Fishing For Soul

Angling for Spiritual Reconnection

Archive for shamanism

Who Are You, Really?

“Now is the perfect time to be you. As you continue to know your self, you rediscover the wonderful, beautiful, outstanding, and magnificent connection that you all ways have to everything. Isn’t it good to know that everything is a part of you?” – At One + JM

I stood on the platform of the subway station at Union Square the other day watching people rush onto the express train.

“I’m glad that’s not me today,” I said to myself.

“But it is you,” I heard myself say in response. “You are each of those people. You are the train. You are the sound of the train. You are the tracks. You are the water on the tracks. You are the stairs, the cracks in the wall, the floor, the smells. All of it is you and you are all of it. There is no separation.”

That was not the first time I’d heard something like that. My initial encounter with the concept of “every thing is one thing” came in the early 1990’s in meditative shamanic visions and through the Amazonian plant medicine Ayahuasca. In those visions I experienced myself merging seamlessly with the cosmos.

For the past few months I’ve been reading and thinking about the All Is One concept in earnest in an attempt to learn more about the inner peace that has welled up in me this year.

In her book A Thousand Names For Joy, Byron Katie writes, “As I noticed the falling-away of the self and saw that it’s construct was absolutely invalid, what remained was humbled through the recognition. Everything dissolved – all that I had imagined myself to be. I realized that I was none of it, that everything I stood for was insubstantial and ridiculous. And what remained from that fell away, too, until finally there was nothing left to be humble about, no one left to be humble. If I was anything, I was gratitude.”

Whatever beliefs you have created in order to identify yourself dissolve in the face of the knowledge that you are no less or greater than that which lies all around.

Humbling indeed. Peace inducing for sure. And yes, bring on the gratitude!


Today I am grateful for homemade soup, time in the garden, writing, storytelling, soft music, sleeping past 9AM, candles, Always Economically Viable, the Sound Circle Project, prosperous new business opportunities, the YMCA, my book agent and editor, Hay House Publishing and Radio.

Thanks and peace to all!


Purple In Peru

Some of my most profound Fishing for Soul experiences took place while I was on shamanic journeys in Peru. I was introduced to the ancient path of truth, knowledge, healing, and empowerment popularly known as shamanism in the summer of 1993, shortly after my ‘Cracking Open’ episode. The following is a true story that took place in November of 1996.

Purple in Peru

I was a semi-anonymous, naked, purple person for almost two weeks.

I was not sure how long I had been dozing. Without a watch, I couldn’t know the exact time, but the somewhat familiar and comforting sounds of the jungle suggested that it was close to dawn. The medicine was still having an effect. When would they come for me?

“Un dia mas,” Agustin, a shaman overseeing us said the previous afternoon as he examined me, blowing tobacco smoke from his beautifully carved pipe over my body, and pressing deeply into my darkened flesh. My skin retained the deep purple hue achieved by applying dye from the crushed seed of a fruit whose name I cannot recall. The intention was to help keep mosquitoes away and to break down any notion of race and gender.

For six days I sat in silence, left alone to face my thoughts and emotions under the safety of mosquito netting on a wooden platform in a three-sided thatched hut, the fourth side left completely open to the air, struggling with a fearful reality of snakes creeping in, and eating a special diet of white rice prepared by the women in the camp – white rice in a bowl of hot water, white rice on a plate with a side of some kind of warm, watery broth, and after one painful, tormented morning a surprise that made me weep tears of gratitude and humility – a lunch of white rice with bits of chicken and herbs. Would they feed us as usual on this morning?

This was the final morning of my silent retreat. I had traveled to the shaman Agustin Rivas’ camp in the Peruvian Amazon as part of my work with my mentor, Lorna Roberts. The night before I had, along with the other members of our small group, taken part in an ayahuasca ceremony, the third in just a few days. When combined with other plants, boiled down to a thick “tea,” prayed over and ingested, ayahuasca, known as the vine or rope of death, becomes a powerful hallucinogenic (medicine) whose ability to bring one closer to their true essence and the nature of the cosmos is legendary in the Amazon. It also has a purging effect: diarrhea and vomiting are common during the ceremony.

It wasn’t until many hours later that this magical, ruthless plant mixture stirred up memories from my childhood, causing a deep sorrow to bubble up to the surface. As the sun rose, my mind filled with visions of my youngest sister. I saw her sad, lonely, and scared as she struggled to take care of two young children. I had a vision of her behind bars, a prisoner in her own life. I remembered her at the age of 2, 6 and 8, left alone at the mercy of my mother’s unsettling and often volatile mood swings.

My body began to heave as the heaviness of those years unfolded and I relived each unforgotten moment. I felt so helpless and hopeless at that time in my life, unable to rescue my little sister from the pains inflicted by our mother, who was suffering in her depression. Years of anguish poured out of me in tears, sobs, moans and wails. More and more images flooded my mind as I vomited what I could no longer contain. I began to hear a familiar voice. “Let it go, let it go. You are not helpless anymore.” Giant arms seemed to cradle and rock me. I didn’t question it. I surrendered to it.

After a while, I sat up, the jungle heat pouring over me, calmly looking through the haze of the protective mosquito netting toward the temple area where I had met Mother Ayahuasca in ceremony the night before, listening once again to the silence between the sounds and to the deeper stirrings inside of me. “When you return to New York you will formalize your apprenticeship with Lorna.” I let that sink in, wondering what it really meant.

People began to move about the camp, some carrying a large pot to a growing fire. Soon, purple beings that I had barely seen for a week were led from their huts and directed to stand near the fire. Eagerly, somewhat shyly, and still reflecting deeply upon my recent emotional release, I quietly took my place in line. One by one, the women of the camp scrubbed our naked bodies.

I closed my eyes, filled with gratitude for the care I was being shown as a week’s worth of dirt, dye and odor sunk to the ground. With each stroke of the scrub brush I felt as if a part of my past were being washed away. # # #

Today I thank Lorna Roberts and her tender guidance, Agustin Rivas for sharing his gifts, the dense jungle that held me for two extraordinary weeks in 1996, my courage, my mother, my sister, my visions, my guiding spirits, Mother Ayahuasca who visits me to this day, all of Nature, the land and people of Peru.


Thanks and peace!


Breaking the Cycle of Doubt, Worry, Confusion, Fear (or not?)

world heart

“Your ego has to terrify you all the time, so that you can investigate and come home to yourself in the body. This is what we’re all here to live. When we aren’t attached to our thinking, when all the why’s, when’s, and where’s let go of us, then what really is becomes visible.” – Byron Katie

I read that quote toward the end of my day on Tuesday and it fit very well with what I had been contemplating for hours. Synchronicity abounds!

A good friend emailed me on Tuesday morning and commented on the state of my mental and emotional well-being that I wrote about in Monday’s blog post. She referred to it as a cycle. A cycle. Bingo! Cue the flashing lights and sirens, we’re on to something here, folks!

I couldn’t get the word cycle and what it meant in regard to my process out of my head so I decided to ask about it in meditation. My good friends At One showed up and said,

“You are asking about the cycle of negative and positive thinking that you create in order to know who you are. The root of that ‘cycle’ is you. You in your brilliance. You in your desire to know. You in your desire to dig deeper. We suggest that you journey to a place of clarity and see what is revealed.”

I decided to interpret their journeying suggestion as another kind of meditation, so I grabbed a rattle, made some sound and received the following vision and understanding:

I come to a very large gate which opens as soon as I approach it. There is a golden house on the other side of the gate. I walk through the gate and into the house. I enter a room and see a beating heart – my heart – lying on a table. I reach out to take the heart in my hands and notice that the arteries are very long and are attached to something bigger. I realize that my heart is a part of a much bigger heart and that heart is attached to an even bigger heart. I then become aware that my heart is not my heart – it is a thriving, pulsating part of an energy that is beating, vital and alive all ways. I am a small yet integral part of the Whole. The more joy I radiate, the more joy there is for the Whole. The more clarity I have, the clearer the Whole becomes. Any cycle of doubt and confusion can open me to clarity and joy if I allow it. Any cycle of pain and suffering can be a cause for deeper contemplation and awareness of my connection to the BIG HEART that is alive and well all ways. That energy lives forever. I am alive forever. I am the BIG HEART.

That feels good.


Abundant blessings and gratitude to Holly for opening the door.

Thanks and peace to all.


Fishing for NOW


I sat on the subway last Thursday devouring Byron Katie’s book Question Your Thinking, Change the World. Reading her words and recalling my experience with her in the Loving What Is workshop several days before, I started thinking (again!) about what it would be like to live every moment as if it were the only moment. I allowed myself to get excited and confused by that recycled thought. “I know it’s possible to be in the moment,” I said to myself, “because I’ve experienced it.” It’s only when I ‘over-think’ it that I take myself out of the moment, or as my guides put it: “Every time you think about what was you move away from what is. Every time you think about what might be, you move away from what is. Every time you think ‘I should’ or ‘I shouldn’t’ you move away from ‘I am’. What if you took the time to see what is in front of you and enjoy it, examine it, explore it as if for the very first time?”

On Friday night I gathered with the New York Shamanic Circle for their monthly Drumming Circle. Along with about 40 other people, I drummed, rattled and sang from my soul. Moving around the room I was aware of how grounded and joyful I felt. The beating drums pounded in my chest and I experienced exquisite contentment. “Be still,” I heard. I stepped outside of the circle and waited. “Listen.” At that moment I felt something peel away from my body. “You are not your past. You are not your future. You are nothing and everything. Enjoy that.”

I went on a date on Saturday night. We went bowling. I hadn’t bowled in several years and before we even started I worried about my performance. Would I make a fool of myself? Each time I picked up the ball I heard a voice say, “You only have to be here, now. You are standing with a so-called bowling ball in your hands. Nothing else matters. Have fun.”

Yesterday morning, Easter Sunday, I trekked downtown for Sacred Center’s weekly service. As I shifted restlessly in my chair, barely paying attention to what was being said and wondering why I was there, I watched a very young child playing with a cell phone as she sat on the floor. She put the phone in her mouth, dropped it in her lap, pushed it along the carpet, and turned it over and over in her hands. “She has no idea that she’s playing with a phone,” I thought. “She doesn’t know to put it to her ear or talk into it. To her it’s just a thing to be explored, to have fun with. That’s incredible.”

Later in the afternoon I sat in Soy Luck Club, a café at 115 Greenwich Ave. in Manhattan (try the vegan, gluten-free Chocolate Crunch cookies and Red – Rooibos tea – Latte with Hemp Milk) with my friend Lynn discussing the way we perceive our thoughts. I told Lynn that, as a child, I used to look at my hands and wonder if they were real. If no one had told me they were hands, what would I think about them today? Would I judge their size and shape, and what they could or could not do, or would I be constantly in awe of what they were capable of?

And so I listen.

“If you think that you ARE, then you ARE. What will you believe NOW?” – At One



Burning Away the Past: Shamanism and Radical Openness


Last night I was prepping for my final Radical Openness Teleclass and received the following message:

“The very essence of Radical Openness is a willingness to go beyond what you think is normal, even proper or correct. It is your ability to allow yourself to grow bigger, bolder, and brighter in a very new and exciting way. Even the everyday things can turn into an adventure when looked at from that perspective. How willing are you to step outside of the box and experience your self differently? The treasure is available to all when you open your eyes. The treasure is there when you allow your self to think that you can all ways have what you want. The treasure is there in front of you. NOW. Ask it to reveal itself. NOW. Go on. Ask and you shall indeed receive. That’s LIFE. That’s LIVING.”

After class I was thinking about my next blog posting and came across a story I wrote in 2003. ‘Living Shamanism’ describes my first experience in a Shamanic Fire Ceremony with Lorna Roberts, who was a mentor of mine for eight years before she passed in 2001 (and who continues to influence me today). The story takes place in 1993 when I first stepped onto the shamanic path and started to peel away layers of guilt, shame, doubt and fear, and began to understand that there is far more to life than meets the eye. I was truly Fishing for Soul and Lorna paved the way for Radical Openness to emerge.

Living Shamanism
The darkened room began to fill with smoke from the burning sage. The cold New York City winter outside suddenly seemed far away. The smoke, I was told, would cleanse the room and all in it. I looked around at the circle of faces. Besides the friend who accompanied me, I recognized one other person.

Lorna Roberts, a shaman I had met a few months earlier, loomed before us. She was talking about the significance of the ceremony we were about to perform, a fire ceremony, a ritual of purification and transmutation. Working with the fire in this sacred way would release us from the energetic bonds that tied us to the past. I had read her written instructions beforehand, and was ready to shed a bit of personal history. My mind began to drift and fill with images related to the issue with which I was working. I remember thinking how interesting it was that faces, places and circumstances from 20 years ago, and supposedly long forgotten, were now very vivid. Lorna’s commanding voice carried me back to the room.

“Oh winds of the south,” she was saying, beginning her invocation of the four directions, her words at once mystical and poetic.

“Is this woman is a witch?” I wondered. “How did I wind up here?”

Several months earlier I had experienced intense and upsetting spontaneous psychic phenomena which, combined with other upheavals in my personal life, had left me emotionally raw and questioning my sanity. My old ways of trying to keep things together were not working. Things seemed out of control. And that’s how I came to be sitting in this dark, smoky room, with a strange woman who was now blowing smoke from her pipe. I was searching for answers. I was looking for myself.

Soon it was my turn to approach the fire. Having never done this before, I was a bit nervous and self-conscious. I knelt before the fireplace. Staring into the flames, I saw and heard again many of the images and names that had appeared to me earlier in the evening. I’d brought a small piece of paper with some names written on it to put into the fire, and I gently placed the paper in the flames and watched it be consumed, thereby releasing that part of my personal history to the universe.

“OK, I felt something,” I thought as I walked, still self-conscious, back to my seat. “Now what happens?”

What happened over the next few weeks was astounding, life changing and affirming. Years of guilt and shame seemed to be lifted. I was functioning in a way that I’d been praying for.

I spent the next eight years learning from Lorna, her magnificent fire ceremonies, and an ancient body of knowledge. That night proved to me the power of shamanism, and it put me firmly on a path of self-discovery. It taught me that the unseen world is alive. But shamanism is not all about smoke and fire. Ritual and ceremony are often an important part of it, but the work really begins when the fire goes out. We must then return to our everyday lives, and integrate the energies that were called forth and released, or absorbed, during the ceremony.

Shamanism, according to Wade Davis, is arguably the oldest of human spiritual endeavors, born at the dawn of our species’ awareness. It is a system of direct revelation, without dogma or doctrine. A shaman, writes Michael Harner in The Way of the Shaman, is a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness, at will, to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons. The role of the shaman is to bring balance to a person, a community, or the earth.

Do you need to be a shaman, or have the assistance of one, to tap into the wisdom of non-ordinary reality? It can help, but I believe that we are all wired to do the things a shaman does. I’ve seen it happen countless times, whether it is at the fire, or through a seemingly unrelated incident afterward. Perhaps in the future we will all rediscover our own inner shaman.

Peace and light!


Meditation Meets Radical Openness

lake yoga
I meditate at least once a day. Meditation has kept me from falling into mental and emotional darkness many times. I use that quiet, reflective space to visualize my day, gather ideas for new workshops, ask for guidance about a challenging situation, and connect with myself and All That Is. I hear a lot of people say that they don’t have time to sit and be still. “Not even five minutes?” I ask. Just sit and take a few deep breaths. Presto! You’ve meditated.

Here is some advice from my spiritual guides:

“Once you are willing to quiet your mind, you will be able to sit without worry, without fear that you are missing out on something ‘out there’. Please know that ‘meditation’ means only that you are taking time for you, time to be in love with your self, time to listen to the thoughts that occupy your brilliant mind, time to BREATHE. There is no better cure for what ails you than quiet reflection. Listen. Feel. Know. Oh, it is so easy! We invite you to try it NOW! Take a few breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your shoulders drop away from your ears. Sit up tall. Plant your feet on the floor. Feel your heart beating. How nice! Now close your eyes. Success!”

Sixteen years ago I thought my life was in the toilet. A shamanic apprenticeship, meditation, and what I now refer to as Radical Openness saved me from a downward spiral. Radical Openness has allowed me to follow my impulses, to be spontaneous, to be open to reaching out to others and to receive others, to take extra time for myself, to slow down, to laugh, to cry, to be more creative, and to ultimately enjoy life in ways that I thought was possible only for someone else.


I’ll be sharing my Radical Openness process in a free teleconference on Wed., Feb. 18th at 8 P.M. ET. Just call the conference line at 218.486.1300, bridge # 951782.

I’m also working on a follow up to “The Healing Power of Facebook.” I got an incredible response from that post and will be sharing some quotes from readers on Wed. Plus – I am investigating Blog Talk Radio as a way for people to share their everyday Fishing for Soul Stories. Stay tuned.



Asking Why

Last night I sat down for a few minutes before the start of my new, 6-Week Make It Happen! Law of Attraction Telecourse to ask for guidance. “What do I need to know for tonight’s class? What information can I pass on to the people on the call?” I asked. The reply from At One, my spiritual guides who have been teaching me about the Law of Attraction for years, surprised me:

“As you ask for what you are wanting, please keep in mind the ‘why’ of it. Why do you want it? That question can help you become even clearer as you begin the receiving process. Allow your self to revel in the deep knowing you are seeking. Asking the question ‘Why?’ will lead you to your brilliance much faster. It will open the door to your awareness. It will create consciousness around your desire. Asking ‘Why do I want that?’ will help you to see what it is that is doing the attracting – the ‘like attracts like’ part of the equation.”

Hmm… Food for thought. How often do we ask ourselves why we want something? What need are we fulfilling? What is driving that desire? Who are we trying to become? Will that thing make us truly FEEL better, or is it just a temporary fix, a band-aid for something that is embedded in us? I ask these questions of myself. I am being called to do my coming-home work!