All posts by HelenFolsom

The Angel Song

This song in the Hebrew language invokes the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael for protection, guidance, light, and healing. It concludes with an affirmation that Shekinah, the indwelling feminine aspect of the Divine presence, is above as well as within us.

Singing this song has helped me to remember and cherish the beneficent energies that surround us, and that can be invoked to accompany us on the journey we have undertaken.

May you find blessing in this and in your life always.

B’sheim Hashem elohei yisrael, mimini Michael, umismoli Gavriel, umilfanai Uriel, umeachorai Rafael, v’al roshi, v’al roshi shechinat el

So You Want to Be a Shaman


Photo by Joshua Newton

Thumbing through a course catalog a few years ago I noticed an offering that included the ability to obtain a Certificate of Shape-Shifting. I casually wondered what the Final Exam might look like. Does one have to cross the sprawling campus as an Elk, a Mongoose, or some other animal? Or perhaps hiding in plain sight as a cedar tree would qualify.

In my files somewhere I have a Certificate of Sainthood – yes, it’s true . . . but that does not make me a saint, as any of my close friends or family members can assure you. What is it that makes us who we are anyway? Is it the certificates and degrees we hold? The role or position we have acquired? Our status, possessions, grandmotherly-ness or shapely physique?

Of late I have run across a number of people who openly declare themselves to be Shamans. The number is now surpassing, in my mind at least, those who claim to be Gurus. It seems like being a Shaman is the new, cool thing to be. Overheard on the bus, “Oh, did I mention I am a Shaman?”

Some of the practices we employ as healing facilitators fall under the category of ‘shamanic’ by nature of their connection to time-honored indigenous healing practices used throughout the world. Generally, we stop short of deciding that makes us Shamans. Perhaps, to use a phrase coined by Hank Wesselman, we are at best shamanists. 

We have found that it is wise to embrace humility foremost before the vast mystery of this life we live, this unfathomable universe. I remember a story of a young teenager who, when asked if he was a Christian replied, “I am trying to follow Christ.” This seems like the kind of answer that can really lead somewhere.

Just as it is easier to say you are a Christian (or a Buddhist, or a Saint) than it is to be one, it is also easier to say you are a Shaman without actually having any ability to remove someone’s pain, forecast the weather, or locate reindeer. That goes for pretty much every endeavor in life. In each village, town, and city there are people with advanced degrees who jumped over every hurdle the university presented to them, yet can’t do the work. You know them, don’t you? That’s why it takes us so much time to find a good doctor, a good lawyer, a competent therapist, or social worker, or palm reader, or bartender, or . . . .

OK, back to wanting to be a Shaman. We recommend you start slowly and carefully to examine your desire. If fame, fortune, and status are drivers for you, stop reading now. ‘Cause that dog won’t hunt.

A true Shaman is a servant – they serve the collective good of their ‘tribe’ through courageous efforts to obtain knowledge, and more importantly to acquire experiences that can lead to the ability to assist people to heal at all levels.  After they set foot on the path they spend an enormous amount of time purifying themselves, experimenting, turning within, taking stock again and again of their own motivations, and coming up against a shit-load of inner and outer challenges. In other words, it’s no picnic. On the other hand, it is a fascinating adventure, one that can lead to mastery, mystery, and even death. But since we all face that last one, perhaps it is time to take up the Master Game and lean into the call.

You may want to start your exploration here:

Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies

For a fascinating read try Hank Wesselman’s shamanic trilogy Spiritwalker, MedicineMaker, Visionseeker

Synchrony

The four-year-old in our lives came to visit last week. As adoring Grandmudders (her word) we take great delight in her insights, energy, and imagination. At the local playground, her swing and mine began to move forward and back together. That prompted us to teach her the word ‘synchrony’, which she dutifully repeated again and again while swinging, climbing, and later while eating pancakes. Synchrony happens.

Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

Synchrony, coexistence, coincidence, concurrence, concurrency – the coming together of things, people, ideas, events, and swings. At such times we experience flow, the flow of that which unites us, that brings life, that fosters connection, and ignites the awareness of unity.

In a healing session, the ability to come into harmony with the client is something we experience on many levels. The room is ordered and decorated with that in mind, we attend to the conversation, the desire of the person who is with us, and to the hidden prompts that arise in the course of the work. All of this allows a resonant atmosphere to emerge and provides a foundation for positive results to happen.

Jenny, one of our esteemed students, shared this link with us recently of just how magical that coming together is in the physical world. May you enjoy this demo of the ebb and flow of synchrony in a pendulum wave. https://youtu.be/JsIgubUjTck

Come together.

Forest Bathing

In the Great North-Wet (our neck of the woods) it is actually possible to hike all day and not get wet. We have a kind of misty, drizzle that refreshes without drenching. It is a perfect formula for what the Japanese call Shinrin yoku, a form of nature therapy that has widely reported benefits to body, mind, and spirit. Just today we ventured out on the trail above a beloved river, traipsing through old growth trees, wading through newly unfurled ferns, and passing mushroom communities of several varieties, while avoiding the Devil’s Club – a rather nasty but lovely bush that brings experiences befitting its name. I touched one once. Once was enough.

The forest is always breathing, quite literally creating the oxygen we need for life, but also producing helpful chemistry that we can take in through the breath. These organic compounds have been shown to provide benefits to the immune system, blood pressure, improved sleep, and lower stress levels.

We took note recently of an article in the Journal Science about the ability of the trees in a forest to share through underground connections with other trees, including trees and bushes of different species. They can and do share nutrients such as sugars, and other helpful compounds. No tree stands alone.

The link between species is created through mycelium, the often miles long underground network that also push up mushrooms from time to time. Check out this world-wood-net article from the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141111-plants-have-a-hidden-internet

We treasure our time in the woods as a source of renewal and wonder, a time to practice connection with nature, and with other souls that walk the path. Nature heals, restores, and revitalizes our existence. It is a treasure beyond compare.

Sensitivity is Not for Sissies

It is a common occurrence in our practice to have a client say, “I’m too sensitive, please fix it.” They want to get rid of their sensitivity, run away from it. It’s a hard-sell to convince them that their sensitivity is in fact a gift, one that helps them navigate the physical, mental, and emotional currents of their world. It is that same sensitivity that allow us a healing facilitators to do our work.

Our sensitivity is a built-in tool for survival, giving us information about the nature of potential threats, dangers, and pitfalls. At the same time it biases our bodies to take action as needed. Our sensory systems take in our surroundings and interpret for us, so that we can avoid pain.

Roadrunner ready to run

Our senses also bring us the beauty of the world, the taste and fragrances of good food, the warmth of camp fires and close friendships, the knowledge of great teachers — in short, many countless blessings. We would be lost without these things.

Sometimes extreme sensitivity includes the inability to tolerate our increasingly polluted environments of both chemical and (dare I say it) man-made electro-smog, such as cell signals, wifi, microwaves, and other sources. The air we breath, the water and food we take in are not the same as they were even a few decades ago. We are living in a different soup these days. These things are not going away, so the body must adapt and we must become more aware of what we need to help ourselves move forward.

It is not likely that we will give up our cell phones, tablets, or computers and live in a tent, though some with extreme sensitivity have to do so. Most of us will soldier on, making some adjustments here and there. I am not writing this on a stone tablet, but I no longer let my microwave oven spew out waves into my home. (The meter went off the dial when I tested it with the door securely shut.) We are more careful about what we eat, choosing less processed, less treated, less sweet, more complex foods.

Added to these measures are the time-honored practices of the spiritual traditions that have informed our lives and that we teach our clients and students – prayer, meditation, chanting, movement, music, mantra, study of the wisdom teachings, time in like-minded community, silence, and practices for clearing the body and mind.

Clearing is a favorite standby and we refine its use everyday as the need arises. For me it means taking the time, many times a day if necessary, to let go of what I may have picked up consciously for unconsciously from the environment, including from other people. We all do this, pick up stuff. Letting go can mean looking out the window at a tree or the horizon and sending anything I no longer need in that direction. (Don’t worry, letting go will not harm the tree or that mountain in the distance.)

I often repeat, “May anything no longer useful to me to dissolve and flow away.” Invoking the 5 elements of the ancient world as a means for clearing is simple and effective – asking earth, water, air, fire, and/or space to remove and transform the dross that has accumulated in my being over time. Movement, a walk, dancing, singing can all come into play as ways to clear.

Let me be clear – your sensitivity is a gift. Be clear and see.

Get your feet wet

Seeing You in Wholeness

When we work with individual clients or with a classroom of people we are always asking internally, “What is needed? What can move this person, these people closer to health? What energy will guide them to embrace the wonder and mystery of the body and mind coming into balance, moving forward? It is our desire to be facilitators of healing for those who come, and to ignite an interest in just how profound an experience it is to be a human being. Helping people heal is an honor, and we would love to share that with you.

Join us at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, and let’s explore both the science and the mystery together.

Cell-Level Healing
Wild Awakening For Health
October 7 – 11, 2018

Embark on a deep, guided exploration of your innate ability to focus energy for health and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. Looking within, both through powerful micrographic images of cells, and through time-honored practices, explore the healing nature of your physicality and your mind. Touch the heart of stillness in meditation, enjoy hands-on practice, sing yourself to joyfulness, and deepen your ability to be of service to yourself and to others through the refined techniques of Cell-Level Healing.

More info here:
https://hollyhock.ca/programinfo/hawkes-folsom/

A Walk in the Mist and the Mystery

 

Yesterday (uncharacteristically) we decided to take a hike before breakfast. The ‘uncharacteristic’ part I refer to was ‘before breakfast.’ Up near the Canadian border we often go hiking on a familiar trail with our dog leading the way. Rama is an excellent trail dog, unless other dogs or people are around. Then he is a run-away, nut job, ever up for a romp with others, a friendly chat, or simply to follow anyone while leaving the ones who feed him behind. 

The day was set to be very hot, so getting out ahead of the heat was what drove us up the hill before taking in sustenance. And being out so early meant we also succeeded in avoiding people and doggies, a complete win.

While hiking I noticed how often my mind, just like my dog, runs off with me. Then in a moment my attention is captured by the way the morning light is touching and illuminating the broken trunk of a tree that has upended itself into the river below. The beauty of it touches me wordlessly. I resolve to be still, a wordless observer of the woods, but before long I am planning a project like this one. I will write about “Forest Bathing”, and hold forth with data about how the aromas given off by trees are as healthy for us as the oxygen they produce in such abundance. Ah, the mind – so quick. 

At the next lookout spot over our beloved river we note to one another the milky-white color of the water, and tussle with each other about the look and definition of run-off, and snow-melt. The sandy beach below has become more rocky than last we saw it, my hand-carved wooden offerings are still in place, someone has chain-sawed off a small piece of a downed tree. 

In this way my mind creates a world, populated by ideas, beliefs, musings, projects, and I become identified with it. ‘I am’ becomes, I am the hiker, the dog-lover, the carver, the notice-er, the river viewer, the one who comes and goes.

All the while a stillness is present and in brief glimpses I apprehend it, and even fall under its sway now and then. I am caught in stillness, even as my ears hear the river, caught in illumination even as the morning light touches the mossy tree ahead, held in the mystery even while swimming in the mist of the mind.

Anger – What is It?

There is certainly a lot of anger being experienced in our world today. There is no doubt about that. We feel it, we see it’s effect playing out before us. Anger is hot, dry, forceful — sometimes it feels righteous, sometimes not. I ran across the best definition of the feeling of anger in a little book entitled What’s on My Mind by Swami Anantananda. He says, “Anger is the intense desire to change that which is.”

ANGER IS FUEL FOR ACTION

The ‘that which is’ or the ‘what is’ is whatever we perceive is going on in us and around us. Anger itself fuels our actions when we sense the ‘what is’ must be changed but the feeling itself is not a logical thought process – it is quick and hot – it takes over and impels us to action. Anger is what pushes us into the street to save a child who is running into traffic, and it is also what causes us to shout ‘boo’ at a ball game when the referee makes a call against our team – even a good call. So, anger does have degrees, and it is often tied to our self-interests.

FEAR UNDERPINS ANGER

Inherent in our awareness of ‘what is’ is another emotion – fear. It is our fear that if the ‘what is’ remains as it is there will be dire consequences: our child will be hit by a car; our team will lose the game. All of this happens in an instant, the flash of fear, the fuel of anger to change the situation or to express our dismay. I would hazard a guess that all anger is rooted in fear.

EFFECT ON BODY AND MIND

All of this is nothing but energy, powerful energy running through our bodies and our minds. And that energy has its effects on both body and mind. One of my teachers said, “Anger destroys your memory.” This struck me as odd when I first heard it, but as I contemplated my own experience I saw that it was true. When my mind is bathed in the feeling of anger I forget all that is beautiful in my life and in the world, I lose touch even with my own body, I forget to eat, I don’t sleep well, I forget important appointments.

There is a known physiological basis for this forgetting. In the body anger creates a cascade of chemistry, the chemistry of stress, in order to bias us toward an action. This is the classic Flight or Fight response, now also expanded to include Freeze. The nervous system is activated on what we call the ‘sympathetic’ side, and the following things happen: the higher executive functions of the brain literally shut down as this is not a time to think with the rational mind, the immune and reproductive systems go offline, blood flows from the core to the extremities to fuel our muscles, our blood pressure goes up, digestion stops.

Taken together this is a survival mechanism that allows us to save ourselves and others in times of real or perceived danger. The downside of this response happens when fear and anger are chronic. We lose our rational minds, our clarity, we can’t think, we have digestive problems, sleep escapes us. It takes 3 days of work by the body to metabolize the stress hormones that are created by one single such event, so constant activation leads to a backlog of work for the body and a continuation of all the downside effects. We become exhausted, depleted, and depressed.

REMEDIES THAT HELP

I am not suggesting that we all give up anger and fear. Certainly, I have not evolved enough to have done so. (Maybe next year.) But I have seen that moderation is helpful, and for me that means not watching Rachel Maddow every single night of the week, only every other night!

It means finding non-violent action I can take in the face of what I see that needs to change in my life, my country, and the world. In the weird mix of my life that includes tap dancing, marching in the streets, attending vigils, donating money to people who are otherwise defenseless and unrepresented, and praying for children and parents who have been separated from each other. It includes speaking up for the other, the stranger, the poor, in keeping with my core values. In short moderation means finding ways to use the anger to create change without harming anyone or myself.

Another remedy is simple but not easy – Apprehension. Yes, a funny word, in this case it does not mean fear, but rather capture. It means I apprehend my anger and fear when possible – I catch it. When I am able to stop and simply feel the feelings without any story about why I am feeling them there is a moment when the energy can be felt only as energy. I feel where in resides in the body, I feel its power, its rawness, and even the pain it causes. In that moment I am ‘at choice’ with respect to the feeling. I can choose how to respond, I can channel the energy into right action, or I can choose to watch it until it dissolves back into the place from which it arose.

Meditation is key for me in making a space to reconnect with inner wisdom and strength, guidance, and peace. It has shown me that everything on the outside is reflective of the inside. It allows me to take up the battle with my own inner enemies, the false notions that keep me feeling separate and alone, that haunt and traumatize me. Meditation binds up the disparate pieces of self and connects me back to source, to love, to the holy, if you will.

Breath can also be used to reactivate the other side of the nervous system – the parasympathetic. It is the simplest and quickest way to rebalance the body and mind. Breathe in to the count of 4, hold for 5, breath out to the count of 8. In just a few rounds of this type of breathing you will notice that your body and mind are more relaxed and at ease. You can change the counts if it feels that the out-breath is too long, just keep the relationship to an out-breath that is twice as long as the in-breath.

These are my remedies for managing fear and anger. You are welcome to try them. I would love to know what others you have found.

Quick – Heal My Pancreas!

What does it take for the body to heal? Sometimes we find out that a particular organ or system in the body needs help. A disease has been diagnosed, or testing shows there is an imbalance happening, or perhaps a tumor has been found. What to do?

Certainly we consult with our team members: our doctors, nutritionists,  naturopaths, energy practitioners, and even our friends. What can I do the heal my pancreas? Can you help?

As energy practitioners we have observed that healing needs to go deep in order for good results to follow. For instance, the pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach that secretes digestive enzymes into the duodenum. Also in the pancreas are the islets of Langerhans, which secrete the hormones insulin and glucagon into the blood. So in each case it is important to determine which cellular action is being impaired.  Knowing that helps to determine the target for energy work.

Some knowledge of cell types, inner cellular structures, and function is useful in guiding the process. Our bodies and the cells that make up those bodies have vast capabilities and intelligence. Cells perform countless actions every second to keep us alive and kicking, and sometimes they need extra assistance. Paying attention to what the body is saying, and taking appropriate action is vital to living a healthy, happy life. Having a team approach in service of that goal is a good idea too.

We will be teaching in The Bahamas (someone has to do it) in March. If that draws you please join us. It will be a delight to meet you and your pancreas on Paradise Island.

More info on the Events page: Joyce and Helen in The Bahamas 

P.S. The venue is a Yoga Retreat Ashram, with delicious food, yoga classes, Meditation and Chanting, Nassau Bay on one side, and the aqua blue Caribbean on the other – Take a Look

The Power of Wow and Other Amazing Stuff

Rabbi Marc Gellman teaches kids about prayer by saying there are many prayers that are said every day, but there are only four types of prayer: thanks, gimme, oops, and wow. I have observed that my ‘Wow’ moments change my state instantly, my heart feels like a soft explosion is happening, and I am not the same. Words cannot even remotely express what I am experiencing within, my mind literally stops as wonder fills me. Some ‘wows’ are small, and some are big, all of them are unique and personal.
One day out walking in my neighborhood I was feeling lonely and isolated, disconnected from everyone and everything. I rounded a corner and saw a leaf suspended in mid air, as if arrested in its fall to earth. The ‘wow’ hit me right then. It took me a moment to see that the leaf seemingly isolated and alone was being held by one strand of spider web. It was connected above and below. My world expanded in that moment and I felt myself equally connected and held, my inner state expanded, and my feelings of aloneness and sadness dissolved into nothing.
Some ‘wow’ moments are big, some are little. Each day I do my best to look for any kind of wow. Recently a string of mind-blowing wows came to me as I read the book The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot. This book has been around for several years, but it was new to me. Now I have 2 copies and have recommended it to a score of clients and friends. For those of us who revel in new models of reality this is a landmark addition to the bookshelf. What is reality? Who are we? How connected are we? This book is a wake-up call to wow.
When I work with a client and a change in health happens or a trauma resolves and dissolves there is never a sense of ‘doing’ on my part, and I can never take credit for what happens. The wow kicks in and I am as happy as my client for what they are experiencing. The wonder in me expands as to what can be possible when we work together for health and wholeness.
Just today I was touched by an interview done by of one of our students, a person who is by far the best yoga teacher I have ever met. She speaks freely and openly about her life and work, about the wows, the joy, the wonder of even the most overlooked things, like the space between your toes. Yes, even that is worthy of wonder. I invite you to contemplate your own relationship to the WOW as you listen to Rachael Nickel: https://allpossibilitiesshow.com/ (Look for show number 044)
Here’s Rachael in a typical wow moment.

Now go out and find a copy of The Holographic Universe and expand your notion of what is and what could be. Go get your WOW on!