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The Spirit in Troubled Times August 12, 2009

Posted by gerrystarnes in Society.
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I originally wrote the following in October, 2008, prior to the election. Re-reading it now indicates how little has actually changed since then.

*  *  *

I’ve spoken to many people over the past few days about their feeling of restlessness. Several have had trouble sleeping, have experienced troubling dreams, or even nightmares. Most often, this is very unusual for them. They wonder to themselves “What is up with this??” but keep it to themselves thinking that it is a purely personal issue.

But it’s not.

Many of us are feeling it: that low-grade, just-beneath-awareness hum of anxiety. And why wouldn’t we? When you take a step away from the everyday doings of your daily schedule and look at the bigger picture, it can be unsettling. Financial markets are struggling in unknown, fast-moving waters toward an uncertain future. The political arena has devolved into an incredibly negative, and some would say dangerous, vibration of rage and fear. Wars worldwide continue, and seem to grow increasingly more violent, with no real end in sight. Drought, famine, disease, ethnic turmoil … the list goes on and on.

What is an Aware Soul supposed to do?

Our journey circles have done quite a lot of exploration on this question, and the responses of Spirit are consistent. Clearly and not surprisingly, we are in the beginnings of a significant global transition. Those who are even partially awake know this already, though for the most part we are not fully comprehending the enormity of it. One person in a recent Circle received the message that following years of pregnancy (during which time we were all getting hints of something big around the corner) Mother Earth has now already re-birthed herself; we are the midwives and birthing partners. It is done.

If that is so, and it seems a very useful metaphor if nothing else, now we need to reorient ourselves to nurturing this New Earth and working out what that means and how to do it. The good news is that we have already begun that process. What we are called to do now is really focus. In a sense, we no longer have the luxury of waiting for something to happen .. it already has.

Getting Grounded

Before we can be at all useful in the transition, we need to be grounded ourselves. That means, at the very least, to find and participate in a community of people who are spiritually oriented. There are many such opportunities, including traditional places of worship as well as non-traditional groups. The only significant criterion is an openness to moving forward together into a new paradigm. ANY group that perpetuates separation, fear, and rage is counterproductive.

Grounding ourselves also means taking more time for feeding ourselves spiritually. We have a LOT to learn about how to surf these times. My intuition has repeatedly pointed out that many of us — if not the vast majority of us — have been through times like these in past lives, in many civilizations. We KNOW how to do this, if only we can tap into those deep memories. That’s why we have chosen to be here in this place and in this time: to assist in this tremendously important task.

Being Lighthouses

In many respects, we can serve as lighthouses to others when we are ready. You may already have noticed that many people around you are seeking more meaningful connection with spirit and community. I hear conversations like this virtually everywhere these days: restaurants, grocery stores, workplaces….

Some may come to you directly for information or guidance. When that happens, know that they are coming to you because the see Hope in you; and when that happens, let that feeling of humility and responsibility grow inside, because you are then tasked to be a guide for them, to assist in connecting them also with community.

This is very different from proselytizing and standing on street corners preaching doom and retribution. It is being ready for those moments when one spontaneously reaches for that higher vision, that deeper understanding, that connection.

Certainly there will be those who choose not to participate in this transition. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore that the suicide rate has jumped for the first time in the past 10 years. While we all would wish that they would remain and join us in this new adventure, we also must be prepared to honor their choices and let them go in peace.

It is my clear hope and expectation that we will all be impeccable lighthouses and guides to our fellow travelers. My guidance has been consistently clear: we have embarked on an important and exciting adventure. I can hardly wait.

Hawk Story August 12, 2009

Posted by gerrystarnes in Travel.
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I was in Dallas this past weekend, visiting with friends and presenting a workshop. I flew up on Thursday to visit with Sara, a good friend who works with horses in her therapy practice, and Jingles, the older horse who previously has taught me much about becoming an Elder.

Jingles was glad to see me. He came over right away to “check me out.” Then, my having passed inspection, I suppose, he went back to grazing. But this story is not about our encounter this time.

Sara recently moved her horses to a different ranch that has unfolded as a restful summer camp for them. (Their work with humans does require some downtime, and the previous ranch was becoming difficult.) After checking in with them all, we walked the ranch grounds, letting me get a feel of the land. It’s always a pleasure to be out like that, even though the sun was high and hot.

The ranch house is roughly in the center of the property, with the horses kept in the back pasture. It was nice and felt very welcoming and healing. No wonder the horses were enjoying themselves! It is open to the sky, surrounded by woods, and covered in tall grass.

The front half of the property, as Sara pointed out, is very different from the back. As we walked into a wooded area, the whole atmosphere changed. I could feel the enchantment, and almost see the fairy folk playing just out of my vision.

Crossing a shallow stream, the feeling became even stronger as we approached the taller oaks. One of them had apparently been struck by lightning long ago; its trunk opened widely, and a huge branch on one half had also twisted, breaking so that it drooped low to the ground. It was not a recent injury. The wound had been partially healed, grown over by new layers of bark. It was truly remarkable, but the best was yet to come.

As we walked around a stand of trees and into an open meadow, we both heard an odd sound. After a minute or two, we understood that it was a bird, but neither of us had heard that kind of sound before. We followed the sound to a line of trees, and isolated the source high above in a stand of trees about 20 yards ahead at most.

Suddenly, a large red-tailed hawk flew from behind the treeline, making a powerful, quick dash off to our left. It startled us with both its speed and its apparent intention to be seen. It flew low to the treeline, still in clear view, until it banked and disappeard around the trees to our far left.

Still, the odd sound continued in front of us. At once we realized that what we were hearing was the hungry cries of a young hawk in a nest! As we gazed upward, trying to make out any shape of a nest and continuing to move closer, a second hawk leaped from the low bushes just ahead!

The image is now safed in my memory – a video scene as remarkable as the moment. I was looking directly at the point of the brush where it emerged. Powerful wings lifted the hawk quickly into the air, not more than 15 to 20 yards ahead. It dropped something red (fresh kill?) just as it cleared the tops of the bushes. Rising another few feet, it banked, wings spread wide, and gave me an incredible view of its whitish underside, speckled lightly with dark feathers.

The single image is frozen for me more clearly than a snapshot. I could see individual feathers in the wings, mostly backlit by the angle of the sun. Dark black lines highlighted brown wings; its black-tipped beak and talons were clearly visible and shone like highly polished onyx.

It finished the bank and rushed to the right, rising on incredibly powerful wings. I could sense in my body the power of each stroke, and felt myself pulled to dash after it, knowing how ludicrous was the idea. Then at about treetop height, it spread its wings wide and soared along the narrow meadow, then banked again and disappeared behind the trees.

All I could do was stare at the place where it disappeared, longing for it to return for just one more glimpse, but it was gone.

I don’t recall much about the next few seconds. Sara and I continued to look for the nest for a few minutes, until we realized that the loud chirping had ceased. We guessed that the hawks had tried to draw us away from the nest, and returned by another flightpath from behind the treeline when they failed to make us chase them.

I kept looking over my shoulder as we made our way out of the enchanted woods, hoping for another view, and grateful to the hawks for sharing their incredible beauty with us, even for just a moment.

The next day, we were welcomed by another amazing hawk encounter at some new property Sara is considering for her horses. But that is another story….

[Originally posted July 18, 2008]

Lizzie Thompson August 12, 2009

Posted by gerrystarnes in Healing.
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I recently accepted an invitation to perform a house blessing in northeast Austin. A couple moved to the area from Connecticut fairly recently, and it is their custom to perform a blessing ceremony in their new homes. As we talked about what they were expecting, I asked if there was any place in the house that might also need some additional clearing before the blessing. And, yes indeed, there was.

Apparently, everyone who slept in the spare bedroom had nightmares. On occasion, they would awaken either unable to move or feel like something was sitting on their chest, making it difficult to breathe. There also is a bath area between the spare bedroom and the master bedroom that also seemed troubled. Since they had moved in, Chris had insisted that the door to the bath be closed so she could sleep.

I invited Toni and Charlie to join me. We arrived at the house in the early evening. The owners – Ian and Chris – are a wonderful couple that we were attracted to immediately as very “good people,” with rich experience and knowledge of Spirit. They had already written their blessing prayer, and had it beautifully framed.

We walked through the house to get a feel for the energy, which was wonderful. The structure and energy flow had already been set according to feng shui principles. Charlie was the first to pick up on the energy vortex in the spot that I felt was the “heart” of the house. However, the feeling of the energy in the spare bedroom was dramatically different; warm and stuffy, even with the air conditioner running. Something was definitely “up” in this room.

The house is only less than 10 years old, and prior to building the land had just been a cotton field. Although many people had rented it since, there was no clear history of some of the strife – either current or historical – that is evident in other areas of the city, although the original landowner did build his house on top of a hill that is visible from the front porch. And the house looks very much like a fortress. That was notable to us.

After rattling and drumming the energy of the rest of the house, the five of settled into the spare bedroom. Toni and I both got at the same time that the energy imbalance had nothing to do with the room or the land, as we had assumed. It was centered on something that had been brought into the room by the owners in their move. (This was corroborated later when Chris said that they had similar problems with a room in an apartment they rented temporarily while searching for a house. We had not known this before.)

Toni and Charlie felt a strong sadness that seemed to be centered in the closet they were closest to.

Within just a few minutes, the story began to sort itself out. The name of the woman was Lizzie (Elizabeth) Thompson or Thomason, who had lived in Connecticut – in the same town or neighborhood as Ian and Chris. She was seen as an elderly, thin woman with disheveled hair pulled up in a bun. She had died roughly 125 to 150 years ago. Apparently, she was not an only child, but felt very alone and isolated. The family situation was not good. All she had was her home and possessions. So she did not want to cross over.

The energy in the room felt like that of a big, dark cat. When angry or on alert, it would crouch back into the corner of the room. It reacted to our presence with that kind of attentiveness. This made particularly good sense when thinking about the experience of those who felt pressure on their chest .. as cats sometimes do crawl on a prone person’s chest.

Chris either lived in Lizzie’s Hartford house or nearby, and Lizzie attached herself to her for reasons that are not clear. Again, Chris mentioned later that this neighborhood dated from the late 1880s, which matched the 125-150 year timeframe.

When she moved from her house to Ian’s, she took *most* of her belongings with her. When they then moved to Austin and into the new home, that’s when things began to happen. Lizzie found herself very far away from her home and she was not happy. Something had been left behind, and she had been searching for it.

As we gathered information in the room, the temperature rose steadily and the air became increasingly dense. Soon we were all sweating. We began the ceremony to balance the energy and send Lizzie on, drumming and rattling as I called to Lizzie to join her family. (She was not particularly interested in joining her immediate family, but a grandmother appeared to be of assistance.)

The energy began to calm and the temperature of the room cooled. The air was clearer and not as heavy as we ended the ceremony. Chris felt that she could finally let Connecticut go, even though she had nothing whatsoever holding her there .. other than Lizzie.

We determined that there was an object – possibly a box – that Lizzie was missing and had been looking for. Chris thought she knew what and where it was and began looking for it in boxes from the closet. But the object – a box – was not there. As we watched, Chris looked like someone searching for a beloved object that could not be found, fighting back tears as the frustration mounted. It was clear that she was finally letting Lizzie’s frantic and fierce energy move through her. Eventually, she gave up. We decided instead that they could craft an appropriate object into which any remaining energies could be infused, then mailed back to Lizzie’s home to complete the circle for her healing.

With the energy of the room now balanced, it was time for a beautiful blessing ceremony. We rattled and drummed as Ian played his singing bowl in each room as Chris read the blessing prayer they had written. It was WONDERFUL!

[Originally posted June 26, 2008]

End of Life Healing August 12, 2009

Posted by gerrystarnes in Healing, Learnings.
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Waiting for us, just as I closed the door of the truck with my drum and bag of rattles and tools, lay a beautiful, intact but empty bird’s nest. Around it were scattered many broken pieces of at least one eggshell. Most remarkably, the nest had been built around a pine cone that protruded from its side, but was blended integrally into its structure. Karen determined that it was a gift for the man we had come to visit. She took it gingerly inside with us….

I got a call last Friday from Hospice Austin Christopher House. A man – Ottowa native from Michigan – was in last stage cancer and was seeking a shaman. The wonderful social worker was doing her best to accommodate him, but didn’t know where to turn. By Wednesday afternoon, it had worked out that I was invited, though I am not Native American. I asked my colleague Karen to join me, and together we made our way there after sunset.

Hospice Austin is a part of the St. David’s system. The atmosphere is much more condusive to their work than a hospital, though it has a substantial technological support system. That it is part of a hospital system is unmistakeable, however the staff I met were clearly there to support and take care of their patients at this important transition time.

T’s sister met us at the door with a gift of tobacco. A concerned nurse joined us in the room, as he had been agitated earlier when we didn’t arrive when he had been told we would. And he was excited to see us. His excitement caused him some physical pain as he tried to move, but was unable. Seeing this, the nurse went to his side to provide more pain medicine, which took several minutes. She was being very careful.

We introduced ourselves to him and presented him the bird nest. I do not know how he was with this. He could not speak or move without pain. Yet his lack of agitation told us what we needed to know.

I told him my full name and that we were there at his and his family’s request to be with him for a while. Karen asked permission, then began to drum softly as I called the directions and opened protective space. I went to his side and asked permission to be with and pray with him for a while. I gently took his hand and touched his wrist on the “deepening” accupressure point.

Earlier in the day as I journeyed about what should be done, three things came up as very important. At the point of death, it is helpful to open the chakras (power centers in the energy field), and let them clear. In the energy healing process, this “backwashes” stuck energies and allows the chakras to spin smoothly. In the deathing process, it opens them to allow an easier disconnection of the spirit from the body as well.

A second issue is forgiveness. It is important to a smooth transition for the person to feel that everything is settled and complete, for them to know that they are free of the entanglements of unfinished business. This is an opportunity in the final moments to set everything in balance to the best of the ability of everyone. The moment of death is no time for holding old grudges, and a wonderful time for setting things to right.

And finally, the dying need to know that they have permission to die. They need to be assured that loved ones are taken care of.

T’s wife was described to me as “very fragile,” spending much of her time with him in tears. My sense of what was transpiring is that her pain and fear were holding onto him. Until she can find the strength to live without him, he will not be willing to pass on. In fact, he had been in this state for more than five days. She was not present with us that evening.

When the ritual was completed, Karen, the sister and I sat on the floor and talked. There were memories and stories, and laughter that she shared with T. We were certain that he joined with us, though he could not physically respond. He remained calm, breathing.

The sister walked with us down the hallway on the way out. We hugged goodby. She was in a good place.

The evening air was cool and refreshing.


This was on my phone answering system this morning, from the Austin Hospice social worker:

“I wanted to sincerely thank you and Karen so much for what you did for T last night and for his sister. We noticed and the nurse even noted in the chart that he became very calm, his respirations were calm and he stayed that way through the night. It really did make a difference for him even just physically. He is very, very peaceful at this time, using less anxiety medication, which is wonderful. I know that for his sister it was incredibly special.

“So I just wanted to let you know how wonderful that was and how much it meant to him, to his family, and to all of our team here. Thank you SO much. We sure appreciate it.”


T passed away a little before 5:00 am this morning, Friday May 2. His social worker said that after the ritual, he was very peaceful and his anxiety medication remained “way, way low.”

To T and his family, thank you for the honor to be with you.

[Originally posted May 2, 2008]

Contemporary Shamanism August 12, 2009

Posted by gerrystarnes in General.
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As a shamanic practitioner located in Austin, Texas, I am involved in a growing community of individuals who are seeking to reconnect with our deep spiritual heritage. This search has been called “contemporary shamanism” because it seeks to bring forward the world view and practices that have been used for thousands of years, making them relevant to today.

I lead several shamanic journey circles each month, teach classes and workshops, and also offer personal sessions. In each of these, I find a great depth of wisdom within everyone I meet. We all have a connection to Spirit, if only we can learn to listen – to quiet our minds and attend the “still small voice in the wilderness” amid the noisy marketplace of thought.


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