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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.

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 40: Journey with Wolf Spirit

I drew Gray Wolf from the deck that came with Maia Toll’s newly released The Illustrated Bestiary. The message to “nurture connections” led me to both wildlife corridors and our Shamanic Flow Circle group on Facebook, of which I hope you are a part. What do you desire to do to better the world? Join us for support! Then settle in for a guided shamanic shapeshifting journey with the spirit of Wolf.

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 comment on this episode’s post. Please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor and help me purchase needed equipment and supplies for my wild turtle rehabilitation clinic.

Much gratitude to Blair Sutherland for the beautiful intro and background music and Sandra Petersen from Pixabay for the episode image.

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 26: Wildlife Rehabilitation, Shamanism and Yoga

The Nightingale card from Kim Krans’ The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck inspired this episode. To practice speaking my truth and to share more of how I came to be who I am, I tell the story of how a dancing turtle led me to shamanism, which led me to wildlife rehabilitation. The 30-minute gentle yoga practice explores the poses that have been named for animals, and how we might move more like them.

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 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.

Breathing with Trees

Breathing with trees in the AdirondacksI ventured out, alone, in my snowshoes, on a quiet trail through the woods. We had had the first substantial snowfall of winter a few days before, and I came to a part of the trail that had not been broken since the storm. I’m not experienced on snowshoes and it was only my second time out this season, but it was quiet and beautiful so I decided to push on.

Once my body started complaining, I stopped and turned back. It had begun to snow again, which was lovely to look at but made the trail more challenging. I caught myself getting short of breath as my heart rate came up and I took a break.

There was a time when I would have been frightened out in the woods, all alone, with no cell signal, my heart pounding in my chest, but now I have a relationship with the trees. Through my shamanic work I have become aware of the life energy that flows through the trees. I have seen them “lit up” with that energy. It is the same energy that flows through you and me.

Rather than panicking out in the woods, I sat in the snow with my back to a tree. I tuned into that energy. And I began to breathe with the tree. Plants and animals are the two halves of the beautiful life-sustaining oxygen cycle. Trees breathe out oxygen, we breathe it in. We breath out carbon dioxide, the trees breathe it in.

Sitting against the tree, I became conscious of breathing in what the tree was releasing. It was as if I could draw the breath right out of the tree into my back. Then I breathed out and felt the tree draw in my out-breath. Back and forth, the tree and I breathed together, until my heart rate slowed and I felt safe and held. I walked calmly out of the woods.

This simple but powerful practice draws my awareness to the interconnected web of life. While the woods are a wonderful place to experience it, I find the same sense of connection and peace when I breathe with the trees in my backyard or even my houseplants. I leave a small offering in gratitude for the breath when I can, and I always speak my thanks. I know I am heard.

Celebrating Earth-based Spirituality on Pagan Pride Day

“A wee child toddling in a wonder world,
I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens
where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds,
the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. 
If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.”

Zitkala-Sa

secondbestcircleToday I am in Syracuse, New York, to lead “Elemental Yoga” at the annual Central New York Pagan Pride Day festival. My workshop is from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. Afterwards I get to spend the remainder of the day connecting with and learning from others who, like me, look to nature for their spiritual inspiration.

Pagans are an eclectic group; their diversity makes them interesting and fun. Their practices may be formal and structured or spontaneous and casual. There are numerous subsets under the Pagan umbrella. Pagans may worship deities from classical or tribal mythology, practice shamanism or magick, view futurology, community or ecology as religion, focus on the Divine Feminine, or simply venerate natural phenomena. Most chose their spiritual paths, rather than following the religions of their families.

At today’s festival we’ll be celebrating the upcoming autumn equinox, as well as doing lots of networking and community building. My husband will be manning the Adirondack Earth Lore booth to showcase his amazing woodturning, and I’ll be hanging out there discussing yoga and healthy living with anyone who will listen. We’ll do some drumming. I’ll watch bellydancers. And I’ll be showing folks how to connect with the energies of Earth, Air, Fire and Water with yoga.

In the area? Come on over to Onondaga Lake Park and join the fun!