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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or book a consultation.
Fire ceremonies are a time tested ritual for marking certain points of the year, for energetic maintanance, and honouring vital forces in Nature. A common practice is to hold a fire ceremony at the "4 fire festivals" Samhain (Halloween), Imbolc (Groundhog Day), Bealtaine (May Day), and Lughnassad (1st Harvest) as well as at Winter Solstice (the longest night), Vernal Equinox (Equal day/night), Summer Solstice (Longest Day), and Autumnal Equinox (Equal day/night) as opportunities for a deeply personal soul tending experience. Truly, incorporating fire ceremonies into one's energetic maintanance routine can become a beautiful and profound support.
Not everyone can attend a community ceremony however, so here I share the basic steps, as I know them, to support others in holding their own fire ceremonies - from great outdoor bon fires to a single indoor candle flame.
*Please use the utmost fire safety practices and take your inner work as deeply as you are ready for - perhaps even a little deeper ;)
A few months ago, a friend of mine asked, “What is a non-political opinion you have that is likely to be VERY unpopular??”
That’s a neat one eh?
One said, “Yoga" another said, “Coconut water” and another was when people say they are putting things “out to the Universe”
I have two.
The trending intention of letting go what “doesn’t serve you” and the popular focus on “being of service”.
I know right? I just named two major drives while on a path of self development, spirituality, conscious living, or what-have-you; but for me, I feel they just slightly miss the mark a bit.
At fire ceremonies, breathwork, meditation, or other rituals of intention setting, we are likely to see practices of either bringing a quality, way of being, or circumstance closer to us and more present in life such as stability, joy, ease, love and health, or we are allowing, praying for, demanding, even banishing something to fall away and leave us. All the things big and small we don’t want anymore, a pattern of bad luck, friends who don’t support, a job we don’t like, a spouse, negative self-talk, a gnawing feeling of not being “good enough”, the experience of scarcity. You know them; things that no longer serve you. The stuff holding us back. It’s good work to do.
No longer serves.
There is an undertone that can be picked up on. It touches on our current “disposable” culture and with an implication of servitude - that something must “serve you” to be of value. Too often we forget how important the very hardest experiences truly are, particularly when we are in the thick of it. The very challenge they bring is where the blessed healing is found. We may be tired of it. We may think we have learned what we needed to learn, and with a limited scope of view determine its purpose fulfilled. Now if you have attended fire ceremonies with me you will know that I take this work seriously and fully believe in its power - it’s the casual, perhaps egocentric, and sometimes flippant use of the word “serve” that doesn’t sit well with me. Release, let go, move on - definitely - with honour to these challenges for bringing you the strength and wisdom they were intended to do...humbly. I’d love to have some different language to use, if you have suggestions, do let me know!
“Being of Service” is a beautiful goal of living a life of reciprocity, of sharing your gifts with the world to help bring healing and balance. A wonderful caring of others. What I and many other teachers see, is two-fold. First, the intense desire to “be of service” is most often an avenue for spiritual bypassing. Where we skip over the slow, tedious, not super fun and probably much like hell, deep personal work. The shadow work. The getting your poop together work. The learning. The living and deepening of the learning. It never is complete really - but there is such a drive to be of service that masses of people are taking courses, training, and workshops with the goal of adding to their career or skill-set in order to be of service. There is a drive to set up shop and start offering services the moment a certificate is printed, and folks in complete personal chaos are choosing to focus on others instead of tending to the very needed personal work first. Of course I don’t mean to imply anyone must be living in complete, smooth, life success before supporting others, that is unrealistic, but too often the line is not explored around when one is clear and grounded to offer what they are offering. There can be a lack of real self reflection, discussion, and integrity on both sides, the facilitators & teachers giving the offerings as well as learners & students perhaps needing time to deepen their experiences.
The second part of this that is often overlooked is “being of service” need not involve a healing practice offered to people. Being of service to the world, the earth, and its inhabitants may powerfully be simply cultivating and radiating good, strong, harmonious energy as one goes along living their ordinary life. It might be mindful, conscious loving of pets and trees, or picking up trash, maybe sacred jewelry making, or sending letters of gratitude and encouragement, attending other people's ceremonies or tending to our own private ones, creating temporary shrines in nature or just the great act of observing. “Being of service” may be nothing more than living a good life. Scientists, Mystics and the Average Joe alike can measure changes made to the environment around us given our different emotional states, focused attention, and by our pure observation alone.
So those are my two unpopular opinions.
You are most welcome to send me yours by comment or email to email@example.com.
I’d love to hear them!
Ahhh summertime soul-work season is upon us! So many exciting, deep, fun, and powerful opportunities for collective yet also personal healing work. Solstice celebrations, fire ceremonies, the Conscious Goddess Festival, workshops, vision quests, plant spirit experiences, spiral dances, labyrinth walks... yummmm! Such good stuff! and yet... afterwards...
What happens after?
After such moving and personal healing work, after our heart-felt connections and tribe building, we head home. Back to our mundane world of jobs, spouses, kids, emails, bills, television, grocery store lighting, facebook trolls, rigid scheduling or simply home alone to more solitary and solo lives...alone. Yet you just had this powerful, earth shattering internal experience! and these two worlds may feel like separate realities that really have a hard time even coming close to meeting. You might feel irritated, discombobulated, frustrated, having strange dreams, or simply dying to convey your amazing insights to others who can't fathom its depth. You might even just forget - like a lost dream upon waking.
This time of Integration is often considered the hardest part of any initiatory or deep healing work.
I can tell you from my experiences as a brainwave technician, as well as my personal development, and field of shamanic practice - this happens much more often than is desirable. It happens in the realms of medical, mental health, spirituality, alternative therapies, and training schools - this western workshop mentality has forgotten how to hold people all the way through to the other side of Integration. There is a lack of guidance and support for people working to bring their new gifts, healing and insights into their regular lives. (and actually the personal process often starts BEFORE the event!)
Here are some tips to support this sensitive and important time:
There are a few who are keen to attend our upcoming Solstice Celebration, but are unsure of what winter solstice means or what a fire ceremony is. So I thought I’d write a wee something up for ya.
The longest night of the year has been marked by our human tribe for aeons with fire ceremonies, divination, spiritual cleansing & purging as well as intention setting, story telling, manifesting and honouring the return of our life giving Sun.
It is the beginning of Winter where we shift into the feminine half of the year, the long time of dark womb-like home-stay. We turn inward and call on the latent medicine of dreaming, finding the seeds of intention to germinate and plant in the Spring for metaphoric sprouting in our day-to-day lives.
There are many customs around the world for this time of year, some jump over the fires to burn away troubles, for luck, purification or wish making. Some cultures parade with homemade candle lanterns or create little candle boats to call back the Sun. And some, like we will this Solstice, build a sacred fire to help us transform energy, limitations, or old unhelpful patterns.
There is a very effective process that can be taken as deeply as you like, to clear and transmute, tailored to your personal needs. Keep it fairly surface level and let go of a dynamic with a disgruntled neighbour or take it deeper and let go of old wounds from childhood trauma. Sweetly, one is able to have a private experience while being held in the safe and supportive container of the collective. As we empty out and release what we need to, we also have ability to fill back up with goodness just when we need it most. At the fire ceremonies I host, each person spends time infusing our medicinal water with blessings, love, light, healing and vitality. This we drink as desired throughout the releasing process.
We will also spend time in a grounding meditation and embark on a beautiful healing technique known as Transfiguration where we draw on, and radiate out healing essence from a divine source and envision ourselves, our homes, our tribes, our earth – all in their most perfect divine state.
Its all big, good soul work. An energetic/spiritual maintenance practice, something to do periodically. You will be held each step of the way with guidance, tips, encouragement, humour, love and the promise of great food and company afterward!
There is something about a Dark Night of the Soul that is indescribable. It is not depression, though often mistaken for it as it shares some similar aspects, but a Dark Night of the Soul has a Spiritual element to it. Somehow you know something greater is afoot for you to pass through, a test of faith that shakes the very foundation of everything you know, sometimes even destroying those foundations. Despite its name, this generally lasts many days and nights, not just one. There is a pause, a disconnect, a definite blanket damping out the light even if one is able to periodically resurface with laughter and short times of ease. It may not be apparent to others and it may take you some time to realize a Dark Night of the Soul for what it is. The expression “the night is darkest before the dawn” is meant to give hope, but when you are in the middle of it, dawn seems impossibly far away. That is why this elixir was created. To help ease this journey and shift into the light again while still retaining the higher purpose of the Dark Night.
Lovingly Prepared With:
Rain Drops & the First Snows – Some medicine traditions believe the Rain blesses us and bestows forgiveness. The water that holds the imprint of the energy and crystals used was rain water & gently falling snow gathered during the darkest nights of the year, and coincided with my own Dark Nights. There was a deep knowing this gentle blessing water gifted from Nature was meant to soothe aching hearts & souls.
Mookaite – the piece of Australian Jasper used looks just like the yolk of an egg with a little wriggly red line from an edge to the center. Immediately this piece spoke to me of being nurtured and held like a baby and of new beginnings. Mookaite supports, sustains, brings peace and a feeling of wholeness during times of stress. It is great for times of difficult decision making as it helps us to accept change while discovering all the possibilities in a situation in order to choose the right one. Mookaite eliminates and blocks unwanted outside influences providing a protective shield against negative or dangerous situations, while promoting renewed energy, new ideas, enthusiasm and kindness within us.
Hiddenite – a crystal of renewal, providing hope in difficult circumstances, Hiddenite helps in healing deep psychic wounds of the heart and dispels negativity, shielding the body’s energy fields from unwanted energies and influences. This crystal provides a constant pulse of loving heart energy.
Selenite – remarkably peaceful carrying a very high vibration, instilling clarity of mind and a deep sense of inner peace. Selenite also cleanses and charges other the other gemstones, while being a powerful aid in psychic communication for interaction with wise ancestors, angles and spirit guides.
As mentioned above, the water and intention of this elixir was gathered over many nights of my own Dark Night of the Soul. On the auspicious Winter Solstice of 2012, the longest night of the year, I felt a shift from darkness to light in my being and knew the time had come. After a ceremonial despacho and a shamanic journey to An Cailleach for guidance, this elixir was created during the time cited by ancient Mayans for the great shift of consciousness as we make our way out of the depths of a Bronze Age and begin to head toward a new Golden Age. On the first morning of this new age the sun’s rays further empowered this elixir – truly bringing the Dawn to a Dark Night.
A bean feasa of Gaelic heritage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.