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Grace

The other day I went for a run. The sun was shining. My body was enjoying the movement. My mind loved the music playing in my ears. Then suddenly, the sense of bliss became so great it stopped me in my tracks. My eyes closed, my arms remained alongside my body, while my hands turned outward in acceptance of something that seemed to be flowing into me. A few moments in this position and my arms went out and up towards the sky. This beautiful feeling continued to wash over me—pouring into my hands, down my arms, through my body, and out the bottom of my feet into the earth. I felt a strong awareness of being a conduit. I did not need to chant, meditate, or set intentions. I only needed to be there, fully open to receive. In doing so, I was allowed to experience the incredible grace that flows from heaven to earth. It runs endlessly using trees, birds, animals and even humans as funnels.

I am telling this story reluctantly. I do not feel words do it justice. Nor do I want others to tarnish it with their own opinions or explanations of what was taking place, decidedly positive or negative. However, I am writing about this experience because it is important to share what I have been “told” over and over again through such occurrences. Which is that because our bodies are connectors between the heavens and the earth, we can access and carry grace into all that we do. No matter what nationality, race, species or belief pattern someone carries, as beings of this earth, we are all connected by a gravitational pull. When we allow ourselves to be conduits for Grace, we are in effect blessing both the earth herself, as well as each individual that stands upon her through that connection. That’s powerful.

Tom, my horse, is currently at a natural horsemanship trainer. My first day riding there, Bob the trainer, asked me to back Tom up. Being watched, I felt insecure about our ability to accomplish this simple task, so I pulled hard on both reins trying to force him to step backwards. In response to my pulling on the bit in his mouth, Tom pushed against the pressure, without moving his feet. Bob gave me some sage advice that ultimately meant “do less.” I tried again and this time Tom moved back a couple steps practically in response to my thought. This gave me insight not only to a method of working with horses, but a technique for handling life—less is often more.

Reflecting on this lesson with Tom, I remembered the feeling of bliss that washed over me days prior. I have done countless activities to open to Grace. Yet, it was when I stopped ‘doing’ that an authentic faith in my integral part of the Universe grew enough to realize myself as a conscious conduit.

There are many ways to practice translating spiritual knowledge to physical action and vice versa. Working with horses is one way I choose to do so. How do you do it? My suggestion is to follow your bliss and see what opens up.

Trusting in life,
Katrina Clay
Essay from June, 2007….

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The other day, I noticed my horse Tom eating goldenrod, a weed that often gets mistaken for ragweed. I hadn’t seen him do this before, so I went to the expert in all things—google—to find a long list of benefits from it. Two of which were insect bites and wounds. Tom had sustained a cut the day before and had many, many bug bites. This amazed me and was a reminder how wise animals are about their needs and the environment. We neglect that intelligence by micromanaging their behavior and limiting their choices. There are times when they can use a bit of guidance. For example, Tom is somewhat accident-prone and it may avoid injury if I suggest he not step in a hole that I see and he doesn’t. However, we disempower our animals (dogs and cats included) when we take away their power of choice, believing that as humans we know what’s best. There was probably a time when we also understood the innate benefits of the earth’s bounty without having to look it up via a book or the internet. Now, we have so separated ourselves (as a cultural generalization) from both our innate wisdom as well as the wild, that people are more afraid to eat berries directly off a bush in the woods than those sold in stores grown with pesticides.

Later on a run, I was climbing a hill. A car drove by and the driver enthusiastically gave me a thumbs up out the window (think Alan Garner from “The Hangover” in a 1988 Oldsmobile sedan). This was a kind gesture meant as encouragement and brought me a smile. It also made me feel ridiculous, for no one encourages those who are going along doing great—it is reserved for those that are struggling. There are probably people who enjoy receiving acknowledgement in such situations; I am not one of them. Somehow it got me thinking about how as kids we are told not to listen when people put us down. Simultaneously, we are expected to accept compliments. This never felt right to me—you either listen to what everyone says or to no one. Our minds aren’t able to categorize what to hear vs. what not to, mine isn’t anyway. Neither choice is right or wrong. If you listen to everyone, simply know that hearing what they say and taking it on as truth are two separate things. If you choose to listen to no one, be mindful that you are clear about what you believe.

Another Tom story; as many of you know, I work with modern shamanic practices. Typically, I lead people on their own “journeys.” On these journeys, we are often in communication with spirit animals. Yesterday I was at the barn early and didn’t see Tom as I arrived at his paddock. When I called his name, he came galloping from around the trees towards me, reminiscent of a spirit animal approaching during a journey. This reminded me of the fine line between what we call our spiritual experiences and life in the material world. Actually, there is no line, it is all the same. Compartmentalizing devalues them both. At times we may be involved in one area more than another but in the human condition exists the union of spirit and matter, thought and action, micro and macro.

These three stories may seem unrelated. I am sharing them together to illustrate the point that we alone have authority of our lives. Following your instincts may lead you to your needed nourishment. Choosing to listen to people’s encouragement, leads you to also hear other’s pessimism—be clear what is true for you. When considering your spiritual path, remember the whole human experience is spiritual, that is what makes us alive.

It’s not hard to agree that there is an emphasis on the outer in our modern world. We even assume protection needs to come from the outside—buildings, laws, rules, regulations etc. You may know what stones or crystals will keep you ‘safe’ or the right prayers and incantations to bring light or a “system” to tell you who you are. What if we found protection and wisdom from within? What if what we choose without thought is exactly what we really need, like Tom eating Goldenrod. Wouldn’t that be of great value and less stressful than constantly checking with outside sources about what is right? We can examine astrology, consult books or go to workshops with the finest teachers, yet at the end of the day it is our selves alone living our life. Any system becomes a path of conditioning if we follow it without questioning how it applies to what we experience as our inner wisdom. Information is available at our fingertips, let us not confuse that with having sagacity. We can hide from our vulnerability in that knowledge. Leading a genuine life, one of my goals, takes regular clearing. This is what “being in the moment” or “present” means. For it isn’t just about time and space, but also clarity.

On November 6th, I’ll be presenting “Find Your Inner Shaman: The Way to Awaken Your Power” for SIMEN at the Saratoga Springs Library at 6:30. We will tap our personal wisdom and experience how to discern our truth. Looking forward to seeing you there.

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While in South Carolina, I went for a run in the woods. With a map of the trail system in my pocket, I didn’t pay much attention to my route—taking the left trail here and the right trail there. After a good run, it felt like time to head back to the house. Not really knowing where I was, I pulled out the map. It quickly became clear that a map is only a piece of paper if, like me, you don’t know corresponding points in relation to where you are or where you want to go. So, map or not, I was lost.

 

After some aimless darting, I stopped under a soaring turkey vulture and shouted up “Greetings, my friend, will you please point me in the direction of the Farm?” While standing there deciphering an answer, I felt and heard a big swoop above my head. Where there is one vulture, there are usually more, so I happily assumed that’s who was close overhead. Yet, as it got in front of my vision the huge black bird fanned out its tail, which to my astonishment was white. It then tilted its head to the right, for me to see that it too was white. A Bald Eagle! Even writing about it now makes me tingle with excitement. While it was happening, I dropped all thought and fell into my heart—where it felt bigger than the container of my body. Large enough, in fact, to touch all life and that which creates it. In addition, there was a sense of awe and or accomplishment for being acknowledged by such a majestic bird and all that the eagle represents to me. This bird’s presence gave me the feeling that all my time spent in loving appreciation of nature and wildlife had not gone unnoticed. Nor had it been wasted time, which my ego/personality is sometimes afraid of. In this heightened state of awareness, the way back was still unknown. Yet, returning to the rhythm of the run found me shortly back at home base.

 

This story has two meanings for me. The first, is to never stop paying attention to where you are simply because you have someone else’s map in your pocket. An apt metaphor for maneuvering through all of life. Secondly, doing what you love rewards you with events that make your heart and soul sing. Allowing for this song to play through you may be your greatest gift to the world, whether it pays back in cash or not.

 

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Since 2003, I have been leading people on their own modern shamanic journeys. I call them modern because in other times only shamans journeyed and they usually did it only for others. Today, as humans evolve, we are being asked more and more to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth and experience. In this evolution, some of us are also being asked to become our own shamans rather than abdicating that responsibility to anyone else. Hence, now we have the opportunity to visit the surrounding spirits for guidance.

What happens during a Journey?

The facilitator, perhaps me, drums a steady beat while leading a guided meditation. Sometimes there is just the drum and you go on your own meditation with some thought or intention, such as meeting a guide or totem animal. The beat of the drum allows your conscious mind to concentrate on something, which allows the subconscious to speak through images.

Benefits of a Journey.

Most feel a deep peace afterwards. Additionally, journeys give you the opportunity to ask your soul, or spirit guides, for guidance in your everyday life. This gives you a new understanding and perspective on your life. The modern shamanic journey is valuable for all people that are interested and willing to get to know their own self at a deeper level. Sometimes this happens by dialoguing with your soul, which is a facet of ourselves that we often silence regardless of its innate intelligence. Other ways are by giving voice to the guides that surround you. They share guidance always, yet they are unable to make you choose to follow that “advice.” The modern shamanic journey is one way to quiet yourself enough to hear what they want you to hear.

Shamanic Reiki.

There is another way to experience healing. A Shamanic Reiki session is a time to recieve the healing energies of Reiki while allowing your body to speak. In today’s modern age, we tend towards regard the body as a sort of inanimate object. We know it needs care and maintenance, but it doesn’t have much to say. In reality, it carries and holds wisdom. It knows what’s really happening for you, probably better than your thinking mind does. With Shamanic Reiki, we allow it to speak in order to gain clarity. For instance, you may have a shoulder issue, we would travel into the place that most calls to you (may be the shoulder, may be a different area) and name whatever is there hanging out. Something in a shoulder might be feelings of carrying too large a load, being overwhelmed or some emotion that is stuck in the shoulder. Once this has been named and acknowledged, it often has served its purpose and is able to move out and with it the symptoms. Clearing our bodies, is one of the most effective ways of clearing our minds.

What is a Pet Journey?

Have you wanted to deepen your relationship and understanding of your pet? I have begun a new project of creating individualized pet journeys (perhaps they will have a more elegant name in the future.) The benefits are the same as above, but we journey to dialog with your pet, preferably with s/he nearby although it can be done anywhere as your connection is beyond physical presence. I travel to your home or barn so that the animal is able to remain relaxed and comfortable. We do the guided meditation with the drum. This gives you the opportunity to shift perspective for a deeper understanding of and bond with your pet. One client said this about her experience;

“I Love Katrina and I enjoy doing any work with her! I always leave feeling grounded. Journeying with Katrina always helps me to see things differently in life and help in my journey through life. In working with my dog Miley in this way was very helpful. It gave me a much better understand of Miley’s needs. Miley is an anxious dog and needs a grounding force to help her maneuver through her life. So when we go for walks I center myself and help her to feel safe. In doing the journeying with Katrina and Miley I realized Miley was not sure this was her forever home so myself and my family have worked hard to let her know she is here to stay! Thank you Katrina for a great experience and helping me to understand Miley on a much deeper level!”

Full Moons.

Every full moon, I facilitate a modern shamanic journey. The location and attendance is always shifting. What remains true is the genuine experience of soul-level peace. In August the event will be held outside at the Saratoga Spa State Park, where we are surrounded by the wisdom of the trees. Keep in touch to find out where future Full Moons will be held. It is a great way to start your inner journey.

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My favorite place to write is anywhere outside. So, now I am on the front porch wondering how to put into words the concept that is circulating through my system. To my left is a tree with red berries that my niece call ‘bird berries’ for good reason. Much to my chagrin, this particular bush is starting to push out the lilacs as it grows. Yet, once the berries are out, I cannot imagine taking the tree down, for chickadee, tufted titmouse, cedar waxwing and especially robins love it. This year, a robin built a nest right in the middle. What seemed like overnight the eggs became fledglings. Today, the babies are out of the nest on branches in their home tree. One grabbed a berry with her beak, staring at it while seemingly considering how to maneuver the food into her mouth without dropping it. Finally, she lifted her head, opened her beak and bam in it went. While this bird had no knowledge of me (that I know of), she showed me that when something seems potentially too big to take in, you will only figure it out by just going for it. While I believe that nature and wildlife are always “teaching” us, I do not think that is their primary purpose. That baby robin is living as a robin, doing what robins are hardwired to do—grow, eat, procreate, scatter seeds, sing and whatever else that I’m unaware of. Yet, because we are in the same place, at the same time, the baby was able to show me something I needed to see, simply by doing her thing. This is either because of the natural synchronicity of life or because we all find our own meaning in what we see. Perhaps a combination of both.

Some believe that we all mirror each other. I have written about it myself, mostly in relation to the animals in my life mirroing me. Eventually, it felt like a disservice to said animals by neglecting their free will and individuality. This isn’t the best example but for instance, that bird was not mirroring me, yet it did show a wise teaching needed in that moment. While we affect each other in every interaction, just as chemicals react when mixed, it may be that what we call mirroring is the sight of our own unclaimed traits—for the better and worse—in the other. You could say then, that it is our perception that appears as a reflection. This information is useful in deepening our understanding of ourselves, but it shouldn’t be confused as the actual other person or animal.

What if instead of seeing others as mirrors, we choose to see them clearly for who they bring to the moment on our shared journey of life? How does that change the way you see the other, as well as their behavior? Again, we affect each other energetically. Yet, as I see it, we are both individuals AND an integral part of the “One.” Just as my heart, lungs and skin are completely separate entities with different functions, they make up one human being. When each organ is working properly in its own way, the whole unit thrives. To broaden it, the earth is the body and we are all working parts of that organism—individualized and integrations of the whole. Which means that all others are also individual and integrated. Can we see them clearly for that?

It seems a human need to be understood. Yet, it’s important to remember that we don’t need to be the same to experience that. I spend more time with animals than people, my dog is snoring next to me now and my afternoons are spent with a horse named Tom. All this time allows me to practice being with and loving others that see life completely differently than me—literally and figuratively. We have the same basic needs of food, shelter, family and friends. Yet, beyond that, every guess I have of what they are thinking and feeling is interpreted through my human filter. I have no grasp what it is like to have smell as my primary sense like my dog does. Nor do I comprehend what it would be like to have almost 360-degree vision as a horse does. I can imagine both, yet again its going through my human filter of understanding. Regardless, I try to observe their behaviors objectively, so as to understand them as they truly are. It has been years of releasing the desire to couple with my animals by trying to be similar; either by asking them to follow my human priorities or by trying to emulate their species. I came to realize that because of the clarity it brings, we are more connected when each is true to their own nature. This has spread to my relationships with humans, in that I am more appreciative of people for being genuinely themselves, whether that is like me or not is irrelevent. This takes a lot of clearing and is always a work in progress. For me, clearing means staying neutral and free of expectation. Put another way in the words of Don Miguel Ruiz “Don’t take anything personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.” Perhaps Pema Chodron’s words are also helpful; “The truth you believe and cling to, makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” That includes beliefs about other people, for good and bad. Stay true, my friends, get clear and stay true. Ultimately, that is all I’m saying.

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photo credit; Deborah Neary

 

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My love of all things wellness and healing began at a young age. I chose to attend my first ‘self-improvement’ weekend workshop just after graduating college. Without stating how many years ago that was, I’ll just say more than half my life has passed since. Even as a child, I often preferred sitting in trees pondering life rather than playing with other children. Contemplation has never been something I do occasionally, or when there’s a problem, instead it’s a way of life. The early workshops increased my understanding that everyone is going through something. Everyone. As well, it quickly became clear that workshops were for sharing knowledge and perhaps even more about the feeling experienced during the time together in a group. That may be a sense of belonging, joy, peace or any variety of sensations that seem to be missing from our regular life. I’ve heard over and over from people who are inspired at workshops, then find it hard to maintain that feeling once home. Simply put, a weekend is not a lifetime of practice. It’s similar to an exercise class. The first one is often inspiring because it feels great, was tons of fun, and a joy to be around new people. Yet, one class does not actually change your body. You may go to a few more still inspired by the newness. Then old habits start to creep up again, bringing back the energetic feelings we are used to; heaviness, stress, chaos, worry or fill in the blank. This is neither a sign of failure or weakness; it is the way cycles go. Real change may be closer to permanent if we anticipate this cycle. As with exercise programs, each time we come back—while inspired and while not—the more ingrained the behaviors become. The practice is no longer a separate activity we strive to continue, but an integrated part of our life. Our spirituality, for instance, is not something we only play with in meditation, or during a workshop, it is a constant way of experiencing.

For a new project, I have been reading my journals from 2006. One entry requests “Great Spirit, another thing I ask is for You and the many spirits that surround me to bless every being involved in The Healing Springs Journal —the readers, writers, and advertisers. Please share Your Grace with each person that touches any issue of HSJ. Show me how to best use the journal as an effective vehicle for wholeness. I have learned through it how to get my personality/ego out of the way. I feel now a time to create greater waves of healing both in this region as well as around the world.” On the day of writing this particular entry, my best horse friend at the time was being put to his final rest. My heart was breaking from saying goodbye to him. Yet, knowing that I was serving the community by providing empowered choices to the readers bellied the deep sorrow. This can illustrate the reciprocal nature of life. While what we do for others comes back to us, it may not be directly from the same person with whom we interacted. Also, rather than coming from another person, the ‘return’ may simply be in our own behavior. As with the feeling sense experienced during workshops, our motives or the energy we feel around our actions are what keeps coming around. We spread whatever that feeling is through the reciprocity some call karma. For this reason it is important to be ever mindful of why you are doing what you’re doing. Do you find yourself in the energy of obligation? Joy? Love? Anger? Grace? Fear? That question sounds black and white—the answer typically is not. Sometimes we are obligated to do something, yet because it is for a daughter (mother, father, friend….) we are in the energy of love. That said, there are often underlying ‘feelings’ ruling our behaviors. Let us consciously align them with what we want out in the world and what we would like repeatedly returning to us. Doing so may be considered a lifelong experiment in mindfulness, as well as our greatest contribution to the world.

A Carolina Crow

 

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  1. Life is about living your experiences, not thinking them.
  2. Words are only a tool, real communication happens through energy.
  3. We are always connected through our heart centers.
  4. Saying goodbye through death is sad, yet it doesn’t erase the memories or the love.
  5. There is no replacement for each specific animal, so its ok to supplement the sadness of goodbye with the joys of new relationships.
  6. Animals want humans to engage with them rather than micromanage them.
  7. Happiness is not something to strive for but something you simply are.
  8. Humans have a hard time letting go of the notion that their way of understanding and being is superior to animals. Through this, they tend towards wanting to convert animals into little humans (or large humans, depending on the species.)
  9. Animals interact with the world quite differently than humans, and that’s ok.
  10. Humans dislike fear and often cover up that they feel it by trying to control, name, label and instruct others.
  11. Animals have strong problem-solving skills. Without them they would not have lasted through harsh winters, droughts, or predation. Hence, their ability and need to think clearly without being told how to respond is much greater than humans believe or trust.
  12. We are all animals, humans included. With that, our basic needs are the same, both physically and emotionally. The ways in which we meet these needs is all that differs.
  13. Every animal and relationship is different. What works for one, does not work for another. We animals are always adjusting, humans often don’t notice.
  14. Animals are hardwired to have and make choices. This has been taken away in most cases of domestication. Please allow us to decide some things for ourselves.
  15. Relationships are animal’s lifeblood. Humans are wise to remember this in every interaction. We are always aware of your feelings.

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