The essence of truth sits at the edge of every story and the story is what connects us and allows us to help each other to heal and to find peace. My healing tale includes not just healing my physical body, but also the journey of recovering my spirit with the ancient therapeutic use of a shaman practitioner.
My hope was that shaman could help me with the spiritual imbalance I was feeling from the trauma of having melanoma skin cancer and four surgeries on my face. I met a shaman years ago while traveling in Peru and learned that shamanism is the oldest healing spiritual practice dating back 30,000 to 40,000 years. It is a complex phenomenon and the practitioner is considered a messenger between the human world and the spirit worlds. They treat ailments by mending the soul and thus restoring balance on all levels. The shaman enters other realms to obtain solutions and their techniques illustrate that the core shamanic experience is really simple, timeless and universal.
After a trusted doctor and friend referred me to a shaman practitioner in Santa Fe, I anxiously drove there, arriving at the end of a winter’s day, when it was almost dark. A light snow was falling, the air was moist and cold and the sidewalk mushy under my feet. Right as I was about to knock, through a big, wooden, brown adobe door came the most expressive eyes. They were the color of dark blue sapphire; the color of a river hurrying to join the great ocean. And like the ocean they were iridescent, a true blue, with little specks of gold glistening through them. They were full of warmth.
Dark hair with her head held high, she waltzed by me with effortless saunter. Five foot seven, willowy and a face cut right from the pages of a men’s magazine. Something radiated from within that immediately put me at ease.
She had a kind of understated beauty; perhaps it was because she was so disarmingly unaware of her beauty. Her white Irish skin was completely flawless. She was all about simplicity, making things easy, and helping me to relax. Perhaps that is why her skin glowed so, it was her inner beauty that lit her eyes and softened her features. When she smiled and laughed I couldn’t help but smile along too, even if it was just on the inside. To be in her company made me feel like I was outside being warmed by the summer rays.
Acting on the concept that you can’t heal what isn’t there, this beautiful shaman explained that we will journey together to find and bring back the soul parts that are needed to make me whole again. She would also be looking for a guardian spirit who is willing to come and give me power to restore balance and harmony.
I lay down and she started playing a drum, which shifted my awareness and consciousness. At times the sound could be as quiet as a tiptoe or as loud as a roll of distant thunder and the reverberating sound echoed deep within and awoke my inner spirituality giving me back the rhythm of my life. This profoundly personal journey taught me that I am both here and there: both ordinary and divine and to celebrate the meaningful mystery of illness and healing. To celebrate the very existence of me.
After I returned home I witnessed the most incredible metamorphosis-taking place inside of me as I learned to shed the pain, grief, sadness, guilt, fear and anger of cancer that was ravishing my body, mind and spirit.
There is so much less of me now: less ego, less anger, less envy, less desire, less attachment. But there is more of me: more love, more joy, more compassion, more inner peace, and more gratitude. I understand now that spiritual healing doesn’t mean the illness never existed, it means the illness no longer has the power to control my life. I have the ability to endure, with the right attitude, whatever crosses I have to face in my daily life. And to rise above them.
Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul. ~ Pythagoras
Years ago while living and studying in New York I discovered I was the perfect size for designers who were trying to sell their fur creations to department store buyers. I spent most of my free time in the garment district allowing my body to be poked and measured in order to have a shot of purchasing the fur samples after the buying season was over. That’s how I started my collection of furs, being a human mannequin. I jokingly used to refer to my coats as my spirit animals.
After a recent profoundly personal journey with a Shaman in Santa Fe, I discovered that the true meaning of a spirit animal is much deeper and much more than just generic animal symbolism. Its meaning deepens our personal connection to our physical, mental and spiritual world and it offers influential insights into our subconscious mind.
Spiritual seekers throughout history recorded their interactions with animal energies. They strove to build strong relationships with animal archetypes as a way of broadening the human experience with the natural world.
A spirit animal is the belief based on the spiritual concept of the universe, and all-natural objects within the universe, has souls and spirits. An animal spirit is believed to be a supernatural power that embodies, or conveys influence empowering a person with the traits of the animal.
The phrase “Spirit Animal” refers to the shamanic idea that certain animals (or tutelary spirits) can physically and psychologically empower us. The Spirit Animal is thought to lend its wisdom, attributes, and instincts to us in times of need.
It is said that we, as human beings, possess at least one Spirit Animal or totem, in our lifetime that serves as our personal protector, guide, helper and companion. But usually, it is common for us to have many Spirit Animal helpers throughout different periods of our lives.
Totemism, a system of belief practiced by the Native American Indian people. The Australian Aboriginal people, for example, incorporate the notion that each human being has a spiritual connection to another physical being.
Discovering your spirit animal is a passage that requires more of you than simply taking an absurd online quiz. I learned that this meaningful journey is life changing and discovering your spirit animal will leave you inspired and empowered.
Your spirit animal is the embodiment of your subconscious mind and therefore cannot be chosen. It must choose you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and often it will take time before it reveals itself. Keep your heart and mind open and begin by observing nature. Be open and attentive when animals appear in your life. Meditate with the intention and reflect on any images. Be attentive to your dreams. And most importantly, what I learned is to embrace the process of journeying.
And as I journey through life, and time passes, I know that my spirit animal and my relationship with it will change. It is the embodiment of my inner self and I as I grow and am shaped by life, so will my totem.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether Spirit Animals are merely primitive social constructs, or whether their long history throughout many peoples and cultures points to a higher, deeper truth. Mine is serving as a much-needed inner guide helping me to glimpse into a deeper vision of my life. It is teaching me how to live with passion and genuine purpose and brings awareness and attention to the part of me that needs to be acknowledged and explored. The world around us has become increasingly uncertain and chaotic. When foundations of social systems become disoriented and misguided, there may be no better time to find and follow the pattern already set and waiting to be discovered within the individual soul.
As I left Santa Fe, I reflected on how life unfolds in mysterious ways and in the end, the connections with others on the level of the soul enrich life immeasurably and add to the dimension of the physical, the dimension of the spiritual. Spirit animal relationships will one day become quite natural and commonplace, for they represent the progressive unfolding of the beauty and promise of our capacity as spiritual beings to live a sacred life.
My hugs are awkward. They are a perfunctory gesture mandated by social etiquette and colder than day old oatmeal. They are short where they should be long, rigid instead of soft and they end as abruptly as they begin. They have the soothing qualities of a traffic cop and just as much sex appeal. When finished, I don’t even look back and I consider by duty done. Hugs are a profound weakness of mine.
I would never had considered changing the way I hug – or lack there of- if the director of my new TV project wouldn’t have noticed. After a situation where I needed to hug someone at the end of the show he stopped and said, “Are you kidding me with that? Does anyone in your life believe your hugs?” Then he suggested I take improvisation lessons.
Returning to El Paso I made one phone call to the only friend I know who has experience in acting. He called several people and found an improv teacher named David who agreed to teach me.
Nervous I entered David’s home and the first thing I notice are his eyes, which are brown, but not like chocolate, or honey, or chestnuts. His eyes are the color of forest mushrooms, earthen brown in a way that brings to mind old sepia photographs. They could melt you with their facade of chocolate, but then they would crush you with their under-layer of earth and soil.
I am pleased to see his silver hair and he relieved to feel he has that teacher/dad vibe. He has a face like some guy you’d ask for directions in the street, non-threatening but handsome. In a suit he could be a news anchor, tall, clean cut but with a loveable smile that is only ever removed from his features when he needs to be serious. His movements are unhurried, choreographed and deliberate. His voice is deep.
Over the course of a several lessons in a couple of months I appreciate the way David courts my opinion and listens to what I have to say. For the most part I understand what is going on with the structure of improv and periodically he stops to address me directly, to explain the next exercise and what its purpose is. It was oddly comforting to be treated so much like a child, yet all along I feel in control, like all I have to do is whisper “stop” and he will.
I thought improv was just a way to make jokes, or sophisticated guidelines for brainstorming. But something in the language of our culture communicates something grander. And I began to notice that improv was something much deeper. I instinctually know that I am being asked to be fundamentally open-minded, to be brave, to be adventurous.
Improv is not about memorizing a script and performing a scene it’s about showing up and being more of yourself. Those who learn to paint like Da Vinci imitate a master; yet a long as their own inner mastery remains unknown, they are imposters. They may grow by following the brushstrokes of an original yet only become themselves by grasping their own originality. The great teachers and artists can indicate genuine paths to follow; yet following them can only take us so far. In order to emulate a saint or a teacher those who follow must eventually take their own lead and make their own footsteps.
We may enter paths where others have found meaning and even transcended; that’s a worthy way to begin a quest. But, in order to answer the question of our own lives we must risk taking our own steps. The only genuine safety in this world comes from risking oneself completely in order to become oneself more fully.
Improv demands that you show up, jump in, and go deep. After one especially charged emotional exchange I sat with the devastating emotions I was feeling and cried. And cried. And cried.
As I was leaving, David walked up to me slowly, wrapping both arms around my shoulders and hugged me. I felt my body press into to his and I sank into the warmth of his body, appreciative of the simple gesture, which made me feel as if my own father had his arms around me. I could feel the world around me melt away. His hug made the room warmer somehow, and the future seemed less bleak. It was pure. Unselfish. Undemanding. Free.
Improv has made me question every promise I ever made to myself. It made me open up when I didn’t want to let myself in. It helped me to breathe when I didn’t want to anymore and it helped me see that it’s okay to feel. And so often there are no words for the emotions we are experiencing. So we hug. Deeply.
They say that sometimes your biggest strengths are also your biggest weaknesses.
But sometimes it’s your weaknesses that become your greatest strengths.
I don’t know about y’all but I am thrilled that the shenanigans of the chaotic Year of The Monkey has finally come to an end! Get ready for The Year of The Fire Rooster starting on Saturday, January 28 2017!
Before the days of alarm clocks sitting on nightstands, there were roosters. People depended on roosters to “wake them up” so they could start their chores and go to work. That is what this year will symbolize: awakenings, triumphs, and success achieved through hard work, practical solutions and patience.
The Year of the Rooster will give us a year of the symbolic meaning of the rooster – ambition, pride, desire to be admired, punctuality, and courage. We will all prove to have more passion in life, especially regarding work. The inspiriting motto of this year is: “Go Higher!” We will all be encouraged to face our difficulties and adversities because we will all be braver in this year.
What happens when we mix the rooster with the fire element? In Chinese Metaphysics fire represents happiness and passion and by its very nature, is the element associated with brilliance and warmth. It is also associated with jealousy and conflict. The Fire Rooster is a year when everyone receives what he or she deserves.
The diligent and enthusiastic Rooster combined with the sizzling characteristics of fire will bring us the inspiration to get things done! If you have been postponing a project, the Red Rooster will light a fire inside of you to get things accomplished.
As a whole, this year (the 4714 Chinese year) will be successful for people in business, athletes, and soldiers and for people of action. I encourage you to take initiatives, be industrious, practice honestly and above all be kind.
Happy Year of the Rooster!
One of my all time favorite quotes is by Albert Einstien: “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” I’ll break this down in my own language – You are the mayor of Yous-ville.
Twelve years, numerous certificates, teaching classes at UTEP, and hundreds of consultations later, I am finally realizing the most powerful Feng Shui isn’t the action of moving furniture or changing paint colors. It isn’t quite as simple as changing the surface of your home or office. I have discovered through direct experience and actual practice of Feng Shui – the energy of the environment – is not generated solely by the earth, how the house is shaped or decorated but rather by the inhabitants of the space themselves.
Have you ever been in a room where the tension was as thick as a morning fog in Mississippi? That is external Feng Shui generated by the people themselves and an example of how we affect the spaces we inhabit.
Feng Shui, literally translated as – Wind Water – is a poetic term for the energy of any environment, inside or out. It all comes down to energy, but everything always does. The earth is alive with energy, an energy that is inescapable. This energy is easy to imagine in volcanic activity, harder to realize in a simple rock but it is ever present and equally unavoidable in the form of winds, waters, and electromagnetic flows both around and within the earth. These various flows are the most dramatic influencers of Feng Shui – thus the name.
We know from quantum physics that there are spaces between the cells of everything; nothing is truly solid. We may perceive things as solid because the cells are so densely packed together, but everything is, essentially plasma. This means that when someone emotes – sends an emotion out into the space that surrounds them – which we all do unintentionally all the time, even if we never open our mouths – that emotion, that feeling vibration, is absorbed by the surroundings we inhabit, and by the people we are with. This adds to the hidden Feng Shui of any space.
The point is we matter. And how we think and how we feel matter. So much of Feng Shui – wind, water, sun, electromagnetic energy – is out of our hands. Merely rearranging the top of your dresser isn’t going to make a huge difference in your life, but transforming yourself into the person who is unaffected by being stuck in traffic for two hours will indeed transform your life, allowing you to become a living example of good Feng Shui. Once this occurs and you clean up the top of your dresser, the energy in your space can flow smoothly, your life will change in unexpected and delightful ways.
Just as no space that is cluttered can be said to have good Feng Shui, no person who is carrying around the baggage of their unconsciously lived early years can be said to have good internal Feng Shui.
We are all energy beings. We all vibrate at a certain frequency according to the thoughts that we manage and the feelings that we have, work through and release. It makes sense to understand the management of our energy and how our energy might become obstructed or how it can easily flow through us.
Good Feng Shui starts inside of you. The changes you make in your space will support the changes inside but they can’t make them happen for you. Only you have the power to accomplish that. Remember, you are the mayor of Yous-ville.