I've been craving the wild, deep forest.
Past the edge,
the point where you question continuing on.
The point when you begin to feel deeply the beat of your heart...
in rhythm with your feet.
Your feet turn to paws.
Ears prick up.
The outer sensory layer of your body softens to take. in. everything.
Through the threshold of maybe, potentially turning back.
Deeper and deeper until you are safe once again because you are at home.
And you find your howl once again.
Your body hasn't forgotten how to move, run, hunt.
You just had to re-member. To come back home.
Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul
Filtering by Tag: shamanism
I've been craving the wild, deep forest.
The other day I was having a coffee date via Skype with a close friend who is also a soul sister/mentor/mystic. She has a knack for truth-telling in a most compassionate & loving way to which I can only aspire. We were talking about relationships, in particular the patterns and lessons you learn about yourself within each relationship. How much potential there is for growth within love and how intense, heart wrenching, and amazing it all is. And then she pointed out to me (again, very nonjudgmentally) my pattern of running in relationships. Or more accurately, running out of them. Since a large part of the work I've been diving into lately, what Bill Plotkin refers to as "Soulcraft," is recognizing old patterns in thought and behavior, relinquishing old identities, and giving up addictions, her observation struck me as something that obviously required my attention.
In his book Soulcraft, Plotkin dedicates a lot of time to the topic of patterns, why we have the ones we do, how they developed, why they were necessary at one point in our life, and why it's imperative that we untangle ourselves from them once we've accepted our journey of descent into soul. Addiction is one form of pattern, something we ALL fall into, whether it's addiction to a substance, food, shopping, sex, Facebook, checking our email 8000x a day, etc. And of course there are countless theories of WHY we develop certain addictions and how to treat them. I'm not even gonna go there today. It's Plotkin's opinion that many times, addictions are either attempts at self-initiation, because basically here in our western, non-nature-based society we no longer have cultural rites of initiation built into our education, OR an addiction is a distraction, a way we have of numbing ourselves because we feel unfulfilled, unsatisfied, trapped, claustrophobic, and we deeply know we're meant to do more in our lives than we're currently doing.
In my experience, and in my opinion, it's often a bit of both. I've distracted myself from fully feeling uncomfortable or intense feelings, from fully acknowledging that I'm feeling those uncomfortable and intense feelings, and then feeling guilty for not acknowledging or feeling those uncomfortable and intense feelings. (P.S. that's a lot of energy moving around without being released. It's best not to do it that way.)
I've also acknowledged that my journey into anorexia and bulimia was absolutely an attempt at self-initiation. Pushing my physical body to its limit, approaching that breaking point when it couldn't take anymore, allowing myself to almost physically and metaphorically disappear, diving deeply into that shadow side of my psyche that didn't feel valuable, loved, seen, or heard. Of course at the time I didn't know that's what I was trying to do, but at some level, I did know the reasons behind all of those behaviors were much deeper than body image and self-esteem issues. Something in me was seeking answers, meaning, and explanations of deeply rooted feelings and my purpose for being here on this Earth.
Anyway, back to my "running" story...
When my friend said that I realized I DO run many times a situation begins to feel out of my control or I don't see a pleasant way out. I have (had) an addiction to running. It was a deeply engrained pattern. Of course often the way out is working it THROUGH, which I also wasn't a huge fan of doing. However, being in a committed and healthy relationship now, one that I want to show up in and not run from, means having to wade through the unpleasant feelings that arise, the disagreements that occur, and the feelings that surface as a result. Not always fun, folks. Some of my ugliest shadows have shown themselves. Each time I feel like hiding, running, or otherwise pretending the discomfort and intensity isn't happening, I see that pattern in myself. I see my need for things to be comfortable and if they're not, to make them better by smoothing it over, even when it's not for the best of the relationship. I know whatever's coming up is at least partly a call to sit and feel, hear, see, and know my own soul deeper. And then it's a call to act in alignment with my soul.
"Be still and know..." - Psalm 46:10
Here's one thing I know for sure. When we can sit through all that intensity that exists within our own wounds, we see that's where our greatest opportunities for growth and brilliance lie. We can witness our own sacredness. We can act from our deepest truth rather than from an old, outgrown identity. We can allow those parts of us to die.
What are your favorite addictions? I invite you to consider seeing them as stemming from an attempt at awakening/stimulating ourselves out of what we've come to see as ordinary reality. Out of our everyday lives. Our small selves. Perhaps acknowledge them as your soul's call to initiation to a deeper level of consciousness, opening us up to a new layer of being seen, heard, or felt.
Just a little over a year ago, I wrote this post on why I don't do New Years resolutions and what I do instead. On focusing not on some particular goal, arbitrary weight, new job title, etc. that we feel like SHOULD matter to us, but rather on our CDF's (Core Desired Feelings). I told you about how (in my opinion) we show ourselves so much more compassion by focusing on how we want to FEEL rather than what we think our life (or ourselves) should look like. But here's one of my major lessons from this year: if we don't feel the "bad" stuff, we also can't feel the "good" stuff. The stuff that motivates us to ACT because we want those feelings. We want to feel desired, empowered, radiant, loved, abundant, embodied. But if we don't witness the "bad" feelings, if we shut down, become numb, and deny the uncomfortable feelings, we block the feelings that we're actively trying to invite in!
As someone who spent a very long time in the seductive, addictive grasp of an eating disorder, I know a few things about shutting down. When I allowed myself to become aware of the compulsion behind the behaviors, it was so simple. I was afraid of feeling. I had zero trust in my ability to deal with anxiety, grief, and anger that I wouldn't even sit still long enough to allow it to come into my consciousness. So it stayed in my physical and energetic body, making me sick, making me angry and then feel shame about that anger. It swirled around in my belly, my pelvis, and my heart creating what I felt as so much ugliness and shame that I didn't know how to even articulate asking for help.
This year has been one of HUGE growth, initiations, lessons, and incredible teachers. One thing I've learned is this: Sometimes, when your soul has decided that you've had enough, when a pattern has finally been exhausted and it's time to move on, some sort of cosmic switch is flipped and it's almost effortless to let it go. There came a day when I found the inner strength to say, "Nope, not this time. I'm going to sit with myself through this moment of total-freak-out-anxiety and see what happens."
And the world didn't end. I cried what felt like tears of pure energy being released. The next day it came up again, and I sat again. It wasn't a moment of white-knuckling through it. It was a moment of grace, a conscious decision to allow awareness to heal old wounds. I finally understood at a very deep and visceral level that nothing can be healed if you're not willing to hold it in your awareness with compassion. Awareness, as one of my favorite people says all the time, is the container for alchemy.
So my INTENTION for this year is to witness more of myself with deep compassion. No judgment, just love, understanding, and forgiveness.
*I'm not sure who said this, but it wasn't me so I can't take credit...*
"Its not who you are that holds you back; its who you think you are not."
With this new level of awareness, I intend to release old versions of myself. The ones that feel too small. The ones that hide from her own brightness.
And now to move into the light...
Wild Grace is shifting, shedding, growing, playing, and experiencing a lot. In contrast to the typical summer energetics of expansion and opening, the last few months have been a time of contraction, going inward, craving quietness, contemplation, exploring the inner terrain of my own soul and how it's reflected in my business, and allowing myself to be guided by my intuition, spirit guides, passions, and deep desires. I've been listening to the plants I use in my medicine in new ways, experiencing them rather than simply learning about them intellectually. Understanding that they have so much more to teach us than we ever thought possible. That we can learn so much from our environment, the spirits that inhabit the local trees, rivers, meadows, tide pools, and deserts that must be understood through communicating with them rather than reading about them.
Recently, I journeyed with Datura, one of my favorites of the poisonous plants, and thought I'd share with you the wisdom she has for us...
First came visions of canyons, ancient tree groves, old gnarled twisted trees extending their roots and branches out to take up as much space as this space will allow. Damp, mossy, loamy forest floors, echoing our shadow places, the darkness so many of us are afraid to explore and experience even though it makes itself known in numerous ways every day and we don't even notice...
And then a snake wrapping itself around my low belly and hips, not tight like it's trying to constrict or squeeze, just loose heavy rings encircling my pelvis. Winding its way up my spine, around each vertebra, and I can feel the muscles soften to let her pass by. She comes up and over my right shoulder.
The shoulder that hurts. The one that holds so much and is never seen because I'm afraid of what's there. The one that's been waiting patiently for me to be quiet, sit down, lie down, settle down, and cool down. So patient. Just waiting. For me to let go of my anger to see there's another way to release this fire, to be seen and heard. Okay love, I'm listening...
She speaks of the wild, of the Earth Mother from which I can now see I've been hiding because she's so powerful, amoral, primal, and raw. Life means death, and death means life. Life is not happening to me, I am part of the event known as Life. An observer. A participant whose role is ever-shifting, but that will go on long after my time on this earth is over.
She speaks of a wildness that is beyond my comfort zone. One in which I go wild and let go of the things I've previously believed to hold significance, and go deeper. To listen, to honor the spirits that inhabit this environment. To hear the plants speak their wisdom not in words, but in extra-sensory experiences.
This is what my soul craves. This is what the pain is speaking of, what it is guiding me into, and where the illness originates. And it has been long enough. Through lifetimes I've heard these messages, always coming in different and new ways, speaking the same truth. Time to rewild, to step into the shadow with my light, to embrace the death, the shedding, the truth. To descend to and traverse the messy, gnarly, brokenhearted creative chaos of the primal Mother that is reflected in the terrain of my own soul.
And to explore and experience this space between worlds with lightness of heart, allowing my soul to shine in her full brightness, trusting that while we may use anger as creative fuel, it is really love that transforms, shifts, and heals the relationship with our Self, each other, and our Mother.
Usually I work with the theme of release during the Full Moon. I meditate on the old patterns, things that feel stuck that I'm ready to release, to let go of, to clear. Often I'll do some kind of releasing ritual usually involving burning things (I am a Leo after all...we love our fire) and then burying the ashes or letting the wind carry them away.
This month, however, in honor of the huge transition going on in my life (as well as I'm sure many of yours), I've been sitting with the idea not of letting go, but of surrendering. They sound like the same thing, right? Although they may be similar in definition and sometimes even outcome, to me surrendering has a different energy behind it, and so contributes a different quality to this journey through transition and change.
For most of us, change can be really uncomfortable. Even when we know it's what we need or even want, we tend to resist, freak out, lose our center, and fight to hold on to situations, people, jobs, or patterns from which our soul is ready to move on.
To say the first half of this year has been intense for most of us would be a gigantic understatement. To me, it felt like my very foundation was being shaken until everything I knew to be true crumbled, my walls were leveled, my heart broken open to reveal a softness inside I had allowed very few people to witness before now. I was knocked to my knees, literally and figuratively. My physical body changed, and sometimes it felt like those deeply engrained ways of moving, thinking, speaking, and acting were being burned away, consumed by that very fire that used to terrify me when I'd feel it rising. And when I finally surrendered to that fire, that blaze that I had been afraid would burn out of control if I didn't contain it, began to soften and reveal something brilliant underneath.
And then I could finally take a deep breath.
All that crumbling, breaking, splitting, and destruction that we've been navigating can finally lead to the most space, the most depth, the most compassion, and the most peace we've ever felt. As I look back at the aftermath of the last six months, I see the rubble of old beliefs, relationships, addictions, and roles that I had held onto for my whole life.
And now is the time when I surrender to my uncontainable and irrepressible Being within. My wild grace. My creative spirit. With all this space that's been opened up, with this unwillingness to abandon myself any longer, unwillingness to edit or hold back this wild creature that's been set free, I can finally surrender to the Wild Soul I've always known was there, waiting to be awakened and uncaged.
So it's not a letting go. I've done the necessary (for now) letting go and making space. Now is the time to surrender to my truth. Under the blessing of this Full Moon, standing in my own sacred space, I now have the necessary space to fully trust my soul to guide me.
What would happen if you sat in the fire? If you held your space, not knowing how you would come out the other side?
Dearest souls, I wanted to share a poem with you this week that echoes my own journey, and I imagine the one I share with many of you as well. Especially, the past few weeks, I've been coming back to it a lot as a sort of anthem. If you find Shiloh Sophia's work as inspiring as I do, please check out her website.
Returning to one’s self after a long voyage into the desert is the work all beings must do one day. The day will come when the absence of the missing bones and the pieces of your heart that you left on the highway to die after too many mornings waking up alone, in body or spirit or both, will require you to return. For this sacred work, a map for returning will be provided, so you can find the missing persons reports. This map is not in a language you will understand. Are you surprised? With each stop on the quest there may be a sitting-down-hard head-in-hands-wondering-why and even despair you thought you had gone beyond. Grief and wonder are the companions you will find because they are also the way through the hard to see places. Give in to them. You will be okay. I wish I could say it could be easier than this. Hiding, cutting, dismembering ourselves wasn’t so easy, was it? We did it to survive, we thought, and we wrapped up the bloodied limbs and continued on, almost soldier-like in our sacrifice of ourselves. Never mind the blood-loss of not being ourselves. Never mind not even knowing what song belongs to our mouth and what movement our body loves the most. How did we go on this way? All that is done now. No more, we say, and that is how we found ourselves here. This excavation requires specialized tools, if it didn’t bone gathering would have started long before now. Yes I know you have already started. I can see that in your tender eyes. Don’t worry, yes it is scary at first. The tools are intact for excavation and user friendly, you will find they fit your palm just so. The stranger within you knows how to use each one. She was the one yelling at you before, to listen listen listen inside the soul cave, but now that you have listened to her, she will be the one to help you see in the dark. This is the one we call the Muse. Visionary bones are made of stardust and glow in the darkness. Come. You will find them. You have to. I need you to. We need you to find them. I have gone a’ bone gathering and I found this poem here in the wet earth and brought it to you. Dust off the mud and muck and you find words dry enough to light your spark.
Some time between two and three years old, one day as I was strolling through a park with my mom and some friends, I was attacked by a gigantic blue peacock. No worries, there was no blood drawn. No mutilation occured. I think my mom was more scared than I was. All I remember is a flurry of brilliant blue feathers in my face and feeling the strong peacock feet pushing into my chest. Somewhere in a faint memory I recall everyone else freaking out and wondering if I should be doing the same. In many native cultures, a shaman-in-training will be led into the forest/wilderness to confront their spirit animal. If they survive, they've passed a major test toward becoming a medicine/warrior shaman. If they don't, well, they don't.
Back to my peacock...
For awhile now, I've been studying totemic arts with this incredible tribe, meeting my spirit animals, healing archetypal wounds, and rediscovering hidden parts of myself. This work has taken me to the deepest places of my heart, guiding me to reclaim lost parts of my soul, and helped me to see huge reservoirs of untapped power within. I've been practicing extensively how to listen to and follow my inner guides to meet my animal totems and receive the wisdom and medicine they have to offer.
Often, an experience such as the one I had with a peacock can be a sign that animal is one of our totems. When Emelie first suggested peacock as a potential totem, I had MAJOR resistance. Of course resistance (or a strong emotional reaction) to an animal is another sign that animal is one of our totems.
So I started researching peacock medicine. Looking into their behavior, patterns, habits, colorings, mythology. As soon as I opened to this incredible animal I noticed their imagery was ALL OVER my Pinterest boards, articles and photos I had cut out of magazines, long-forgotten books on my shelves, jewelry, etc.
From my research I realized peacock totems are both rare and incredibly powerful medicine. That they've been associated with mysticism, greater vision, immortality. Like the mythological phoenix, the peacock represents the rising from ashes of that which is ready to be released and sacrificed.
And then a NEW kind of resistance came up, and that voice came in saying, "You're not good enough for this animal." "It's just your ego that wants to have this totem." "What makes you think you're special, good, powerful enough to see any of this in yourself?" Not only was I afraid of claiming to reflect any part of this rare and beautiful bird, it made me incredibly uncomfortable to think I could contain any of that symbolism within my soul. It makes me squirm even now as I write about it.
And then I realized: Here's the shadow side of peacock medicine. Staying small. Believing I have too much darkness inside to heal and resurrect those parts of my soul that have been torn. Afraid of proudly displaying my vivid colors, appearing arrogant or egotistical. Feeling shame around being SEEN and told that I'm too much. Scared of my own magnetism and beauty. Unworthy. Sound familiar to anyone else?
I briefly stepped back into my small self, looking to have someone outside of me validate me and give me permission to own my peacock self. To tell me that it was okay to show off my colors, to shine, to stand out and accept the power and magic that peacock medicine has to offer. I watched myself look for that external validation, realize that's what I was doing and that ALL of my totems thus far have brought the medicine of deep listening and intuition, reflecting to me that I already have all of the answers within me. Peacock was now showing up to help me own my power, my voice, and to show off my colors. To show me that the magnetism I was afraid of was actually a HUGE ally for me!
So now, even as I feel that resistance STILL, I say to myself, "Katie, just own it." I'm done with the "not enough" the "unworthy" the "I'm too much for people so I'll just shut up, sit down, become invisible." I'm done with invisible. I'm done with seeking permission to shine. I'm listening and honoring my soul's voice and wisdom. And I'm ever-grateful to my shadow for teaching me where there's room for growth. Where the cracks appear.
For a good while now, I've been considering how to work with plants just as some coaches/practitioners work with animals. As spirit totems. Teaching how to work with plants not to only heal us physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and energetically. Understanding what they have to teach us in terms of our relationships, career, life circumstances, money, and most importantly, how to form better connections with ourselves, other people, and with the earth.
Lots of herbalists out there write beautiful and well-researched pieces on materia medica of western herbalism, herbal energetics, and the medicinal and therapeutic actions of herbs. However, I think the deepest healing occurs when we form our own relationship with the plant and learn to work with the medicine it has for us individually. This is the story of my own journey with Hawthorn, one of my foundational plant totems.
Traditionally viewed as a heart tonic, Hawthorn reminds us to be patient with ourselves, slow down, and give our heart space to breathe, be still, and speak his or her truth. Though its prickly thorns protect the heart from outside assault, that very protection is what allows it to be such a nurturing and calming spirit. It provides sacred boundaries and a soft space to rest in times of heartbreak, grief, or when the energetic heart needs a rest.
For the past few years, I've been working and learning to listen closely to the whispers (or sometimes shouts) from my heart. Establishing boundaries, softening, opening, protecting, clearing, and filling up my heart with the things she desires, yearns for, and guides me toward. It's been the hardest thing I've done so far because so often my ego wants to take over with the shoulds, the have-to's, feelings of anger, guilt, and most of the time, fear. Hawthorn came to me soon after my heart got cracked open during part of my Visionary Craniosacral training that I learned to work with the four-chambered heart (another shamanic concept that I'll write more on later). The lessons Hawthorn taught me allowed me to integrate the wisdom of my heart and of love itself, sometimes gracefully sometimes not so much.
Hawthorn is known for its associations with magic, witches, and fairies. As Darcey Blue writes, Hawthorn's "rank smelling flowers and thorns and association with spirit worlds make Hawthorn a tree of 'death' and transformation, and also of protection and caution." Death here, to me, doesn't mean literal death, but rather a shedding, releasing, letting die that which no longer serves us. The archetypal theme of life/death/rebirth.
A key element of transformation, of alchemy of the soul is in the allowing of what needs to die in order for the rebirth parts of our self. It's the Death card of the Tarot: learning how to detach and release, cutting through old patterns that bind us so that we can give birth to new forms and previously unexpressed parts of ourselves.
One of my favorite things about Hawthorn is the magical obstacles it presents to us at just the right moment. It reflects to us the exact lesson we need at the exact moment in life that we need it. Synchronicity at its finest. Somehow she knows what we're ready for, what our next lesson needs to be on our path in order for us to meet our purpose. Hawthorn will "guard you as it teaches you - sometimes strongly, sometimes gently - but always with love."
You remember a couple months ago when I created Shameless Self-Love, my 30-day video campaign to cultivate and encourage a deeper, healthier and more meaningful relationship with our bodies and souls? Each day, for 30 days straight, I made a video with tips, quotes, tidbits of wisdom, stories and journaling prompts to begin softening our hearts toward ourselves, and to learn how to wildly LOVE our own souls (here's one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLwWnaSgjmo).
Of course those videos were a way to offer some of my work to you all, to get my voice out there in a big way, and to share the wisdom I've gleaned from my own mentors. But another major part of my reason for creating those videos was for myself. To get clearer on my message, my truth, what I wanted to share and teach with my clients, and to distill what was the essence of Wild Grace. To get clear on what I feel my soul's purpose and message is to the world.
And the response to those videos from you all was AH-MAZING! I heard from people all over the world who had seen my videos on YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest, and who wanted to reach out to say how badly we all need the reminder not only to love ourselves, but how to heal those wounds that prevent us from doing so. I got such incredible feedback and so many equally inspiring questions, that I decided to write a program based on the video series, only now we're diving much, much deeper. I've been exploring how to use self-love coaching, energy work, animal totems, shamanic ritual, plant medicine, chakra work, visionary and craniosacral therapy in order to heal trauma, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other stuck patterns of behavior and beliefs. All of this work has effectively led to creating my own life coaching methodology that I CANNOT wait to share with you!
After months of writing, researching, rewriting, scrapping, and starting over, I'm officially (but unofficially) launching Wild Self-Love, a 3 month, one-on-one program to reconnect to your Wild Soul and fall madly in love with your Self with passion and grace. I say "unofficially" because it's not even on my website yet. It is brand, spankin' new. And since you're already on my list, I'm offering it to you, my incredible tribe, FIRST and at a special price...
What happens when you cultivate more self-love and connect with your Wild Soul?
- You attract better, healthier, happier, and more whole relationships, both romantically and otherwise (i.e. you have amazing friends!!)
- You manifest abundance in your life, whether it's literal financial abundance, more satisfying life experiences, or more time to do the things you love - all wonderful, valid forms of abundance
- You have the ability to create the life you crave, and the power to decide how you want to feel EVERY DAY
- Your creativity EXPLODES and you become capable of designing your life and anything within it
- Your body feels free, limitless, and light
- You know how to make yourself JOYFUL, happy, and fulfilled without looking outside of yourself in order to feel a certain way
- You feel free from past traumas, addictions, and stuck, recurring patterns that aren't serving YOU
If you're ready to fall WILDLY in love with yourself, reconnect with your SOUL and her purpose, now is your time! I offer a complimentary Self-Love discovery session for any woman interested in working together so that we can chat and make sure we're a good fit! Remember, your wise soul contains all the answers within, this work provides the space and support to tap into your inner guides and learn to listen.
I am so passionate about this body of work I've put together for you!! It's truly an honor to share it, and I can't wait to work with you...
All my love, Katie XO