and the Need for Praise
It’s Christmas Day 2019 and as the tumultuous year of 2019 draws to a close, I feel melancholic. This morning about 4 am, a dear priestess sister died in a hospice bed in Asheville, after a difficult death process. Thirteen of us priestess sisters from my lineage had been energetically gathering around her and her priestess sister partner for the past week or so, as it became clear she might be in her last days or weeks. We managed to quickly put many support pieces in place so that she and her beloved could experience a conscious blissful deathing process, but her soul had other plans. Even so, she received visits, many words of love, and outpourings of energy and prayers coming to her from many directions before she left. Now comes the time for grieving that she has left this earth, praise for her many gifts and contributions, and eventually a celebration of her life.
Two weeks ago Lucky died, a dog whom Gary and I inherited in early 2014 after my stepfather’s death. He was with Gary in California. Then 5 days later, my beloved kitty, Cali, who had been blind for the past 9 months, died quickly in front of me. I had just gotten home from a trip and had just walked in the door from a meeting. Although there are blessings and relief in these passings because of the level of energy it takes for us to care for them when they are ill, the sorrow has been all-encompassing lately.
I am also a reader for Tammy Billups not-yet-released book called Animal Soul Contracts: Sacred Agreements for Shared Evolution. I had been reading the chapter on Sacred Transitions that featured my story about a previous beloved dog’s (Lily) passing years ago, and Lucky’s story. The synchronicities of these last few days have been uncanny and obviously engineered to keep my heart wide open. I had just completed grieving Lucky and then Cali, and was tearfully reminiscing about Lily’s death ceremony in Tammy’s book when my sister-friend died.
If you have read my previous two blogs on PTSD and the Death Wish (scroll down here to find them under this blog), you may resonate with me when I say that being in Earth School right now is challenging. I have been asking Spirit to show me where I am next meant to be of service, and suddenly these and other situations presented themselves, all at the same time! If you do not have a disaster, a tragedy, a need or a crisis around you, you are blessed. However, you might be called at any moment to step up, and step into, a situation that needs just who you are. That is a blessing too. We are here to serve in whatever way is ours to do. That service serves our soul’s evolution and gives us purpose.
So let’s talk about grief. Are you able to grieve when you lose someone or something dear to you? What do you feel? Do you go numb? Do you freeze up? Do you distract yourself? Do you self-medicate with food, drugs, alcohol, and busy-ness? If that’s your usual habit, try breathing and going deeper. Find your sadness, even if it is painful. Open to tears, and not just a few. Go even deeper. Breathe. Feel and stay with it till you can cry, keen, wail, and call out your pain. Play music that makes you sad. Find someone to hold you, and if you do not have someone, hire a healer to help you get there.
Attend a grief ritual in your area. They are happening everywhere these days, as we wake up to the gift that death is. You can go here for a beautiful 27-minute video called “The Gifts of Grief” by my sister-friend Melody LeBaron. Schedule a Shamanic Breathwork™ session (see the series based on these blogs that starts in late January here in my community) It may take a while and you may have to go back to your grief many times. You will know when you are complete, for the moment. I find that my initial grieving is intense and deep. Then it comes up when it is triggered by other grief, for the world, for a friend’s animal passing, for a friend’s grief or a story or song that evokes sadness. I don’t apologize or feel shame or guilt, I just let it flow until it is done. Our grieving is as unique as we are. As you will see, the ability to grieve is essential for many reasons.
Joe and I have been reading the work of Martin Prechtel and in particular his recent book The Smell of Dust on Rain: Grief and Praise. Martin is one of the first teachers to speak about the need for grief and praise, as food that the dying and the dead need to be able to make their way across the veil. Other teachers and students of Martin’s have followed this guidance. Many cultures tell stories about the dying, talk to them about their lives, sing their praises, speak gratitude for the gifts they have brought, and celebrate them with more stories and praise after they have gone. They cry out loud and have professional wailers and keeners to do this for them and with them.
Our western culture has been afraid of loss and death, and we are in need of a have a reeducation so that we can approach the inevitable in a healthier way. It’s as if we abandon our dead because we do not know how to honor them, or face our own grief. It is typical for divorces to happen after a child dies, for friends to disappear when someone is dying or is very ill, and when we lose an animal beloved, for us to try to forget and move on. After all, didn’t we learn to never talk to a dying person about dying, and didn’t we also learn when an animal dies that it was just an animal?
The better approach would be to value those that have died in every way you can out loud, and let them and everyone know what their contribution was to this world. In my priestess sister Toby Evan‘s 2019 book Dead, But Not Gone: Are You Part of the Soul-Bridge to Guide Them Home she recounts stories of many souls and large groups of souls who have been earthbound because they died suddenly, were not prepared, were confused, had no belief in any life after death, were too attached to people who could not let them go, stayed with a leader who did not leave, or were just not honored. As a healer and empath who has been visited by earthbound souls her entire life, she shows us how to honor those who have passed so they can have another chance to meet with their Higher Self and go to their spiritual destination. I had no idea that there were so many that needed this kind of assistance. At present Toby is using her prairie labyrinth and working with many around the world to create Soul-Bridge Crossings for the four primary races, which will likely lighten up the earth in powerful ways to come.
Part of the grief and praise that is called for now is for the peoples of the world who have been persecuted, dominated, stolen from, enslaved, and worse. These are our ancestors. We come from these people, and everyone has experienced the cruelty of the dominators and controllers of the world in some way. Remembering is an important step that can lead to forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and maybe even restitution. Wouldn’t it be liberating to see the USA make amends to Native Americans, to African-Americans and other cultures that simply came here for refuge, and instead found cruelty? What a joyous day that will be when we can actually openly celebrate all the gifts these people have added to our own cultures in a good way.
Melody LeBaron says that grief that is buried alive never dies. It ends up in the lungs (in many healing systems the lungs are directly connected to the emotion of grief), and can cause lung issues, heart issues, depression, anxiety, and emotional coldness and cruelty, either toward self or others. Un-processed grief may be an underlying cause of the loss of heart in the world right now. Think of all the wars this planet and its creatures have endured and humans have participated in through the ages. Imagine the millions of ungrieved soldiers that have died alone in battle, and the many “civilians” murdered in acts of war.
Grief that is not allowed to be fully witnessed and expressed has the potential to turn on us, and diminish our life force. It does not matter if that grief is covered over by PTSD, anger, self-medication or addiction. It can be unearthed and healed with healthy grieving and healthy praise. Another teacher that has been helpful to me in my own grieving is Frances Weller. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief he quotes William Blake who says “the deeper the sorrow the greater the joy”. Francis says when we send our grief into exile we simultaneously condemn our lives to an absence of joy. Melody also says that whatever we grieve well and integrate within us, becomes part of the medicine we carry for others, who will inevitably need our wisdom at a future time for their grief.
If you’ve not yet done so, do yourself a favor and begin to work with your grief. If you are already grieving someone, honor your process, affirm yourself, and take your time. Name what you have not yet grieved. Let yourself bravely look at those pictures, or read those letters, or pick up one of the books I have mentioned about death, dying and grieving or watch Stephen Jenkinson’s film Griefwalker or his book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul Perhaps there is a book a friend has highly recommended. Do ceremony to honor your beloveds on special days, and if you have a beloved or an animal companion die, honor her with a poem, a memorial, and/or a special memorial altar or wall.
I leave you with a poem my partner Joe wrote for Cali, and a picture of my memorial wall. Enjoy, and if the tears come for goddess sake, please enjoy the liquid nourishment they give your heart!
by Joe Landwehr
I hear tell that you lived a life of brave adventure,
and that in your day, you were a feisty force to be reckoned with.
I knew you only as a buddha cat, descending more deeply into silent wisdom and grace
as blindness swallowed you.
Even then, you sought the occasional adventure,
and found your own way around
with patient probing of the edge.
But mostly you were a supreme teacher of presence,
responding to touch and sound
but mostly riding the ethereal airwaves
in that uncanny way that only master cats can do.
We, your slow and wayward students,
will miss you sadly.
I hope wherever you are now,
it rains kitty treats
and there are plenty of new adventures to be had
worthy of your sweet and sassy heart.
May you remember our love, and may it guide your way through the darkness
into the light.
This is the 2nd in a series of 4 blogs. Scroll up to see the 1st in the series called PTSD: A Prevailing Condition of Our Time. The 3rd in the series will be posted in early January and will be called Conscious Grieving and the Need for Praise. The 4th in the series in February will be entitled New Earth Unity Consciousness: A Possible Future.
If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
I’m ready, my lord
There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame
They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim….
Notice that Leonard Cohen seems to be talking to God, and the word “hineni” in the chorus is a Jewish word that means “I am here”. Jewish scholars say this is what Abraham said to God when God wanted him to sacrifice his only son for Him. Is Leonard barely veiling the idea that humanity is offering itself up as a sacrifice? The death and destruction on earth right now certainly could lead us to that conclusion, and that humanity has a “death wish”.
Have you ever heard someone say “I want to go home” or “I just don’t want to be here anymore”, as if they can simply decide that their time on earth is over and catch the next space ship out? I have heard it frequently in my psychotherapy practice, and it seems more frequent lately as our personal and planetary challenges intensify. This is not usually a suicidal threat, but it’s definitely a cry for help. Are many of us not equipped with the physical~emotional~mental~spiritual resources to see our lives through? Do we imagine that there is some ideal place somewhere beyond here where we will be accepted, loved, comforted, and taken care of? There are plenty of suicides to attest to the idea that some do manage to get out, and many who have had near-death experiences lead us to believe it is indeed better on the other side. However, we are here in Earth School for a reason!
Another way that death wish can surface is around how a person neglects, ignores or goes into denial around self-care, or blatantly destroys their health through negative habits. I come from a family where all three of my parents (including a step-father) died of lung cancer and all of them were chronic smokers. I smoked in my 20’s and 30’s off and on, but then with great difficulty finally stopped right before I turned 40. I definitely got a sense of being self-destructive when I found it difficult to stick with other healthy habits, rationalizing that “well, I smoke so how is that (healthy habit) really going to help me?”
Is the world around us really that bad? The answer for most people is yes, and all you have to do is read your friends’ Facebook posts or watch the news to agree. But human beings are strong, and collectively we have survived many thousands of years of difficult circumstances, and here we are, still pushing on. And maybe that’s the issue. Perhaps many are just tired of the pushing, pulling, carrying, suffering and enduring that life offers them. Ending life may seem like an easier way out. “One Nation Under Stress”, a recently released and highly recommended HBO film, starts out with this statement: “In the 60’s Americans had among the highest life expectancy in the world. Today the USA ranks at the bottom of major developed nations”. We are experiencing several epidemics in our country, but the three major causes of death, which are also called “deaths of despair” are cirrhosis of the liver, drug overdose (primarily opioids and prescription pain-killers), and suicide. There are more suicides by handguns than homicides! Loneliness, economic inequity, job loss, all under the category of ongoing continual stress is seen as the underlying cause. We are a nation of people in addiction and survival mode, attempting to self-medicate to escape deep pain. And, we apparently don’t have enough community~family~social support to sustain us. Amazingly, the film mentioned the “Hispanic Paradox” which is that Hispanics with their tight-knit communities are doing better than whites and blacks. White people in fact, between the ages of 24 and 55, are at the greatest risk of poor health, addiction and suicide.
A few years ago I read the latest research on the yugas, four 6,500-year long Ages, that move us through a 26,000 year cycle of 2,400 years each. In the first Satya Yuga, it is said that humanity had all of it’s collective heart; in the second Treta Yuga we ended up with 3/4 of our heart; in the third Dvapara Yuga we were left with 1/2 of our collective heart, and now at the end of the last yuga, called the Kali Yuga, we are left with only 1/4 of our collective heart. Does it seem as if there is more cruelty and heartlessness in the world? We are being called to look at our own darkness, feel our emotions, listen to the marginalized voices of the children, the women, the grandmothers, animals, and nature, and claim our true compassionate humanity.
Humans have been under seige in many ways for longer than we can immediately remember. As I watched the 2nd episode in The Time of the Sixth Sun series on Healing Our Ancestral Wound, I was reminded that we are all indigenous to somewhere. Because of this, we have experienced our native lands being invaded and our way of life being taken away, perhaps over and over again. And then we have participated in doing it to others. It is time to give up war as a way to settle differences (and sacrifice our youth for the profit of corporations). War, invasion, takeover and competition have been assumptions rather than a choices for the past 6,000 years. War has caused untold suffering and ongoing PTSD for humanity. If you have a belief in reincarnation and have done past-life soul work, you may have retrieved memories of difficult lives, violent deaths, and you might have taken your own life. These memories leave soul imprints that come with us, and also come through our lineage. The death wish can be a way we try to contact and heal these ancient wounds, bringing them to the surface so that we can meet those parts of ourselves, embrace them, and let go of the trauma imprints.
There are many layers and levels to the despair, powerlessness, and hopelessness of the death wish. Collective humanity is at a crossroads now like perhaps never before. We get to make a decision whether to go on as a species or let the human experiment go by the wayside. No matter what that decision ultimately is, each of us also has a personal decision to make about how we complete our own lives, and lay the foundation for the next generation(s). We can face our own death wish, even if it is subtle and mostly unconscious. What follows are some ways to view it and to work with it.
I listened recently to a healing session on the Death Wish by David Manning, a British energy healer, who has healed himself of cancer and has had a reoccurrence. By contacting and accepting his previous lifetimes connected to the disease, he is clearing out the old imprints of despair, self-rejection, and hopelessness that lie at the root of his own death wish. What if we could vibrate these old imprints of death and destruction right out of our bodies, and reclaim the will to live? I find that I need to do this on a daily basis. Often I stand on my tile patio overlooking the Smoky Mountains in my long warm green bathrobe, and declare that I am alive, willing and able to show up for myself that day, or I dance or move in my temple to some wild percussive music, shaking out the old spirits of death and decay that might have pursued me in the night. Shamanic Breathwork is also a great way to move out the depression, despair, anger, rage, and hopelessness of the death wish. Talk to me about the possibilities for doing this kind of work together.
I remember a young gay man who was seeing me for counseling in the early 90’s who frequently mentioned suicide. As a transpersonal psychotherapist I told him that my belief was that if we did not complete what we came here to do, and instead ended our own life, there was a chance we would need to immediately reincarnate to finish up. I don’t know if this is true, but it was a good way to get him to think about what he came here to do instead of continually and dramatically posturing around suicidal thoughts. It worked, and he told me years later in a mock angry tone that it kept him here whether he wanted to be here or not!
There is a reason we all showed up together on planet Earth at this time. Each of us has a purpose, a mission large or small, and a blueprint to carry it out. Each of us is perfectly equipped to do what we came here to do. There are many positive changes happening and solutions being pioneered that we do not see in the news. I was honored to witness a ceremonial concert given by Pueblo Musician and story-teller Robert Mirabel, who said “this is the generation that is being called to fall in love with the earth again”. Everywhere I hear and see how young people have fallen in love with the earth again, and are leading the way towards cleaning up the earth and creating a new earth. Can we find the will, the commitment, and open to our higher selves to call in the inspiration, energy and resources to complete our mission here?
Speaking for myself, I can only do the best I can do, which is my part of the great plan for this age, in whatever time I have left. I must be be inspired and reminded daily to get present with myself, move, vibrate, set intentions and open to new possibilities, one day at a time.
If you have work to do to clear out past trauma, understand your life purpose, and open to new possibilities, consider doing some work with me in the near future. 2020 may be your year to change your life. As my Shamanic Teachers River and Diamond have taught me, change can happen at point easy, at point uncomfortable, at point difficult or at point painful, or at point crisis. Go here for options for personal or couples intensives, here for my on-line brochure and here to contact me. As we do the work, it ripples out to the children and back through our ancestors, and out to the world, paving the way for others to come behind us.
Letting Go and Moving On: A Shamanic Initiation of the Heart
by Anyaa McAndrew
A few weeks ago, I made a life decision: to let go of a certain kind of work I have been offering to the world since early 2000. It is clear to me that this is a crossroads I have been facing for the past few years, yet every time I facilitated a Shamanic Priestess circle, I was so inspired by the consciousness of the women who stepped forward, and the quality of the work we did together, that I kept saying, “Ok, one more year….”. Years ago I had the opportunity to do what so many others do; to put my work into an on-line format, but the Goddess said “no, it needs to be in-person….too much would be lost in the translation.” So, I kept beating the drum, and the women came, and those who wanted to apprentice, and take this work into their own lives came, and I continued to feel on-purpose.
Now, finally, the time has come, as I move into the winter of my life, to pull in my energy from the temple of the world that has been the way we priestesses walk, and let others carry it on. The Divine Feminine has been seeded by me, and by hundreds and thousands of women worldwide, some self-proclaimed as priestesses and bravely declaring it, and some who have clearly walked the path of the sacred woman of wisdom in quiet solo ways. I honor the priestess in all of us, as my teacher Nicole Christine did. So many of us have been on assignment to do this work! I lay down the path I have carved….through the density of the patriarchy….in these most chilling and challenging of times. I have one last circle~retreat I am facilitating here in early April at my Isis Cove Community here in the Smoky Mountains, and I am anticipating a pretty powerful end-cap to these past 20 years!
Our beautiful Medicine Wheel is our Earth Temple on Dove Mountain. Consisting of 37 stones, each weighing about 1000-2000lbs, the Medicine Wheel has been used for weddings, vision quests and all night ceremonies. Seekers come to this site to connect with healing energies of earth, their ancestors and animal totems. The Medicine Wheel on Dove Mountain is a powerful place to visit and re-member who it is you came here to be.
We will do some of our priestess ceremonies here.
I am a psychotherapist and an astrologer, so I have been tracking my own initiation cycles, wondering what my next soul purpose might be. In my mind I was dreaming of deeper relaxation and renewal. But now I feel my soul may have another agenda. I returned home in late February (less than a week ago as I write this) and woke up the next morning to an email about the end of the annual 6-month dolphin hunt in Japan, and I opened it. I rarely do this because I get so emotionally triggered, but I was compelled to thoroughly read about this recent carnage to dolphins. I believe as others do, that dolphons and whales never intended to be food for humans when they came here, but to carry a certain kind of consciousness from our origins in the stars. Some animals seem to be from the stars, as my Westie Lily was, and some are more connected to the earth. It seems to be the same with us humans. I found myself exploding with grief, so took it to our exquisite community Medicine Wheel, created by Venus Rising. I recently read a incredible book by my priestess sister Toby Evans called Dead But Not Gone: Are You Part of the Soul-Bridge to Guide Them Home? In that moment I wondered if perhaps I was a soul-bridge for animals. I carry a compassion for animals, including my own fur-kids, that goes beyond ordinary compassion. So, in the rain, I ceremonially walked the Medicine Wheel three times counter-clockwise to open the center as a portal for these dolphins, honoring them, the directions, the ancestors, calling in their Oversouls, and all dolphins and whales who needed a soul-bridge to ascend to their next level of evolution. When I completed, my partner Joe and I noticed that the rain intensified for a few minutes. I considered this an omen.
9 years ago we brought Ena home from a rescue organization in KY
Very early Saturday morning about 2 am, my 10-yr old Cairn Terrier girl Ena, went into a mysterious and severe healing crisis that caused me to drive an hour through the mountains, to an emergency vet hospital where I had to leave her overnight. We noticed a few symptoms earlier in the day but nothing like this. Earlier on Friday, I started her on some natural medicines till we could get to her vet on Monday. I walked the Medicine Wheel the next day in the same way, this time asking for a miracle, or to open a portal for her release. I was informed later that day that Ena was in serious condition with no clear path to recovery. Joe, Prince my boy-dog and I drove back to Asheville soon after, and with the help of our animal healer Tammy Billups energetically connecting to her in a way so familiar to Ena, we assisted her in crossing over the Rainbow Bridge. It was a compassionate, heartbreaking, and courageous experience for all of us, especially Ena and me. It all happened in about 14 hours, barely enough time to say good-bye. Many of you know very well from your own experiences with your four-legged Beloveds (and your human Beloveds) how heart-wrenching this is. We are in a deep quiet grief at my house, where Ena was, as Joe says, “the life of the party”. We brought her body home with us for closure: for us, our other animals and her human friends. The next day Lindi and Joe cermonially wrapped her in blankets, and with eleven of us circled up, and one dog attending, we buried her behind the garden. We will plant flowers soon, when I can find my way to celebrating Spring.
She has a beautifully carved wooden headstone to mark her grave, created by Ray, a generous community member.
I had no idea that the universe would need to take my Ena-girl when I committed to finding a new purpose, but I understand in the great cycle of things that this heart-wrenching-open initiation is likely a part of it all. It will take me some time to fully integrate and it will take some commitment to keep my heart fully open. And, as I initiate and ordain several new priestesses soon, I will be completing a heart intiation into a new and as yet uncharted phase of my life. Thank you for reading my story. My hope is that it touches your heart, and renews your reverence for all life, and awakens the Sacred Witness within you.
a heart-opening charmer of a dog –
I hope where you’re going,
there are plenty of squirrels,
imaginary and real
for you to chase,
and treats to eat that can’t be beat.
and plenty of hands to nuzzle under,
plenty of hearts to melt,
plenty of princes to provoke,
and forever fresh reminders
of just how deeply you are loved.
I am but one of many who will miss you,
your bark, your tender feistiness, your sulky shyness,
your morning glee, your irrepressible spirit,
just having you there to greet me, not just with
unconditional love, but also
with boundless enthusiasm…
is a gift beyond measure.
It’s enough to break down any wall, any barrier, any block to love…
How exactly is that you do this magic?
Even now, as your body lies still in that flimsy cardboard box,
you touch the hearts of everyone in this circle,
radiating outward farther than eyes can see,
something so beautiful,
that we can only smile as we cry in its passing,
dear Ena Bodina,
thank you for touching my life with your paw.
by Joe Landwehr 3/3/19
The Global Vision: A World that Works for Everyone and for All Creation
Where all life is honored as expressions of the Divine
Where people live according to spiritual truth
Where humanity awakens to spiritual magnificence
Where humanity rediscovers personal creative power
Where we live as one global family
Where kinship with all life prospers
Where unity and connection is emphasized
Where forgiveness is the norm
Where spiritual guidance is valued
Where we are called to conscious social action
Where people have enough food, homes and a sense of belonging
Where there is peace, harmony, and justice for all.
Where resources are valued, cared for, and shared
Where communities are meaningfully involved in service to the world
Where there is a renewed emphasis on beauty, nature, creativity, art, and aesthetics
We envision a world that works for everyone and for all of creation
Solstice, Holyday, Holiday and New Years’ Blessings to you and your Beloveds,
Anyaa McAndrew & Joe Landwehr