Consent in healing practice and spiritual communities is something that I bump up against very very often and yet I find is seldom spoken about. If it is, it tends to be short, vague, and encompasses the moral absolution of simply adding "for their highest good" before carrying on. To me, this conversation is essential. Not only for practitioners, teachers, and facilitators to have with those they work with, but for All Of Us. It is relevant in circumstances we regularly encounter in our day-to-day, everything from blowing out birthday candles and wishing on stars to social media pleas and conversations over tea. It plays out in a variety of ways, but here are a few common scenarios that I encounter:
I speak a firm counter stance on this and lay down strict parameters for those I am working with. There are only two.
The part I really want to speak to however is the hard truth that we can't assume to know best simply because our compassion is engaged. Humans are incapable of fully understanding the complexities, intricacies, and ramifications of any given event, particularly as time unfolds or the different realms it may affect. Heck we can't even see a full range of light and colour. Not even hear a complete array of tones and pitches. Yet a common consensus appears to be that we can freely impose our will over another when we think it is for their "highest good" or that asking the person's "higher self" or "spirit guides" for permission makes it okay. Perhaps even we double check later with that person to find they appreciated it, providing fuel for justifying this habitual response.
Myself? I believe this way of thinking to be out of integrity and dare I say, downright sloppy.
Let me explain by sharing a few true stories:
You may be familiar with the story of the man who helped a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. Essentially the butterfly could not fly because its wings had not developed the needed strength provided by breaking free on its own. I am not one to "love and light" anyone's hardship, or tell someone in the thickest dark night of the soul that "everything happens for a reason", but I also wont deny someone the transformative insights or strength of character that can only be found in our broken places. Who am I to impose my Will on another person's situation without their knowledge nor direct consent? No matter how rotten, no matter the suffering, how would I know that isn't the divine plan, pre-chosen soul path, or the exact poison needed to deliver the most potent medicine? What if our collective prayers inadvertently remove a stepping stone leading to their best life? most suited partner? invaluable wisdom? Is it okay to infringe on another's free will because we tag on "for the highest good"? What if their higher self says Yes but they themselves say No? Are we 100% certain we haven't projected our desire to fix into that divination? Is it enough to go against a conscious dissent?
What can we do?
Inquiring if someone is open to receiving your prayers or healing intentions, even if you have been friends for decades and you've done it a million times, shows respect and integrity. Every situation is different and what may have been okay before may not be this time. If it is someone you don't know well, or has beliefs other than our own on such matters, pay attention to the language used in asking for consent. If they think healing energy or divination readings are too "woo-woo" or aren't real, see if an equivalent that makes sense to them can be found. Even if it is something like, "Do you mind if I imagine you free from this challenge?" or "Are you okay with me meditating for an answer on this?"
It might be inappropriate or impossible to ask for consent leaving us with an uncomfortable feeling of "doing nothing", and sometimes we just have to sit with that. I like to check in honestly and ask myself if I am able to trust in knowing they have their own wisdom, their own senses, and their own journey in a matter or if I might actually be doubting or accidentally being condescending toward their natural abilities. Simply regarding, noticing, and appreciating someone is a powerful act. Quantum physics shows us the impact an observer can have in situations of all kinds from particle waves to ph levels of water. We aren't doing anything beyond witnessing something already present like their tenacity or the light of their life force.
What about the exception I mentioned for young children?
I recognize that small dependent children turn to their parents for all of their needs and it is up to us to draw on our skills and supports to do so. Whether it is applying aid during an illness or keeping them safe. It is expected of us. Wanted. Needed. Prayers and healing work included. I say "limited exception" because in my experience folks tend to want to push those boundaries toward pubescent and full grown adult children or stretch into areas that are life or behaviour controlling. Removing a troublemaking friend of theirs during a fire ceremony is different than praying for their ability to make wise choices. It can be exceptionally difficult for parents to honour a child's autonomy, resiliency, and need to make their own way through the dark woods. It can be hard to know when it is right to hold their hand, when we should stand beside or behind, and when to plain stay out of it. Clarity is good. Ask them.
This has been a long one. Much gratitude to readers who have made it this far. It is an area that I am passionate about, aim to follow, and am quite firm on since it comes up so often in my work and gatherings. Of course it is not always appropriate to broach in the heat of a moment either. It was time to put it all in one place and share out from here.
Today's podcast guest, Juliette Woods, is an incredible mix of mystic, mother, spiritual guide, creative, and earth spiritualist.
In our conversation we talk about...
We cover a lot of ground in this long-form conversation that feels like a lengthy stroll down the beach on a drizzly day...picking up wise little stones...giving the selkies a wave hello and wink or two...remembering the seal skin tucked away in our own closets.
To support this podcast :
You can engage in reciprocity with this show by supporting me - Amber Samaya - on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ambersamaya
I'll Have What She's Having! is a visionary interview-based podcast highlighting the real-life experiences, embodied wisdom, life path stories, and inspirational creative offerings of WONDROUS women. This podcast invites women from all walks of life (and men too!) to meet at the beautiful intersections of our unique lived experiences. Joining together in a quantum circle for laid back, fireside, magic-at-the-kitchen-table, no-holds-barred JUICY conversations about everything from creative projects, community innovations, business, sex, intimacy, relationships, motherhood, grand adventures, dark nights of the soul, self care, intentional life ways, sacred practice, necessary rebellion, and those hilarious *this-legit-happened* stories that will have you laughing. We hope you'll feel at home. That you'll laugh enough that it'll count as an ab workout. That you'll heal and soften a little bit. That you'll feel deeply connected. And certainly, that you'll celebrate each other. Welcome to a podcast where conversation becomes medicine.
For more episodes:
You can connect with Juliette in the following ways:
Stepping into Ceremony
When we are well prepared and present to intention,
we set the stage to safely step back and allow healing to move through us
without trying to control or struggle toward a perceived goal;
opportunities unfold to perceive medicines and divine wisdom
greater than we can imagine.
An Initiatory Experience
An initiation marks a distinct time of "before" and "after". The kind of experience that, at its extreme, will feel like a complete life over-haul, almost like we have been reborn or achieved a new level of depth/height in awareness. Everything is somehow different or has shifted in a fundamental or cellular way.
Often it is a rite of passage, deep ceremony, intense personal medicine work, vision quest, or healing event that creates a significant shift in the way we relate to and experience the world. It steps us into a new phase of life or welcomes us into a community previously unavailable to us. It applies also to unplanned events like serious illness, accident, or tragedy, as well as natural life stages such as birth, puberty, menarche, labour/birth/parenthood, coupling/uncoupling, menopause, eldership, and death.
As I have learned it, there are 3 distinct phases to an Initiation.
Severance. Threshold. Integration.
Others may have different names or words to describe them, but the essence seems consistent in my experiences and observances so far.
The preparation phase. This is the lead up to the experience, and is when the healing work actualy begins. Sometimes as early as the moment when we commit to the opportunity. We go through a phase, consciously or not, of acts of letting go of our life as we know it, saying Goodbye to all that is familiar, releasing our grip on the anchors that make us feel stable - patterns, beliefs, relationships, perceived goals and desires, daily constructs, ways of relating, ways of being, ways of thinking - and cutting all ties to the way things are.
If you recognize you are in the Severance stage, you can support and deepen this process by:
This is where we cross over from the "before" to the "after". It is the Experience that changes us or the culmination of experiences that leads us to a pivotal threshold or doorway to step through. It may be marked by ceremony, ritual, vision quest, dark night(s) of the soul, a period of deep healing, or it may not even be fully recognized while in the thick of it - particularly when without the witnessing of community or when the experience(s) are viewed as trauma without resulting gifts.
When in this stage, you might support and deepen the experience by:
Often considered the hardest part, and sadly too often overlooked - integration occurs when we are able to Return to our usual life and keep the gifts we have acquired intact. We are challenged with bringing our internal shifts outward to affect change in our day-to-day living and resist falling back into old ways of thinking, reacting, and being. Many times this transition isn't easy, might be messy, and perhaps feels a bit chaotic as things shake up in order to fall into more harmonious places. Touching in with any community, elders, or teachers that held us through the Threshold phase can be a wellspring of anchoring resources.
When in this stage, you might support and deepen the experience by:
A few years ago I wrote some practical, hands-on, tips and suggestions for integrating the medicines from the Threshold, and bringing all of the unseen, personal, inner work Out into our mundane living experience. If you would like more on the Integration phase, find yourself post-ceremony or have recently undergone a personal healing session, please read "Integration ~ the often overlooked time after soul-work".
If you would like personal and direct support as you move through any of these stages, you are welcome to send me an email at email@example.com or book a consultation.
There are many ways to “be of service” to our communities that don’t involve extensive training, one-to-one healing sessions, or even a full-time dedicated practice, that are incredibly powerful and very supportive. One of these methods is by tending to a Community Altar. This way of holding space for others on their journey through life and healing is easily integrated into even the busiest lifestyles and from what I have experienced, can become a highly requested form of support.
7 Steps to building a Community Altar practice:
1.) Consider where your Altar will be and the length of time it will remain active. Helpful questions might be; Will your Altar be indoors or outside? Are you ready for a permanent feature in your home or will it be created only for a short gathering? An Altar is created with careful energetic intention on a designated surface - so choose a location that is easy to access and encouraging for you to tend to. Perhaps more than one person will actively tend to the Altar on behalf of the community - you get to cultivate this practice to suit your needs as well as those seeking to be included!
2.) Ponder the essential quality the Altar will be designed to represent and radiate. One might choose to support people’s hearts, invoke the sense of being held in the hands of divinity, promote their safety, clear ancestral wounds, encourage physical health, or tend to a need in the community that you identify with and relate to from your lived experience.
3.) Every item that makes up the Altar will be carefully selected and geared to contribute to the chosen energy and purpose. Consider them as energetic or spiritual ‘power houses’ such as specific crystals, images of deities or photos of deceased relatives, stones from significant and relevant places, plant medicines or dried herbs, all of which carry or support the chosen intention. An Altar brings together the individual energies of the objects with your aim to create a unified energy source that continues to “work for you” once set.
4.) Decide how you will represent people who want to be included. You might light a candle on their behalf and speak their name for long distance support or if they will be physically present you might ask them to bring a stone, photo, or personal item that resonates with their individual energetic imprint.
5.) When you have spent some time becoming familiar with the energy of the Altar, are clear on its intention and comfortable with tending to it; extend the invitation to your community to be included. One might offer to individuals who are already asking for support, post a general invitation on social media, or verbally encourage participants at a gathering you are offering.
6.) Be sure to hold the work your Altar is doing with utmost respect. Do not allow others to put random objects on it, keep it clean and organized, spend time in quiet reverence there, and perhaps move things around or change up the items to keep the energy fresh. You might sing devotional songs, make offerings, or speak invocations and prayers while tending.
7.) It is important to remember that as a working energy source, there are also times of rest needed. We can provide this rest by periodically laying a cloth over it and by dismantling it when no longer active. Blessing and cleansing the items with sacred smoke is also something to be mindful to do when the energy begins to feel “stale”. If out-of-doors in a public area, be sure to thank and close the Altar by removing personal items after each time of tending.
Tips to remember:
An example of a simple yet powerful Altar as an inspiration for your own might be to dedicate it to the "Good Neighbours", and include a central rose quartz sphere representing your love and appreciation for house sprites. Perhaps a fairy quartz in included with the points radiating outward and interlaced with small images of Fairies that are particularly attractive to you. You might decide to work with the creative, impish energy of this space by reciting a daily invocation stating your desire to connect with the Fae, Brownies, House Elves etc on a more reciprocal level. This could be helpful in homes where items regularly, and inexplicably, go missing or when it feels like your house is "playing tricks" with you. Visitors to your home who would like the same intention could be welcomed to leave shiny coins, milk, oats, or chocolate as gifts on the altar when they come for tea with you.
Another example might be an altar for our Grandmothers, perhaps created on a piece of lace at a Samhain gathering. Adorned with an inherited favourite tea cup, some black and white photos, and a brooch your Great Great Grandmother wore. These would establish the connection to matriarchal lines and brings in their energy. If the intention is to heal a history of abuse for our Ancestors, including crystals that transmute dense energy, repair heartache, and impart strength placed with the intention of safely surrounding the Grandmothers creates a powerful healing purpose. Guests could then bring their own photos, heirlooms, and written prayers for healing their lineages.
You might be surprised how many people ask to be included and share with you a real, felt sense of being supported. The simple act of someone caring is a profound sentiment let alone the supportive medicines included with, and invoked by, your Altar practice. It's free, takes little time, creates a strong feeling of community, and isn’t impeded by distance. I invite you to begin and have fun!
If you would like more in-depth wisdom to explore about Altars & Shrines, the differences between the two, their purpose, nuances, and best practices, it is a topic we cover during the first month of the Return to Reverence immersion program and continue to work with throughout.
Registration opens each June and we begin each October.
Do you have Altars ALL over the house? Here is something to consider that is often overlooked.
This video is a beautiful example of how the medicine gifts we bring to our Healers, Teachers, Facilitators, and Practitioners supports their work continuing for the community.
The dollars we pay is the energy exchange to keep them and their families alive, housed, recognizing their years of training, skills, and continued education, while compensating for their time - much of which is unseen by their clients, students, or members.
Medicine gifts, such as the sacred Peruvian tobacco used in this clearing, may be the only way to ensure certain ceremony or healing work is done. In many lineages, the facilitator is never to purchase such medicines, it must be grown, harvested, or gifted. Such gifts also honours their lineage, their teachers - both spirit and human, and the medicine ways themselves.
Without this gift of tobacco, this particular clearing and the ceremony to the Airts (directions) before it would not have occurred. It is a blessing to the community to receive such, and a sweetness to me to be entrusted and supported in this work. Many of the flowers I use in my offerings, and the herbs used for our smoke cleansing ceremonies have also been gifted during gatherings or even sent in the mail! <3
Don't think this way is only for the spiritual helpers in your community, gift your chiropractors, doctors, massage therapists, professors, mechanics, even your baristas! What would support them in supporting others? What would honour their time and skill?
Working intimately with my lia mala (medicine bundle) is a significant part of my personal spiritual practice and energetic well-being. Over the years of offering the Shamanic Living Immersion, I began carrying a lia mala for the community as well. In this way, each member is able to receive energetic clearing and spiritual healing support via my tending to this bundle.
It is treated similarly to my own, albeit holding different contents. It is brought to sacred places, opened to the healing elements, offerings are made, medicines added, and receives the energy stream of traditional shamanic techniques. It comes with us to each circle and session the SLI members might benefit from. They are welcome work with this energy source long distance or held in their laps as needed.
Working in this way also supports Myself. Before I had received the dream telling me to create one for them, I had been navigating the effects of a large number of people very often "reaching out" to me in unseen, but very real, ways. Healing work and support was being asked of me throughout each day and each night, even into my dream time as members moved through their deep healing processes. Community outside of the immersion program also call on me in this way and I knew I needed to find more effective means to move this work a little more "outside" of myself. Upon creation, the remedy was felt immediately. If you are a Teacher or Practitioner, perhaps this share inspires you should requests for your energetic attention require a different way of holding.
Much of my spiritual teaching practice is based on reclaiming our own forgotten or misplaced cultural practices. The majority of us have been severed from rich ancestral traditions - for all sorts of reasons. Part of this process includes diving deeply into Why a practice/ritual/ceremony is done, cultivating intimate & reciprocal relationships with the plants, animals, elements, and guides involved, plus researching myths, stories, and lore from the lands our families came from, sitting with elders and spirit teachers, reading & listening intently - and importantly - discovering and remedying appropriated methods and terms.
This fills our cup of longing for deeper purpose to this living experience. It brings us fertile ground for ceremony, spiritual holding, and of course our own well-being and that of our communities and the natural world around us. When we are intact in this way, we can appreciate the differences and similarities found around the world in a beautiful way, but when this cup of ours is empty - we are much more likely to grab and fill from cultures we witness or who are undergoing their own revitalization process, even when we don't intend harm.
I have recently learned the term "smudge" is an incorrect usage unless our ancestry is indigenous to Turtle Island. While many first nation people do not mind common use of this term for clearing and blessing with sacred smoke - many Do. I have begun re-writing my language to reflect my intention of decolonizing my personal practice, my words, and my teachings. It will take time to come across each instance - but I am dedicated to it.
Like many of us - my own ancestral traditions have also been decimated. Google and Duolingo is often my "elder" when hunting down appropriate Gaelic languaging to use, along with my human colleagues who are also piecing things together.
These things are highly entrenched and often go unnoticed - until they suddenly stand out in blazing illumination. My apprenticeship was focused on women who's ancestry was that of Irish and Scottish descent - and still I learned this integral practice as "smudging" and have used the term for at least a decade.
The closest Gaelic word I can find so far is "Slain" or "Slainning". Lots and lots of reference to clearing and blessing with smoke in Ireland and Scotland abound - and yet a word for it is seldom mentioned. I am still on the hunt as slainning seems also interchangeable with fumigating a house, person, or animal for purpose of bugs and germs by burning local herbs and plants.
I invite you to join me in this awareness and practice changing our language to reflect this knowledge. Smoke Bath, Sacred Smoke Ceremony, Smoke Cleansing, Smoke Ritual are all acceptable - albeit perhaps focuses on the common modern intention of use purely to clear energy rather than also as carrying our prayers to Spirit or as a blessing by the plants/feathers/shell used. (here's another invitation to take this wisdom-way deeper than is often spoken of)
I've also been working on reducing my use of the word "shamanism" and "shamanic" as this too is a term taken from a specific cultural region that my DNA does not originate from. A complication is it is currently recognized for specifically distinguishing from other spiritual ways of being - an important component when offering community services. It most clearly conveys to those seeking to attend or join me what is likely to happen and often is the word searched for when in need. It too has undergone appropriation and a great loss of depth - a westernization of original practice & meaning, now a buzzword added on to all sorts of other practices that may or may not have those distinctive aspects. I'm still working on this one too.
I'm incredibly grateful for patience being shown to each other as we all find our way and I hope my share sparks some inspiration to use our words carefully. If you like, it would be neat to hear what sacred smoke rituals are called in your ancestral language! If you don't know - now is a fine time to start the quest!
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Many have been called to support and respond to the wildfires in BC these past weeks. We have options open to us ranging from donating money to feet-on-the-ground, hands-on help. There are also many of us who have been working with prayers, healing work, and energetic support. Here I share a guided healing response that all of us can experience and contribute with. This technique is mindful of free will, respects the natural elements, keeps our "ego" in check and makes a measurable difference. You can bring his way of working into your day-to-day living, respond to other events, and include it in your practice, daily commute, or community offerings easily and powerfully. Bless!
I felt it as a student, I see it with colleagues, and I hold it as a teacher - there is a new aspect to the modern teacher/student dynamic that was unheard of in times of yesteryear.
The traditional way of a medicine person, shaman, bean feasa, etc etc was to study with one teacher for a number of years, become an apprentice, endure their and Spirit's sometimes harsh teachings, wait your turn, and integrate the medicines learned over time. Always showing utmost respect, learning as ready to, and mastering one's craft after much diligence.
Today those who seek to dive deeper into their spiritual practice have wave upon wave of seductive workshops, a plethora of fantastic books, online focus groups and videos abound. We live in an excellent time of sharing and availability. It's accessible. Great event coordination can happen. One can pick and choose who we like best, and who to give our precious time to. If we don't like what we hear, well, there is a book at the local occult shop we might like better.
The trouble is this, this sense of urgency. With so much in our western modern world being instant gratification and with great selection, we can easily lose respect for a Teacher and hurry our learning along - because frankly, most of us are starving for something deep, soulful, purposeful and personal. And then we want to share it and "become" useful.
This is how it seems to look...
In traditional settings, an apprentice would never think to go to the next village over and ask a different medicine person if they didn't like their teacher's answer. To do so would end the student/teacher relationship and potentially kibosh any future relationships with other teachers. There was a trust in right timing, that things weren't withheld as a power play but for safety.
As a teacher, there may be many reasons why a question is not directly answered, or skipping ahead would be discouraged.
Yep, I could have asked another teacher what they thought about it and searched for confirmations. I could have trusted the book instead. I could have trusted what my guides were showing me at the time - and likely would have had a rockier road to getting where I am today. This path is not known for its "smooth sailing" after all.
As a teacher, these situations call for delicacy as well as trust. Trust in our work, in the student, trust in right-timing and the ability of both participants. Trust that our ego isn't driving the boat in deciding what should or should not be for another. Trust in the student as a creative, resourceful and whole person. Trust in the balance between holding and guiding a being of free will, or being too controlling or nonchalant about it. And the delicacy to be able to sometimes say No without tearing away at that trust.
A most important cue for both sides - is a sense of urgency. When either participant is acting on feelings of urgency, that is a big cue to step back.
Whether a student or teacher, I wish you blessings on your slow cooked processes.
How to keep ourselves protected spiritually and energetically was one of the questions that came in to me and is a very important area to focus on. Here I share a few tips to help all of us with a good energetic hygiene practice to help keep us protected.
For practitioners, here are a couple additional suggestions:
- Spend a good amount of time to set sacred space before work
- Be sure to "arrive" mentally and energetically before each client
- Resist temptation to work when tired, sick, or emotionally charged
- Focus on closing sacred space, thanking guides, and stepping out of work just as much as stepping into it
- Ritual bathing/washing before and/or after sessions, gatherings, or ceremony
- Be clear with boundaries, what is yours/theirs, and be discerning with client/practitioner incompatibilities. Know who you should not work with
- Keep within your skill level. Reach out to or refer to mentors or colleagues if dealing with something out of your league
Bringing our gifts out into our communities in healthy ethical ways is part of the Medicine Ways program that follows the Shamanic Living Immersion. If you are keen to work together in this way, you are welcome to find more details on the www.ShamanicLiving.ca website
Many of us are grief-stricken and over-burdened by the atrocities of the world, especially these days. Here is 1 change I made that was essential for me to do the work I came here to do, perhaps it is a key to protect your heart too. It's simple. Some say it's radical. You might find resistance. But once it's done, you may find the freedom you've been seeking and the ability to do what you came to do.
A bean feasa of Celtic lineage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.