Working With the Spirits

Shrine, Chennai, India
Shrine, Chennai, India

We arose to a relatively warm, thickly overcast morning. Yesterday and Saturday Jennie worked in the yard, which is now beautifully groomed. I joined briefly in the endless task of trying to control the spread of our inherited patches of  Burning Bush. Saturday evening we went to a marvelous concert of vocal music by Social Band. Ours was a full weekend.

Jennie and I have been quietly working with the spirits of the land where we live. This is a tad challenging as we live in a residential neighborhood and all ceremony is public. My teachers always said one should be polite, humble, and do ceremony anyway. This simple advice turns out to be remarkably complex in practice.

One evening in India we were asked to do a simple ceremony for a group of college students. The ceremony took on a momentum of its own, and became profoundly moving and healing for all of us. A couple of weeks ago I was speaking with our friend and colleague, Julie Soquet, and I told her about the experience. She listened to my story, considered it for a moment, then said, “The spirits of the land must be really alive and receptive there.”  I was stunned by her naming of the missed obvious. Local gods and spirits are routinely honored in both India and Hong Kong, and Jennie and I had spoken after the ceremony about how we felt the presence, support, and appreciation of the spirits. There was a shrine directly across the street from where we were conducting the ceremony. Ritual and ceremony are the norm in South Asia.

We have much-loved gardens on our small plot of urban land. Jennie now is the primary tender of those beds. Yet we both care deeply about their well-being. Much of my energy goes into our healing work. Healing is another form of gardening, another way of working with spirit. With that firmly in mind I have been  slowly moving my psychotherapy practice away from problem focus to spirit focus. This is, as is most of our lives, seemingly swimming against the current. I am doing this as I increasingly remember and understand that spirit must be awakened for the Earth and the Self to heal.

Like the Spring, my often dauntingly slow budding appears to be gathering momentum. Over the next few months I intend to completely shift my practice to a new, as yet Gardenlargely unmapped focus on spirit. For the past thirty plus years I have taught Transpersonal Psychology at the College level. I imagine my evolving practice might fit under that rubric, yet I am skeptical of placing it there. I acknowledge and hold dear that these ideas and practices arise from my Native American heritage, are Earth centered, and focus on relationship to Pachamama, the Ancestors, and the spirits.

During our last few days in Hong Kong Jennie and I began to look back over our trip and notice the early evolution of a new paradigm that draws upon our long time focus on the expressive arts, narrative therapy, and shamanism to encourage healing.  Since our return my dream life has been filled with helpful hints for nurturing this new way of working. I remain curious as to how this will unfold.

Last night, in dream, I was reminded we are loaned our bodies for our stay here on Pachamama. Our bodies are sacred; they are Medicine bundles. At the end of our lives we give them back to the Earth. Pachamama asks that we grow the spirit and power of these bundles, so that when we return them, they benefit Her and all beings. In the dream I was asked simply to keep this in mind as I made my way through what remains of my walk Here.  There were no other instructions, no “shoulds”, no “musts”. This morning I wonder how this simple, profound truth will enter into my work.

7 thoughts on “Working With the Spirits

  1. Bravo and welcome to the paradigm shift into the spirit centered approach to healing and wholeness. Glad the Dream Maker is pushing you forward with a reminder we all need to remember. We owe it to the future to make this a good place to live, i.e., honoring our Mother by considering how our actions will affect the next seven generations. Great to hear the good news. I understand how such a move can be rather scary and necessary at the same time. Blessings and love to your venture. Michael Whiteagle Melville

    1. The challenge has been, and continues to be, working in two very different worlds. One world is that of insurance companies and the medical model. The other is that of traditional knowledge. Often, these worlds seem far apart indeed.I have always sought to respectfully attempt to bridge these worlds through my practice. Now that I am an elder, I still hope to be a bridge across this sometimes vast gulf, yet am much more concerned about nurturing spirit. I am curious about how this new road will unfold.

  2. Lovely post and food for thought… I’m so grateful for the reminder about the Spirits… I care for the flowers and the birds and small creatures, but had forgotten the Spirits. thank you..

    1. It is good to remember the spirits and the Ancestors. The spirits of place are struggling now in many locations.Of course, they will be there after we are long gone, yet they too will be changed I think. I try to remember we owe the spirits our lives, they and the Creator.

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