Welcome to "Shamanism and Animals"
After more than 20 years of being a shamanic practitioner, and 17 of being a teacher, my work has evolved as the spirits have intended.
The first ten years of my practice, I worked hard at learning all I could about core shamanism from indigenous teachings, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and, of course, my spirits.
If you are willing to work hard enough and long enough, and if you are lucky enough to be called, your helping spirits will start leading you in new directions. And when you get smart enough, and I often say I am a very slow study when it comes to my helping spirits, you realize that although you adore all aspects of the work, the spirits are whispering to, and sometimes trumpeting at, you to develop new work, undiscovered work. To explore something new.
That is the case with me and animals. When I took my first journey, my dog Star Gazer was with me. He saved my life on that journey. He insisted on being present in the studio when clients came. He was a superb shaman. He journeyed, and he cured clients. He taught me how to understand my clients in whole, new ways -- ways only a dog could teach.
When he died, he continued to work with me. And before his death, he announced he would be coming back in a whole, new body "because our work is not finished." You can read all about him, and the great gift he gave us -- a bearded collie called Star Gazer's Lily.
His newest work (yes, years after his death we are still working in tandem in some ways, although now he is a helping spirit and is doing work all his own with others) is something I need to write about. Soon, I promise!
But my work called me deeply into doing work for bears, too. For years, I wrote about the Star Gazer's Shamanic Moon Bear Project in the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Journal. You can read about this work in the article, The Radical Teaching That Changed Everything: With love, from the Moon Bears, which appears in both the articles section and my blog.
For a long time, my animal work was solely concentrated on serving ill or dying animals. And working with their human companions if they were companion animals. This work is not outside the realm of core shamanic practitioner work. In some ways, it is a combination of animal communication and curative work.
But now, a new path has finally been born. And that is work that seeks to go beyond animal communication
In the first class of a number of classes I will be developing over time, a class called "Companion Animals 101," people will not own learn how to communicate with their animals, but also begin to discover why their animal came to them, and how that animal can teach her beloved human how to become a better animal, how to become an animal human who can actually live in harmony with the One Tribe Only.
Why do this work? The question is best answered in The Radical Teaching... article. But the short answer is this. Humans believe, as a culture, that we are superior to other members of the one tribe only. This, I believe, is deeply rooted in American culture because our most dominate religion in our culture is Chrisitianity, which teaches us that we have dominion over the animals.
Oh, how I wish it had said, "you are an animal and live among them, equal to them, not greater or lesser." Because that is the truth. Claiming dominion and superiority presumes that our skills, talents and understandings are somehow greater than those of our animal brethren. I simply do not, cannot believe that. My dog Lily smells 5,000 times better than I do, and because of this, can actually smell emotion. All animals have their amazing skills and strengths. We admire bears for their strength and power, horses for their ability to race the sky, and elephants for their compassion.
We live believing we are better at great, great cost. And I do see a real connection between the chaos and suffering in the world now, and the price we all pay for holding on to the notion that we are superior. We need to get out of denial, to ask pardon for our actions. The frustration conscious people feel has not fully been explored as yet, I believe. We recycle. We buy organic. We use less fossil fuel. We support fair trade. Or manu of us do.
But still, signs of our exploitation and our unconscious identification with the notion that we have the right to dominate are seen in endless ways throughout our days. It is so easy to become discouraged, disempowered. It is so easy to point the finger at others and even to say, yes, I bear responsibility, too.
But I believe we have not gone nearly far enough. Not far enough to actually create new ways of being, new ways of working with the moment's of our day. We still have are mostly numb, and that is because taking on all the shame of being a member of a species that is killing so many others is so bleak and so heartbreaking.
The thing is, that is where the work begins and not where the work ends. We do not yet know the end of our work. I do know this, though. We need to break through the denial and shame, yes, but then we need to find ways to hold ourselves and all others in compassion. True compassion.
Right now, it seems that this is my work in the world. To help humans become animal human. To kneel, and with true love and admiration, ask the other animals to be our Teachers. Not our Power Animals -- they have been our teachers since we first learned to journey. But the ordinary reality animals.
In our culture, we say we love nature, but do not always abide in the truth that we ARE nature. Other animals do not have this problem. My dog Lily can sleep on her back on her bed, but often prefers the den she has dug in the backyard. She is the Queen of Kisses and Joy when we cuddle together. And a stealthy pirate and master thief. I have learned so much about what intention REALLY is by watching Lily herd sheep. Every cell, ever heart beat if focused. She is ALL in. No second thoughts. Nothing distracts her.
Reality is shaped by intention first. What is your intention? Do you feel ashamed of our species? Do you feel humans are somehow isolated from their true nature and their true potential? Me, too. We feel it so deeply, most of us who are sensitives, but we do not know how to change it. And that makes us feel powerless and afraid.
I am not suggesting that this new work, these new classes will be the only solution to our primary dilemma. But for people who love animals, the animals can teach us in wholly new ways if we are prepared to listen and learn. To practice the lessons they give us. Practical and transcendent, I have found my life has been changed by working with the animals. I am a better animal human because of it, and after 20 years, and only beginning now to scratch the surface.
I hope you will join me. This new class will be posted soon as a weekend workshop that I hope to host all around western Washington. It will be open to all people who love animals. No former training is required, although if you have already done the FSS Way of the Shaman, you'll have a leg up.
All that is required is that you have a companion animal you love (a dog, a cat, a ferret, a bird, a horse, etc), and the desire to do whatever it takes to learn to live as a part of nature as opposed to apart from nature. Nature is compassionate. This is not a romantic notion, but an empirical shamanic teaching. And this compassion will help you to evolve.
I hope you will join me in a class, and leaner more about this. As soon as the first beta class has concluded (it is full), I will be announcing the 2015 schedule of classes. Just like you, I am an explorer. I have a map. The ultimate destination is reclamation of our own humanity, and, therefore, respect for every being on the planet. No fair cheating. You don't get to love your animal and despise another animal (probably a human) for his actions.
We have lost our ability to live as One Tribe Only. And, believe it or not, your own dog or car or horse, may be one of the Teachers who has been trying to share ways for you to begin to heal.
Please, write firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Also, if you have a sick animal and you need a practitioner, I am here for you. Just look at Your Animal Companion to find out more.