Soul vs Ego

“You do not have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.”

—C.S. Lewis

Soul or ego? After asking myself this often, I’ve concluded that we do not choose one at the exclusion of the other, they are both integral parts of ourselves. Yet, these two facets typically have different priorities and which one we give our allegiance to creates a very different focus to our life, even when doing exactly the same activities. For example, egos like definitives, comfort, same-ness, accomplishments, and end results. Souls adore depth, experiences, growth, journeys, and expansion.


I once had a photo portrait session with a talented photographer who had taken one of my “Calling Council” workshops. I note the latter, because she wanted the portrait to show that side of me; the teacher, my ancient self, my inner shaman, and may I say my soul. I brought with me a selection of feathers, wings and skulls. Seeing the end result (see below) was an interesting experience. I could see the power I normally only feel, while simultaneously realizing a photo is simply an image of a moment in time. Our lives are a string of ongoing moments—some powerful, some weak, some in the middle. My belief is that we are eternal beings having the experience of being human. As a person we present ourselves to the outside through an image, that is what the ego does for a living. Sometimes this is done consciously, sometimes unconsciously. Either way, we are responsible for both the image we present and its alignment to our unseen soul. We are not in control, however, of what others think about or perceive our image. I have many people who underestimate me, and others that overestimate me. This helps me know that I am the only authority of myself and life. In contrast, the first half of my life was spent making my decisions based on my best guess of what other’s thought of me—not always consciously. While I am still more comfortable being seen positively and do weigh how others react to me, I now truly know people’s understanding of me has more to do with them. All I can do is remain true to my inner self and leave the rest up to the outside. Anything else brings confusion and disappoint.


Ultimately, wholeness includes both ego and soul. Just like the whole of a body has both legs and arms. They serve different purposes, but it’s most helpful when they are moving in the same direction. If they aren’t and your feet are walking forwards, yet your arms keep moving backwards, the balance of the whole will be disturbed and you go nowhere. Conversely, when working together they are a powerful team that can go in any direction. We are born whole. Over time, we begin to shut areas of ourself down. Perhaps we sense that if we show our whole selves we will be shunned for being too big, too much, too sensitive or not enough of this or that. In other words, we may think we will not be accepted due to our differences. Even if this is true (which is doubtful), is it more important to have the acceptance of others at the expense of being true to oneself? That does not seem a fair trade to me. So, we continue to quest for alignment of our inner and outer. There are as many ways to do this as there are numbers of people willing to work on it.


After a couple years off, I’ve decided it is time again to offer the “Calling Council” workshop mentioned above. For six consecutive weeks, we will journey to different facets of ourselves in order to become aware of where they are aligned and where they may be conflicting. This will be held in an intimate setting in Saratoga Springs. To find out more visit the webpage by clicking here.


Whether you come to call council among yourself in my workshop, I encourage you to consider if your whole being is working in unity. If you find conflict, consider how you may align your inner and outer, soul and ego, body and spirit. There is no end destination on this quest, instead its ongoing. Still, those moments of flow when all of you is walking forward are worth the effort.




Eating Knowledge

The other day, I was contemplating a polarity in our society. On one hand, we are a throw-away culture—tossing out packaging, things that no longer work or we have little use for. On the other hand, we want to “fix” ourselves and the people around us. This can be witnessed by the marketing strategies of any number of businesses, specifically cosmetics, fitness, and self-improvement. I wonder if there is a correlation. Does it feel as though we will be tossed out if not repaired or useful to others? If so, is that true?

Over the last couple years I have had a few challenges. There have been times when I wanted to simply fix these situations. Simultaneously, there is this deep sense that it is a natural cycle and to wait. In nature there are periods of fallow before regeneration. Are humans any different? While our culture doesn’t endorse it, what if we allowed for these periods of rest and inaction, just as the earth examples for us? Wondering, I allowed for the quiet. There were times when my head screamed to make changes. I joined business groups and read countless books. Yet, they did not fulfill my hopes and I went back into the stillness. As it turns out, over this period I came more into myself. Would this have happened if I quickly “fixed” my outward appearance of “problems?” My guess is no. In our western culture that might not make sense. Wouldn’t we come “into” ourselves only after we’ve transcended our problems? From where I’m sitting now, not necessarily. Cliche as it sounds, sometimes what we call the problem is actually the gift—as the time spent within it gives expanded insight into life. Until we recognize this, the value of the experience will remain latent. Additionally, our society’s desire for comfort has few models for addressing the soul level growth that I’m most interested in. One example of this playing out is that I’ve been a Shamanic Reiki Master for over 10 years, yet I have only recently committed two afternoons to giving sessions. One may say that earlier I was afraid to put myself out there, or fear commitment, or have insecurity issues. Regardless of all those potentials, my belief is that it simply took me this long to fully integrate the innate abilities of my soul with the personality of Katrina.

Taking in new knowledge, is quite a bit like eating food. Remember the story of Adam and Eve? The following is not scientific, so excuse my rudimentary explanation. First we consume food; this is the most conscious part of the process. Next comes digestion, as the food goes down to the stomach to be mixed with the digestive enzymes, gastric juices etc to break down further. Then it gets absorbed to be used by the body as energy. Lastly, the food is eliminated. So, how does that look as a metaphor for learning? We consciously take in the information. We digest it and it goes throughout the body to be processed. Next it is assimilated by the cells to be used as energy—also called thoughts and beliefs. Lastly, its eliminated through the actions we take. Our behaviors are based on this cellular knowledge, for it is what runs the subconscious. Additionally, we don’t dictate the amount of time this process takes, no matter how quickly the intellect can understand the ideas. At the risk of going too far out there, the process can take lifetimes depending on the depth and nature of the subject. What we do have choice over is what we decide to consume. Healthy food and nourishing information are both wise choices to make. At times we use information prematurely; when it is in our heads only. This is when we take on a new belief, yet our outward experience remains the same. This is because our subconcious hasn’t caught up to the mind’s new understanding and hence our actions are still based on old beliefs. Or, it’s recognizable in others when you hear what someone is saying, maybe even agree with it, yet somehow you can tell they are simply repeating someone else’s words. On the flip side, you know when someone fully grasps what he or she is articulating because you might describe them as “speaking with heart.” Which means the “digestive” process has taken place and the person is communicating from their body.

Years ago, I did a shamanic journey and met a wise monk. We conversed for quite awhile and I knew it was an important conversation. I returned to waking reality and remembered the meeting but nothing about what we talked. Disappointed, I went back to this man in another “journey.” He told me it didn’t matter if my mind remembered our conversation, the cells of my body did. Only after years, have I come to realize the enormity of that. There are times the human personality uses spiritual information to feel special, to prove its worthiness. It takes great humility to accept true knowledge without hubris. Apparently, I wasn’t ready to hear that information in my head and ego. It was, however, time for my cells to understand that level of knowledge. So, in this instance the monk by-passed the eating phase of the digestion process. My body still assimilated and perhaps eliminated it by bringing the knowledge into class scenarios and healing sessions. I can’t be sure, since I still don’t intellectually remember what we discussed.

To close, I ask a few questions for you to contemplate over time; Do you lose out on soul growth by searching for ways to fix your discomfort with situations you consider problems? Are you more comfortable repeating what others have said, than accepting your body’s need to express it’s knowledge, which includes your own feelings, emotions and desires? Do you allow the full process of digesting information before proclaiming it? Whatever your answers, continue asking the questions and remain open to your truth.


Tears for Trees

Tears rolled down my cheeks as the trees I have visited most every day for the last 18 years were being torn down with heavy machinery. These trees have witnessed my tears, heard me sing, soothed my fears and given me a sense of belonging that the human world has not. They are my friends. I use the wood products these friends will be made in to; so who am I to be against their death? Mother Nature also gives the death sentence; it is the cycle of life. Additionally, I do not doubt that the remaining trees will benefit from the openness and sunshine. So, what exactly does make me so sad? With contemplation, I find it to be the lack of reverence for life and the community these trees live amongst. Trees have been proven to communicate and help each other grow through an underground network of fungi. Not having words or tears does not equal an absence of compassion or community.

The first week of cutting, the birds were silent. Later, not so much, as they flickered around not knowing where to go. Same with the deer who were wandering down the side of the road, wondering where to take refuge. I haven’t heard a peep or sighted the porcupines that move slowly among these trees—what are they doing? And the Barred Owls I’ve run into regularly, how have they been affected? This forest is personal for me, as I know it intimately. Yet, the tears that roll down my cheeks are not just for these specific trees and animals, but equally for the condition of our culture. We live in an artificial and disposable society that believes itself to be real and important. Money for instance is a human construct, yet it has become equivalent to our life force. In America, we seem to groom kids for winning more so than good character. In this situation with the trees, the falsity is that we need to “manage” the forest for it to thrive. This is only potentially true, because of the damage humans have done over the last two hundred years interfering with the natural growth cycle of trees. No matter what, life will go on—for the forest, for the animals that call it home, for the men doing their job and for me. The real question is; will we have reverence for that life as it continues? Will we be mindful of the others, humans and non-humans, we share our home with? Will we recognize that the tree’s life does not depend on us. Instead, we depend on the trees, as they produce the oxygen that allows us breath. Thank the good lord they are willing to share. How are we reciprocating?

Thich Nhat Hahn suggests;

“We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realize that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realize that you are the Earth. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.”

So, my question turns inward as well—will we have reverence for our own personal nature? Another favorite quote was spoken by Howard Thurman;

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

One of the great tragedies of our time is how hard it is to hear our genuine voice. The “strings” come from everywhere—the greater whole, advertising, our families or that one person we most love. Their ‘sound’ is often loud, perhaps rational and appears real. Meanwhile, our true guide is quiet, humble and when heard sounds too much like ourselves to be taken seriously. To hear it takes silence and subtle listening, as well as a belief in our deep self. None of which are strengths of our busy, noisy, outward-focused society. Additionally, I sense that because our culture lacks a function of unconditional belonging, there is a fear that going inward to meet and know our own self, will further separate us from the world—from others. My senses also tell me that the opposite is actually true. To go inward and revere our own nature will ultimately show us our connection far deeper than blindly following society, someone else or an ideology. When we are true to our genuine voice, we have no desire to attach strings from either end—the controlling or the following. Such an appetite is the result of weakness and insecurity. It is worth noting that a poverty of strings does not mean pure solo flight, rather that we have self-responsibility within the whole.

This essay may seem hard on our society, let that be no reflection on the beautiful people within it. Culture is a structure in which people live, not the people themselves. However, it is up to us as individuals to create the change we want to see within it. We have reached a turning point. I feel it, my guess is you have too. While, we may differ in what we want, it seems most of us sense a need for transformation. I personally and whole-heartedly want to see a world that is genuine, true, and reverent for what is wild and alive. I want to see love for our inner and outer environment and to know that we belong. I want mindfulness and questioning to bring us to what is real. Mostly, I want humans to feel the connection that exists between the earth and all that live upon her; those with two legs, four legs, wings, and roots. To do all that starts with loving oneself. Not love based on personal achievements, but for the divine fact that we have been given the extraordinary gift of life. Let us choose wisely how we use that gift.


Deer Wisdom

The other day I was with Tom, my horse, in a low section of the farm where the grass grows lush. It was twilight and peaceful. While Tom was grazing, there was a group of birds flitting around. With the low light I was trying to identify them by their quantity and movement rather than by sight. My attention was soft and taking in all that surrounded us. While listening to the small birds, I heard the leaves rustle off in the woods. This was obviously not any of the birds, so I slowly turned to locate what the originator of that sound and found a doe. She was standing still on the edge of the woods quietly gazing at us. Not wanting to startle her, I subdued my excitement and nodded a hello. Tom continued to graze, while the doe and I gazed at each other. It was an honor to be seen by such wild beauty. After about 5 minutes of this open exchange, more leaves began to rustle behind the doe. I could not see who was therebut for whatever reason Tom started to get antsy. While he is a laid-back guy most of the time, he can get riled up in certain circumstances and that was beginning to happen. I was already holding his lead rope; because when in this area he is more susceptible to fear (elsewhere on the farm, I flip the lead rope over his back and give him freedom.) By now, he was jigging around me while the doe continued to simply watch. Wildlife is less fearful of humans when a horse, another prey animal, is with them (why I’d love to do an African safari by horseback.) So, even with Tom trotting around, the doe continued to be unconcerned by us. The doe eventually bounded through the open space, slowly and gracefully to what seemed a predetermined place 20 feet away. By then, Tom had had enough and continued to tell me he was ready to leave, not desperately, but with conviction. Regardless of being hesitant to leave the connection with the doe, he and I began our walk up the hill. Luckily he was willing to slow down for me and my short two legs. A study in dissimilar species working out their differences.

The next day the sun was setting while I was driving home from the barn. I love capturing the sun in pictures and was frustrated to be driving and unable to do so. I had stopped earlier to take a few, yet as the sun continued to lower it got increasingly intoxicating. So, rather than turn down our road, I kept driving in hopes of finding a place to pull over to photograph its beauty. No luck, it kept going down while remaining behind the trees in the places available to pull over. When the sun was totally set, I turned around to go back home. As I pulled back out onto the road, there was a buck on the left. He was stunning with 4 points. I was already going slow, but came to a stop and as I did he ran across the road, bounding into the woods.

Then this morning, my dog Z and I were walking down the road on our way to the woods. Z doesn’t walk on a leash and was off to my left. I had my head down, not paying attention to what was ahead. On walks my awareness always includes Z, so when she stopped in her tracks and got focused, I looked up. As my eyes followed her gaze there was another doe staring at us.

On their own, each of these experiences is enough for me to feel touched by the deer. While deer are not uncommon, being “touched” by one—any wild animal—is a grand experience for me. So, while doing a meditation that asked me to think of an animal encounter, the first deer came to mind. The doe then told me; “Do not live in fear. Instead, allow fear to be inspiration to take action. When deer feel concern, we run. That’s it, nothing more to it. When you feel fear, allow it to communicate that something needs to be done. When we run from a threat, it’s simply a response to the situation at hand and when it’s over we let it be over. We urge you to do the same. Act when it feels right to, or stand and eat when that feels appropriate. Beware not to get stuck in either in the movement of change or the stillness of peace. Simply act according to the circumstances at hand. Use all your senses along with your thinking mind. Humans have forgotten how intelligent their bodies are and rely too much on their thoughts. Meanwhile the self-organization of life runs through and communicates with their bodies, so humans rarely hear the voice of the All. This is the root cause of their excessive disconnection which is evidenced by behaviors and emotions that are negatively affecting the Whole.”

Hmmm…. Interesting. I have often felt prickled by the idea of living fearlessly. To do so, would suggest we need to shut down our most natural emotions. Yet, I’m not sure that I’ve listened to it as a sign to take action. More likely I get the feeling and simply wait it out, knowing ‘this too shall pass.’ And funny enough, it does. However, I suppose that is what Doe meant by getting stuck in the stillness of peace.

Do you listen to the “self-organization” of life? Or are the thoughts in your head too loud? Thinking is certainly useful. However, if we quiet ourselves enough, the song of the connected world may sing loud enough for us to dance with it.



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….


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.


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.