I move through very earthly pursuits for whatever messages I need to find.

Perhaps I will again find guidance while shopping.

Get Lost, Bluebird (Part 1)

I had never seen a bluebird outside of internet images and had developed an aversion to one particular “angry bluebird” that had become a meme. When I was given Bluebird as a helping spirit, I was not grateful.

I was staying at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, training in the Master Practitioner Level of Shamanic Reiki. Llyn Roberts, the founder and lead teacher of Shamanic Reiki, had given us an exercise – to find a partner and retrieve a spirit guide for the other. I had paired with a stranger, which was advantageous in avoiding our preconceived notions about each other influencing our choices. I journeyed on her behalf and, when I told her about the woman in the white robes who appeared to me, she seemed disappointed. Maybe that is why she cursed me with bluebird.

The bluebird she described was almost normal, as far as I knew. She told me she saw it sitting on a branch, and that it looked like every bluebird she had ever seen, except the orange did not cover its chest. Instead, it had just a crescent-shaped stripe of orange below its neck. I wrote what she told me in my journal and tried to be appreciative that she had given me a deformed bluebird to work with.

Our next exercise was to go on a shamanic journey and connect with our newly acquired helping spirit. I settled into the blanket-and-bolster “nest” I had created as my journey space and closed my eyes. I imagined the place in nature that is the starting place for my journey work. I invited bluebird to join me. Then – bam – I was gone. My mind whirred with thoughts that came so fast I could not catch any of them. I think I fell asleep, then woke up when the drumbeat changed to the callback rhythm, feeling angry. I had failed to connect with my bluebird.

As others in the group described wondrous experiences with their new guides, I sat seething. I left that morning’s session sure I was no good at this shamanic stuff and contemplated giving up and going home.

For me, the biggest challenge to developing a shamanic practice was my fear of being inadequate. Come back for the next post to read about what happened when I decided to stay and keep practicing.

 

The Pilgrimage of Turtles

A recent study conducted in my state found that turtles in wetlands surrounded by busy roads were more likely to be males. This finding only confirmed what I and other turtle rehabilitators already knew – during the late spring, many female turtles are hit by cars during their annual pilgrimage to lay their eggs.

A pilgrimage is a journey, usually a long one, to a place that is sacred. Often the journey itself results in transformation of the traveler. People have been making pilgrimages since ancient times, such as on The Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusina, Greece. The famous Camino de Santiago, which leads to the tomb of St. James in northwest Spain, is walked by hundreds of thousands of people every year.

empty turtle eggs next to a hole in grass are the result of a turtle pilgimage

An old turtle nest with empty egg shells found on a recent hike in a protected wetland gives me hope there are some babies out there.

The turtle’s pilgrimage is shorter, by Camino de Santiago standards, but no less sacred. The destination is an ideal nesting spot, where she will bury her eggs, the hope for another generation of turtles.

As female turtles disappear, that hope is diminished.

For humans, travel has become easy. Most will hop in a car and drive more miles to pick up a pizza than a turtle will walk to her nest site. Roads crisscross the habitats of almost every species. Cars are faster than ever and filled with distractions. Relatively few of us will make a long journey to a sacred place, especially not by foot. Perhaps our lack of experience with sacred journeys is why we cannot see the turtle’s trip as an act of devotion.

If you asked me to explain divinity, I would tell you that what is divine is the impulse that keeps life “life-ing.” The turtles, and all other non-human beings, are devoted to life. It is innate, and probably is in humans too, and available if we can drop the religious constructs that squash our animal selves.

Most humans fail to see the turtle’s journey as sacred and, as a result, value pizza over her pilgrimage. That can cost the turtle her life.

There are things that can be done to make road crossings safer for turtles and other wildlife, such as green bridges and tunnels. Humans seem to lack an appetite, however, for spending money on those who will never be able to reciprocate.

When I recognized the turtle’s nesting walk as an act of sacred devotion, I made a pledge to help them. I even started a nonprofit organization to save turtles and their wetland habitats. But the needed work is really helping others to connect with what is sacred, so they will want to help too.

On July 19, 2021, Lori Ferry’, my HEARTH project co-director, and I will be guiding an online HEARTH Circle shamanic experience with the theme “The Sacred Way.” The online HEARTHs benefit the Olympic Mountain EarthWisdom Circle, an educational 501(c)(3) that promotes a sacred and responsible relationship with the Earth. For a small donation you can oin us live or listen to the replay afterwards. The HEARTH Circle is an opportunity to connect with the sacred and experience a shamanic pilgrimage.

When I Dance With Bear in Journeys

In my shamanic journey world, there is a large cave. The entrance looks like a crack in a cliff wall until I walk close. It is at the edge of the meadow where I find an old, twisting, and wise tree.

The interior of the cave is wide and round. The ceiling domes but I can easily stand tall, even near the walls. The rough rock walls of the cave provide shelves of a sort, and alcoves, where I find books and trinkets, some left by me during earlier journeys, some appearing as if gifted by an unknown benefactor. There are bundles of drying herbs hanging from the lower parts of the ceiling, and torches burn at regular intervals to provide light.

In the center of the cave floor, there is a fire. I never have to tend it; the fire is always burning brightly when I arrive. Soft rugs, furs, and cushions ring the fire, inviting me to sit and feel the warmth of the flames. The fire has a sweet or spicy smell, depending on the herbs that have been added.

I encourage everyone whose journeys I guide to find their cave, because I have found that within my cave I receive the most potent messages from my helping spirits. The cave is a place of comfort, of knowledge, and of healing, and around the fire is where I find my council.

brown bear

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

My council is the collective of helping spirits with whom I have been cultivating a relationship during my years of shamanic practice. The members present during a journey change depending on the questions I have or the advice I am seeking, but two are almost always waiting for me at the fire. One is an old woman dressed in the remains of a dress of blues and greys that brings the ocean to mind. The other is a dancing bear.

While other guides meet me elsewhere, I have never seen the large brown bear outside of the cave. I have also never seen him sit. When I arrive at the fire he is standing on his back legs, and usually already lost in a rhythmic dance with the beat of the journey drum. He wears a red belt with long fringe that makes me think of a Native American powwow belt but isn’t quite that.

Often, Bear will continue to dance as I sit in council with other guides that are present, being a somewhat silly distraction from the messages I am trying to make sense of. Every so often, however, Bear will stop and open his front legs wide, inviting me into a hug, then holding me so I have to join the dance.

Bear has never said a word during our times at the fire in the cave. Instead of giving me direction, he is my emotional support helping spirit. The offering of a hug comes when I brought my emotions into the journey space, and I might bury my face in his fur and cry. The embrace is gentle, warm, and soothing.

Dancing with Bear is a different kind of emotional release. Bear holds my back with one paw and my hand with the other, and shakes his hips side to side as we circle the fire together. The wiggling hips always make me giggle. I’ve noticed Bear asks me to dance when I am being overly serious, or impatient with my guides.

When I dance with Bear, I feel I have been reset. When I leave the cave and make my way back to the mundane world, I remember the feeling of being held, hugged, and danced around the fire, and I smile.

Sign up for my newsletter and join me for journeys every new and full moon. Contact me for more information.

Podcast Ep. 90: Yoga to Navigate Challenges

When you are advocating for change, you are going to have challenges, no matter how beautiful your vision is. Your practices will help keep you in the game when everything seems to be falling apart. Inspired by my own recent challenges, the yoga practice in this episode is bright but easy sun salutations with time to pause, breathe, and be.

Shamanic Reiki Master Practitioner virtual training will take place over two weekends, May 1-2 and May 15-16, 2021. Shamanic Reiki Level Two practitioners and anyone attuned to Reiki II or higher in any tradition with shamanic journeying experience is welcome to participate. Visit the Shamanic Reiki training page for more information and easy online registration.

If you would like to chat about this episode or learn more about yoga, Shamanic Reiki, wildlife conservation, or other ways you can bring healing to all of the beings on our beautiful planet Earth, join the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook and get the free Guide to Getting Real when you sign up for the newsletter.

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.

Sitting with Squirrels as a Meditation Practice

If your idea of meditation is sitting comfortably on a cushion in a softly lit, quiet room, with an hour-long recording of Tibetan singing bowls streaming on your tablet while incense smoke curls around you, sitting with squirrels is not the practice for you. If you are ready to be fully present to what is true now, even if what is true is that a squirrel has buried his head in your coat pocket to grab the last peanut, than maybe it is time for your meditation practice to get out into nature.

Grey squirrel standing on back feet looking up at cameraWhen I first started on the Shamanic Reiki path, I could not figure out how I was supposed to be standing next to the Reiki table, paying attention to my client, and simultaneously journeying to connect with helping spirits, the elements, or the client’s higher self. There was too much to keep track of at once, and I was often disappointed that I was not able to be “shamanic” enough in my approach.

The instruction I received for developing those shamanic, two places at once skills?

Get out into nature.

Seriously, going outside and spending time in nature, without an agenda or expectations, was part of our Shamanic Reiki Master Teacher practicum. In Llyn Robert’s book, Shamanic Reiki, she talks about connecting with nature repeatedly. After many years, I believe I understand why.

First, nature heals. Yes, it sounds trite, but fresh air, nature sounds, and a brisk walk can reduce the effects of stress without much in the way of an investment. The natural world is available even in the biggest cities, evident in the plants that sprout in sidewalk cracks and the pigeons that perch on high-rise balconies. All you must do is stop paying attention to where nature is not and open to where nature is showing itself.

Second, being in nature is an opportunity to practice being in two worlds at once. If you have ever taken a long hike, you have most likely experienced moments of being lost in thought while following the trail and managing to avoid tripping over at least some of the roots and rocks in the path. You can, in fact, walk and chew gum or, in this case, daydream at the same time.

Third, Spirit speaks through nature. The stone or feather that catches your eye, the appearance of a frog or a snake at your feet, or a hawk overhead, are signs that nature is communicating. I cannot tell you what the signs mean, but your inner wisdom knows.

Sitting with squirrels

This brings me to sitting with squirrels. Behind my house there is an imaginary line drawn somewhere in the woods, but the squirrels do not care if they are in a tree on my land or the 30 undeveloped acres on the other side of that line. This makes my home an ideal place to release the squirrels I have raised as a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Most of the squirrels spread out into the woods or beyond, but a few have stayed close to raid the bird feeders and beg for peanuts.

These squirrels have become my meditation partners. Every morning I plop down a split log and practice becoming grounded and centered, watching my breath, and being mindful of my senses and thoughts, while having a peanut at the ready for a fast-approaching grey squirrel. The squirrels are a delightful distraction that keeps me alert to their antics while also shifting my consciousness to the detached observation of my response to them.

I have heard it said that shamans stand with one foot in each world. By sitting with squirrels, I am learning the art of being here and also not here, in my morning meditation and in my Shamanic Reiki practice.

Podcast Ep 34: Yoga to Use Your Mind Wisely

My dear friend Blair Sutherland created beautiful intro and background music for My Shamanic Life. I am grateful beyond words and pleased to be able to share it with you in this episode. I also share how an upcoming trip with my Shamanic Reiki teacher, Llyn Roberts, is challenging me to be less of a “mom” to my business so I can more deeply explore the Shamanic Reiki practices and my own creativity and intuition. The yoga practice will move energy upward through the Chakras to ignite your own inner wisdom.

If you would like to chat about this episode or learn more about yoga, Shamanic Reiki, the Extraordinary Yoga Teacher mentorship, wildlife conservation, or other ways we can bring healing to all of the beings on our beautiful planet Earth, join us in the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook or sign up for the newsletter. Please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor and help me purchase needed equipment for Dancing Turtle Wildlife Rehab, my wild turtle clinic.

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.

Podcast Ep 24: Yoga to Speak Your Truth

This episode of My Shamanic Life was inspired by the Black Egg card from Kim Krans’ The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck. The message is to speak your truth, so the short yoga practice focuses on your fifth chakra, the energy center in the throat. I believe we, collectively, need to work on both speaking our truths and listening (and I mean really listening) to the truths of others without judgement. My wish for this episode is that your throat chakra will more open and you will feel ready to speak your truth.

If you would like to chat about this episode, share your truth, or learn more about yoga, Shamanic Reiki, wildlife conservation, or other ways we can bring healing to all of the beings on our beautiful planet Earth, join us in the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook or sign up for the newsletter.

Gratitude to Mark Piper for the background music.

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.

Podcast Ep 13: Shamanic Journey to Connect With a Power Animal

I had a last-minute schedule change and could only record a short episode this week. Since I am preparing to lead a Shamanic Reiki Level Two training and I’m sending Reiki to a pregnant giraffe (check out www.aprilthegiraffe.com or visit the Animal Adventure Park’s YouTube channel to watch the webcam with me), it is a great time to talk about how shamanic journeying made distance Reiki accessible for me. I’ll lead you on a short journey to find a power animal, so get comfy seated or laying down.

If you would like to chat about this episode or learn more about yoga, Shamanic Reiki, wildlife conservation, or other ways we can bring healing to all of the beings on our beautiful planet Earth, join us in the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook (you’ll find a link in the footer) or sign up for the newsletter.

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.

Podcast Ep. 12: Yoga and Reiki for Emotional Release

The Reiki symbol Sei Hei Ki came out of Dorothy May’s Archetypal Reiki deck to support me at the end of a rough week. In this episode I’ll talk about that symbol, my down days, grief, and emotional release. The 30-minute yoga practice explores some typically tight or held places in the physical body and invites a letting go on the physical and emotional levels. If you like props for sitting in easy pose, such as blankets or blocks, grab them and unroll your mat. (Sorry for the weird buzz in the background. I didn’t hear it until I listened to the recording.)

If you would like to chat about this episode or learn more about yoga, Shamanic Reiki, wildlife conservation, or other ways we can bring healing to all of the beings on our beautiful planet Earth, join us in the Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook or visit my website at www.DebbiePhilp.com and sign up for the newsletter.

Deep gratitude to Mark Piper for the background music.

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.