This is an ongoing US and global project to help enthusiasts, scholars, practitioners, and curious parties learn more about shamanic living in a contemporary culture. The space here is devoted to sharing info, experiences and opinions about all forms of shamanic expression covering shamanism's multiple permutations. Among subjects explored are traditions, techniques, insights, definitions, events, artists, authors, and creativity. You are invited to draw from your own experiences and contribute.

What is a SHAMAN?

MAYAN: "a technichian of the Holy, a lover of the Sacred." CELTIC: "Empower the people...by changing the way we think." MEXICAN APACHE: "Someone who has simply learned to give freely of themselves..." AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL: "...a teacher or healer, a wisdom keeper of knowledge... (who) takes people to a door and encourages them to enter." W. AFRICAN DIAGRA: "views every event in life within a spiritual context." HAWAIIAN: "...human bridges to the spiritual world and its laws and the material world and its trials..." QUECHUA INDIAN: "embodies all experience." AMAZON: "...willing to engage the forces of the Universe...in a beneficial end for self, people, and for life in general."

-- from Travelers, Magicians and Shamans (Danny Paradise)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Spiritual Problems (and Solutions)

Here are 5 common questions that stir up debate from within the spiritual community. Many discussions I've witnessed or been a part of revolve around spiritually inclined people taking differing positions on these questions. Of course the descriptions below are simplifications that don’t do justice to all the considerations behind them. The conclusion from doing this exercise is that value conflicts exist no matter how spiritual a person is and that making sense of and communicating those values is an essential part of  understanding your own brand of spiritualism.

Receiving training from a mentor or teacher is seen as a major validation for some members of the spiritual community. Then there is the so-called "anti-authoritarian" view, that “I am my own Guru” and that being self-taught in ways to connect to the divine is more meaningful and authentic than surrendering to the feet of any Guru.
 A Solution: Everybody is at a different stage on their spiritual path and need different kinds of inspiration and teaching at different points in life. Some may require sensitivity to independence, others want to be part of a collective and enjoy the communal experience that goes with a religious tradition or the wisdom that is imparted from a religious master. Life provides different lessons at each step of the way. The important thing is to be aware of what the concepts of authority and surrender to that authority create. If anger against all authority is behind the drive for independence, then the matter probably lies much deeper than the Guru question.  

Spiritual practice often requires a daily practice to remain connected or grounded to “the path” but some believe that this can lead to obsessive behavior. Is it a discipline or an addiction to be a daily spiritual practitioner?
A Solution: It shouldn’t matter what someone else is doing for their spiritual nourishment and what the frequency needs to be. There is also no such thing as too much Spirit. Listen to what works for you and drop the idea that the right balance for one person is universal. If God is an external experience to obsess over then no practice will satisfy the urge to be close to the divine. Similarly, the link to divinity is not made full by an empty ritual done just because it’s Friday today.   

Some believe that celebrating and promoting the self is purely egotistical behavior and that any demonstration of desire or personal praise runs against the practice of selflessness and humility. Others argue that spiritualists like anyone else need to honor and value what they offer the world, and if we don’t market and promote ourselves, our talents, and our successes that we won’t survive.
A Solution: There is such a thing as a healthy relationship with the ego. Rather than becoming part of life’s proverbial furniture or trying to blend into the background to satisfy the judgment of others, it’s essential to be compassionate with the self, and it’s ok to celebrate your gifts, especially if you've felt others haven’t done so enough. If the self has become falsely inflated then detachment will be the challenge before you. Uniting with the one true source can wait till after you have enjoyed the benefits of grounding in self-appreciation and balanced self-care--even the Buddha understood this reality.

"Be in integrity and keep your word when you make a commitment" as opposed to "the only constant is change; and therefore, any commitment is an illusion and not something to limit yourself to."
A Solution: Whichever side you swing on here, make sure the facts about how you view commitment are shared upfront and let the person making the agreement with you decide whether your values in relation to commitment match with theirs beforehand.

Some believe that the best way to be sensitive, compassionate and loving to a companion is by taking on their challenges to minimize their suffering as the best show of support—Others believe that fierce compassion involves stepping out of the way and trusting in the resourcefulness and abilities of the person experiencing the suffering to overcome their challenges.
A Solution: No one can sustainably solve another person’s problems and you may be enabling a sense of helplessness and victimization by believing that your interference will help the situation. Not to mention feeding your own hero complex. That being said, wait for an invitation first before making the choice to get involved and remember that minimizing pain is only compassionate if personal empowerment and personal responsibility are being cultivated too.  Life always creates unfair suffering and support and care for each other are necessary. Just be careful that there is no unwarranted feeding of addictive behavior involved.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Daniel Pinchbeck Interviewed on Colbert Report (2006)

An entertaining interview on the Colbert Report with a modern Shaman, Daniel Pinchbeck.

I'm impressed at the amount of info he gets through while challenging stereotypes about shamanism. Still, Colbert’s classic whimsy is priceless.

Note, this is from 2006. Since then, interest continues to grow in the mainstream. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

8 Manifestation Tips Via Miklautsch's "Inner Voice" Method

I took part in an intensive retreat that combined Kabalah, Alchemy, and other mystical traditions at Villa Gaia a while back. The focus of the retreat was visualizations to help activate and manifest positive thoughts. In keeping with what some call the “Laws of Attraction,” “The Inner Voice” was a refreshing departure from hyperbolic, infomercial-driven approaches to manifestation a la brands like "The Secret." At worst, it brought a greater awareness to the process of how thoughts become reality, at best it contributed to improving my life in certain areas.

International spiritual advisor and conflict-resolution expert, Patricia Miklautsch, led the group through a number of visualization "journeys" and empowerment techniques like embodying and integrating the elements (earth, fire, air, water), and simple, practical observations like how time is spent on a day-to-day basis as clues to what stops us from making our dreams a reality.

We followed up with a couple of meetings that aimed to put into practice what was shared at the retreat.  At the time, each of us went round-robin with our visualizations and received support and feedback from the collective. Here are some manifestation pointers from my impressions of the follow-up meetings:
  1. Being there is everything. One common misconception about visualization is that you ask for something as if you don’t already have it. Try to support a perception shift, by employing a visual as if it is already in effect. “Be in the moment of having it happen,” instructed Miklautsch.
  2. Visualizations benefit from a natural state of harmony. If experiencing fear, phobia or doubt, clear the mind by redirecting concentration on the details and results of what's to be visualized. The fear on its own can become a source of negative attraction.
  3. Note how your body reacts. Relish the moment in which you are creating the vision, be present to your body’s sensations and note your reactions to them: are you experiencing joy? duress? physical pain?
  4. Be as clear and simple as possible. Specificity in the mental visualization itself, down to the last detail of your surroundings and the sensations felt, helps with realization. Put a finger on what you would like to happen. 
  5. Avoid asking for dollars. Rather than asking for money, ask for abundant resources to support the vision—consider what money can provide instead of asking for hard cash.
  6. Don’t get carried away by the story behind the vision. This can dilute the energy of what you are trying to achieve. Focus on the fundamentals of what you see rather than the logistics.
  7. Keep developing your vision. Often, once a visualization becomes more clearly defined, it will shift and refine itself. A written log containing revisions of the manifestation in progress is an important part of the process.
  8. Put service first. Finally, I experience that those visions linked to service and support of humanity tend to have stronger momentum and provide greater long-term rewards. Some masters believe that service-oriented visualizations can improve longevity, and repair “bad karma” which may have built up over generations.      

Patricia is currently in the process of establishing a silent retreat center in Bali. To contact Patricia, go here. For more information about the Inner Voice, read an article about the retreat:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Punnu Wasu and Indian Chant

 From my article about Punnu Wasu:

At an all-day workshop at the Yoga Barn, Bali , Punnu Wasu shared his extensive knowledge of Kirtan’s historic development, educated guests about related Hindu and Sikh devotional practices, shared stories behind the principal gods and goddesses honored, and discussed the benefits of chanting mantras in groups.  

‘Kirtan’ means ‘praise’ or ‘eulogy’, and is a traditional practice for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. It involves the chanting of powerful ancient ‘mantras’ (translated as ‘instruments of thought’), and has dramatically grown in world popularity since it was brought to the West in 1923, Punnu shared.

The typical Kirtan performance can involve theatrical storytelling, call and response song, and musical accompaniment. The aim is to create a state of “self-surrender,” to raise a participant’s level of awareness and connection to divine energy, Punnu said. “Our goal is to be highly elevated; we understand when we are fully awakened.”

Chanting hymns, clapping hands, closing the eyes, and repetition of mantras intently supports a Kirtan singer through mental concentration, alignment with breath and synching with rhythm, and this process can send a participant into a natural state of bliss.  “When the group is in synch, Kirtan is enhanced and the atmosphere becomes charged with spiritual energy,” said Punnu.

Punnu fondly recalled the unforgettable experience of chanting at the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar as an illustration of how centuries of non-stop devotional chant in one place can create a significant charge of positive sacred energy, “As you enter the Temple, you can feel the vibration is so great. Every cell in our body is vibrating—everything in theuniverse is nothing but sound.”

Repeatedly praising and invoking divine beings such as certain Hindu gods and goddesses enhances this vibration, according to Punnu. In these supercharged environments prayer, healing, initiation, and a stronger sense of self are more effectively developed and cultivated, he believes.  

Punnu closed the day by explaining the meaning and use of various mantras which are even today recited in the ancient language of Sanskrit. He also shared a few of his favorite hymns and mantras devoted to Hindu deities and shared the stories behind them.  

Punnu will be performing at the Yoga Barn in Ubud this Sunday, May 13th at 730 p.m.

“Every person has all the possibilities of becoming a Buddha. We are nothing but gods; the only thing is we have to deal with so many layers of beliefs, concepts, practices in front of us. The goal is spiritual ripening.” ~ Punnu Wasu  

About Punnu Wasu:
Musician, spiritual scholar and recording artist, Punnu Wasu has over 35 years of experience in the devotional chant traditions of Kirtan and Bhajans. Born in Hyderabad, India and a devout follower of the Sikh faith, Punnu has been a fixture at the BaliSpirit Festival and regularly performs Kirtan and Bhajans at The Yoga Barn with his beloved partner, Harmony. He led his first workshop in May, 2012.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Active-Observation (A-O) Principal

Art by Jerome Van Valkenburg
 What is “active-observation”? the Taoists might call it “Wu-Wei: effortless effort, and Quantum theorists might call it the “Observer Effect.” This is when you can step out of the automatic, passive or reactive experiences of life and bring in greater awareness and intention to enhance the experiences of observation and action.

I believe pretty much every aspect of life boils down to an action or an observation. If you “observe” your daily routines, they can be divided into actions/reactions or activities that are observed and recorded.

One involves outward expression that interacts with the physical world, the other involves receiving and inwardly processing info much like an antenna.(While receiving can be an act in itself, it can be done passively—so observation can also be viewed as a passive action).

Adding the element of conscious awareness to either of these two experiences transforms and enhances each one and provides a marble-colored layer of “active-observation” to the mix.

If ‘passively observing’ as we go through life, it can feel like living alongside a conveyer belt, where all sensation becomes attuned to automated and narrowly focused stimulation—It could be tantamount to apathetic mechanistic living or a blind acceptance of whatever comes and goes in front of you.

Similarly, passive action—or action without the added ingredient of active-observation resembles the experience of being the conveyor belt or being on it. Many of our basic survival functions are passive actions, and that’s a good thing. But in these cases we are either preprogrammed to act in a certain way to fit a protocol, or we may be following the brain’s orders out of habit. Like passively observing, the defining feature is the same: a limited cause-effect experience of life. 

When reacting passively, it’s similar, except that the reaction may be an automatic emotional response traced to a wound. New and old hurts, resentments, and negative sensations (and a craving for thrills that get in their way) are a recipe for reactiveness. And in the case of passive reaction, a habitual association with emotions may interfere with life and develop into an addiction as we become dependent on ego-driven feelings giving the orders. 

Active-observation could be one key to meditation. Indeed it could be the act of bringing a meditative mindset into any interaction with the world. The result is to move beyond survival, reaction and automation and into the realms of creativity, play, inspiration, spontaneity, and healthy natural being. Where the experience of whatever we are doing carries a natural flow of feedback between observer and observed and between actor and action.

Someone who is experienced at active-observation, may develop and refine these skills so they provide the basis for an integrated-existence. Here, a person becomes so familiar with their own unique place as an agent of constructive interplay with conscious observation and action that the two merge and synch guided by an intent of creating more sustainable access to active-observation. Perhaps this integrated state might even begin to wire a person to develop higher brain functions and bring forth Lao Tzu's state of "valuable, necessary, and long lasting service."

The Hindu’s believe that one ideal of life is to experience Satchidananda, or to break out of the action-reaction cycle of karma and live-out our true nature. Could they have considered “active-observation” and integrated-existence as ways of unlocking our highest potential on this path?  

Gaining an awareness of life's essential unity and learning to cooperate with its natural flow and order enables people to attain a state of being that is both fully free and independent and at the same time fully connected to the life flow of the Universe - being at one with the Tao. From the Taoist viewpoint this represents the ultimate stage of human existence. ~ Ted Kardesh

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Should We Be Suspicious of All Stories or Just Certain Ones?

When Tyler Cowen says we should be suspicious of stories, he comes across as either an enlightened being or a total hypocrite. I don't buy a lot of his premises--because he adds caveat after caveat in his Tedtalk, and the fact that he's using Tedtalks to share his message, arguably one of the most potent storytelling technologies out there, is tellingly inconsistent in and of itself.

Cowen, an economist by trade, says that storytelling makes life too simple. He uses words such as "self-deceptive," "manipulative," and "predictably irrational" to describe those who harness or are too susceptible to the power of stories.

He may have a point, especially when it comes to societal conflicts and how we add layers of hurt to our lives through certain stories we tell ourselves, which we become attached to over time.

I noted the dangers of clinging to certain stories in a post about September 11th ten years on--but the reality is that human beings have been and always will be fascinated with stories. The man of the millenium is William Shakespeare, not a priest or an economist, or a political leader, but a bard-- a storyteller. Research is showing that the vast majority of people base their view of the world on their values, which may be reflected in stories, and then cherrypick stats, info and evidence when it suits them to support their values-based pre-conclusions.

We are not automaton machines, therefore we can never escape the very things that exist to animate our lives and our souls. Furthermore, many stories can empower us, bring us hope, and teach us about compassion: they reflect our desires, perceptions, and the human condition. In this way, stories are not necessarily the source of self-deception, but rather possible reinforcers and context builders of who we believe we are, and who we can strive to be. In which case, Cowen's ire should not be aimed at stories but rather the content of certain stories.

What might better serve Cowen is a talk that discusses how we sometimes need to trade in the stories we buy into that may decieve, manipulate, and hold us down for ones that are more reflective of simple acceptance and the development of a more mindful lifestyle or higher consciousness.

Here is a nice excerpt from an article by Jungian and Shadow Psychology expert, Jeremiah Abrams, that expands on this point:

We are many-storied creatures. Every morning, we wake up and tell ourselves into our story. When you study a life, as I have many times as a therapist, you realize that how we tell ourselves into our story generally determines how things will go for us. As American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield says, “We can tell stories that lead us to greater suffering and desperation, blame and fear, or we can use stories to open the heart of compassion. We can use stories to support the generous impulse that’s there in us. We can use stories to connect us to one another.” The problem is that much of our personal story is unconscious to us, a jumble of scripts generated by the imprints of our experiences, often running and ruling us from underneath.

The places where we run into trouble and suffer in life are the places where our stories have gone awry, where things have gone badly and where we have chosen inappropriate responses or just avoided the powerful emotions and effects attending such events.
Which kind of story would you want to live by?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dave Stringer and Healing Chants

Dave Stringer Performs at The Yoga Barn, Bali
An excerpt from my new article on the unifying power of chant in Newsvoice.se .  It is a feature about respected Kirtan singer, Dave Stringer, who recently performed at the Yoga Barn. Stringer discussed singing in gibberish to be therepeutic in a way that reminded me of a practice used by some shamans.

In certain shamanic chants or mantras bits and pieces of words come through in a vocal soup that makes little sense to most. Still, some believe there is a healing force that can be traced to the quality, shape and combination of the sounds themselves.

After learning about Kototama, an ancient study of sound, I was made aware that certain vocal sounds can stimulate while others sedate and that different combinations of vowels and consonants have symbolic and universal significance--it can start with how you utter your name--the name being each person's principal mantra for life.

Hasto cielo mantchini cinchi cinchi medicoy

Mediconche coy na mi hapa morish vwa miquay



In this way, may be sounds do make up a world language like Stringer suggests--most musicians call music a universal language for a reason, and the words used in their songs don't have to make much transliteral sense.

To access the healing power of sound, there is an implied delinking of the mind involved, which is simply another altered state or pathway to the second attention.
The most interesting aspect of Stringer was his personal history and how he came to discover the therapeutic power of song. As a youngster, Dave would sing gibberish to himself—uttering a string of vocal sounds that often made no coherent sense– “it appeared and I just followed it,” he recalled.

Dave described this practice as a spiritual communication process from within, “it was the kind of nonsense that was meaningful to me,” He acknowledged there were possible shamanic elements to these non-linear vocalizations. And he came to consider them as ways to take negative emotions and to release and replace them with positive ones.

Dave discovered Kirtan later on while traveling in India... as a study and practice that gave structure and definition to the inner processes that he had privately engaged in all along. In a sense, Kirtan validated the gibberish.

“It gave my life a rich meaning—I could transform what was dark and difficult into something brighter and allow it to spread. So I went around the world singing.”

The full piece can be found here

Monday, October 3, 2011

September 11th's Inner World Influence

Here are excerpts of my edited article about the ongoing influence of the most influential tragedy of our age: 9/11. The full edit can be found on Margot Anand's Blog and the longer version was published in Europe's NewsVoice.

To me, the shamanic elements are clear in that 9/11shows how persons and societies may generate stories that justify behaviors, that can keep us bound to the past. Throughout life we are challenged to let go of stories that inhibit our personal growth, but the stories that rule the collective subconscious are the most difficult to release and can be the most damaging:

We each recall the stark images of planes flying into sky scrapers; the heroism, the villainy, the suffering, the imagination slipping into what it could have been like for the senses to experience the fire, smoke, and collapsing rubble. Every society has versions of its own 9/11 and Ground Zero.

Are We Stuck in a Story?
On the personal side, I believe that if such tragic forces are not converted into platforms for conscious awakening and compassion, they will soon become a heavyweight distraction.

In their book, “Spontaneous Evolution,” American scientist, Bruce Lipton, and political scientist, Steve Bareman, discuss the limitations and sabotaging influences of the collective subconscious experience, “We are storymaking creatures…in order to make meaning of the world, we create stories”—

The urge for victims of violence is to instead develop a story that creates a self-serving struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, hero and villain. Yet Lipton and Bareman and others like Eckhart Tolle remind us that we are meant to move beyond our stories. Why?

If a person is to transform and awaken to their gifts, then it becomes nearly impossible to do so when still clinging to a recurring cycle of past hurts and injustices.

when it gets in the way of identifying with a positive meaning in a big-picture context, then it can be hypnotizing to allow cultural belief to dominate our lives.

Bare explains in more detail, “We often find people who have a wound, or an affliction, or problem. And their entire lives become about this problem and then to let go of that problem they would lose all of the meaning in their lives. This gets played out in cultures…Each time one side does something bad to the other side, that enhances the story and it builds the story one more storey high.”
Dropping the Story to Celebrate Life
After 9/11, “national security” arguably became the dominant political and cultural story in the US and many parts of the world, and the values of strength and valor against terror (as well as their ugly shadows) took center stage.
If you still think that it’s worthwhile to cling to the shared experience of those violent images from 9/11, consider Lipton and Bareman’s rationale that it empowers our conscious capacity to participate in the world when beliefs that are limiting are reprogrammed.

This way the heavy coat of armor that preserves the ego from fear of violence can be replaced with a radiant mirror reflection of a responsible vibrant and more complete being; free to avoid storybook dramas that come and go in life.

Friday, September 9, 2011


An undisturbed tribe of indigenous Amazonians were caught on video this year for the first time to verify their true existence to Brazilian authorities. The rainforest tribespeople were filmed from a helicopter about 1 km away, using cutting-edge camera technology.

The reason for this exercise, according to Jose Carlos Meirelles, of FUNAI (the National Indian Foundation of Brazil), was to preserve the tribe’s lands and culture from loggers and other powerful interests who have plans to develop the land.

The intention of keeping the tribe shielded behind the trees; perfectly preserved inside its own natural bubble of frozen time is important and noble although ultimately futile. Not to sound pessimistic, but it seems unlikely to work for long. Whatever little is left of the world’s mysteries is rapidly being overturned, analyzed, and exploited by the hyperthinkers and doers who want everything figured out and turned into profit. The cost of the damage done is rarely factored and the earth’s natural harmony seems only to warrant fixing under this model.

As humanity looks to explore and conquor more physical space, the most important discoveries left to most of us remain buried away inside the psyche’s deepest wounds and greatest hopes--the inner frontiers, as poet David Whyte might describe them.

Advocates of a modern lifestyle might argue that these “primitives” would benefit from a dose of space-age enlightenment and other scientific and social advancements, which are only accessible to the industrialized person, and that they should be approached and "made better" by our ways.

Guardians of the world’s dying mysteries would say that the simple ways and practices of these people can better help them remain connected with the heart of nature and thereby the natural self, and they should be left alone.

Another cadre of people might believe that in order for both our peoples to survive, their voices and experiences ought to be heard, shared, honored, and integrated into society; for theirs is an essential wisdom that we can learn from; a wisdom that is healing and rapidly disappearing.

I belong to this last group. But the question still begs: should they be left alone? I regret that the answer is 'yes.'

In the end, the essential course of action may be to empower these people from a distance as we would a beautifully mysterious and forgotten version of ourselves that ghosts in and out of view when we sometimes look in the mirror. As you suit up to go to work, consider allowing the inner tribesperson in you to materialize today. It will help you look back at your mind’s camera mounted atop your inner observer’s helicopter with a stronger sense of wonder.

To read an article about the Tribe, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12325690

Thursday, September 8, 2011

David Jubb: Life Food Shaman Reshapes Raw

According to loyal supporters of David Jubb, raw food is out and "Life" food is IN. Jubb is a pioneer nutritionist, author, lecturer and shaman, who was a leading figure at this year’s Raw Life Festival at Angsbacka Course Center. According to one follower, Jubb once inspired the founders of the Landmark Education phenomenon, and his teacher, Cloud TwoChildren, remains his own top inspiration.

With a PhD and a list of other scientific credentials to his name, Jubb’s 40 years of experience have honed his remarkable abilities to read the body "like a book"; integrating indigenous wisdom and scientific methods along the way.

He started out using a series of games to read body language and he believes that such games are the best ways to tap a person’s highest potential. “Playfulness is a suspension of ordinary time. It reveals a state of mind and a state of being.”

To Jubb games were a way of exploring the “universe inside our mind,” which also became the name of his controversial TV show on Manhattan cable. His show explores subjects such as how the human “gut” has its own intelligence and the damaging effect of growth hormones. But Jubb is more than an entertainer and educator.

In earlier years, Jubb designed simple machines and techniques to help determine direction, focus and balance in people as a way of discerning how they approach life’s challenges.

“Every single thing which one does is a metaphor of the clearest of things happening in the unconscious mind.

He believes that sweat lodges, prayer circles, and similar ceremonies are places where people go to deliberately create darkness—which may start as a seeming situation of suffering, but ultimately these sacred spaces teach people how to think without interference.

LIFE COLLOID: A Soil Based Supervitalizer?
Jubb enthusiastically shared his discovery of “Life Colloid”—a supervitalizer mineral-organo complex, “It’s what is missing in the world. It can preserve you,” he says.

According to Jubb, the Life Colloid substance is found only in the earth’s oldest forests, “it’s the most ancient stuff and it carries every phytonutrient in the forest.” Life Colloid's rare availability only meant that Jubb had to spend hours studying satellite images to find a suitable enough deposit source in Australia.

Jubb’s research suggests that the intestinal tract carries 1,000 species of “good” bacteria, but it should carry around 80,000 species. And Life Colloid is meant to help with restoring these organisms to improve digestion and food absorbtion.

The Life Colloid provides a number of other benefits including increased immunity and glutathianperoxidase production, but the most interesting are the claims that it “snacks on contaminants,” in the body, and Jubb says that it supports DNA generation.

“People who try it feel something of themselves coming back more,” Jubb claims. “When you have it, you gain the intelligence of a wolf,” Jubb continues, suggesting that a significant increase in perception and awareness returns to those who ingest Life Colloid.

Jubb believes that Irish Moss is the best green superfood substitute available, but he cautions against the intake of too much in the way of green juices because of the alarmingly high amount of phospherous in these so-called superfoods. “A small amount of greens is fine, but it shouldn’t be relied on too heavily,” Jubb reasons. The high phospherous-calcium ratio in Spirulina, for example, creates bone deposits, fail to support the production of serotonin, and impact our sensitivity to bright light, according to Jubb.

Believing that humans are meant to be more “frugivorous,” Jubb encourages consumption of foods that come either from the body of a flower or the flower itself.

He also called on the raw food community to more actively promote the principal of life force in food, and use restraint with respect to certain foods like bananas, which are susceptible to “mould, fungus, and yeast.”

Jubb believes that the scientific establishment needs to be more environmentally focused and that there needs to be greater government disclosure about technologies that support clean energy, “the hand needs to be the people,” he says.

Limited by a collective agreement, science would benefit by shifting from shortsighted and unsustainable economic demands to a rational, logical process that it was designed to be, Jubb reasons. Moreover Jubb argues that the research world’s carrot and stick driven model of observation needs to instead be driven by the internal generation of intrinsic interests like learning, achievement, recognition and growth.

Jubb subscribes to 50,000 year old “Toltec” technologies from the Lemurian era, which he believes are the most naturally powerful teachings available. By putting nature first, Jubb finds that technology can naturalize humanity, “These are principals that are tried and tested from time immemorial.”

Finally, Jubb’s gentle nature and generous time availability struck me as a model of how healers can put forward their crafts as a service first.

In spite of 40 years of dedication and his global celebrity, every night Jubb spent at least a couple of hours offering a specialized sauna massage treatment to guests and providing diet consultations during the day, without the expectation of pay. Thank you, David.

For more information, visit, http://www.jubbslongevityeurope.com/

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Radio Show: Why Shamanism Now?

Christina Pratt, expert shaman, Qi Gong teacher, and author of the mammoth Encyclopedia of Shamanism, has been hosting her own online radio show, Why Shamanism Now?, since April of last year. You can listen to it here live every Tuesday at 11 a.m. (Pacific Time).

This week (today), Pratt hosts film producer, Dan McGuire, to “explore the world-view of Balinese healers and their attitudes towards sickness, health, and the healing power of transformative ritual.” A subject of importance since Bali is one of the few societies left where the shaman is revered (you can read about my experience with a Balinese healer, Jero Ayu, here).

“Through the story of Mangku Pogog, McGuire illustrates the effect of globalization on the belief systems of traditional people and poses the questions: What new challenges are presented to traditional healers as people come for healing with different worldviews and diverse beliefs about healing? Will traditional wisdom survive or be changed by “spiritual tourism?” McGuire, a journalist with many years experience in Indonesia is currently completing his documentary “Balian”.

A shamanic practitioner for 21 years, Pratt calls herself an authentic, non-traditional contemporary shaman and is the founder of the Last Mask Centers for Shamanic Healing

Archives of her prior shows are available here. Here are some of the more interesting titles:

The Power of Joy
What is a Wounded Healer?
Shamanism and the Spiritual Warrior
Why You Need to Heal Your Ancestral Lines
Vitality and Life Force of Your Purpose
Transforming Pain

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Melody of Grace

Listen... listen
To this voice of air and light
It writes me into motion
Effortlessly slides, Deftly glides
With healing purpose
Following the surface
Into me

Listen... closely
Under layers of my being
This body speaks completely
A universal language
A rippling liquid-luscious correspondence
Molecule and sound
Surround me

Listen to this natural union
Wings above fluttering
Streams that gush belowing
Leaves rustling in between
Oh so gently integrate
Mother Earth-Father sky
Delicate, they move sublimely

Take me...Take me now
Trace me to the source entirely
Inspire me blissfully
Lift me into higher realms
The orbits of awakening
To my senses lead me
Back to sound
To this Melody of Grace

Friday, July 15, 2011

David Wolfe: A Reminder to Honor Healing Foods and Sacred Plants

I saw the popular raw food nutritionist, author, and herbalist, David Avocado Wolfe, speak at a private event this Spring. Wolfe is the dynamic speaker from the informative documentary film “Food Matters”, and he calls himself an advocate for raw vegetarian nutrient-rich “superfood” and superherb diets. His belief is that modern practices have removed humanity from its connection to natural and “sacred” foods and plants and he made some comments about the value of restoring shamanic wisdom, which caught my ear.

Wolfe believes that people are naturally omnivorous in that they have the option to get nutrition from all possible types of diets. His personal preference was to eat uncooked vegetarian raw food varieties, “I create choice in foods for people to eat, and I like to give them vegetarian choices. That is personally my choice and it’s a Yogic bias.”

Some of the reasons for Wolfe’s meatless raw food fondness are: his belief that most foods that are heated lose their nutritional value and digestive enzymes; the higher up the food chain we eat, the more likelihood of increased toxicity; and that nutrient-rich plant-based superfoods are naturally healing for the body, efficient to produce, and take less from the earth.

According to Wolfe, “the goal is to eat as many plants as possible, to drink the best water possible, so that we can eat as little as possible…High nutrient dense superfoods mean that we don’t need high volumes of food.”

It is important to Wolfe to learn about the top herbal remedies used by ancient traditions: “Herbs are allies to the human race-- the great Daoist sages knew this and brought their favorite herbs; the great Yogis brought their herbs; the South American shamans brought their herbs; the North American shamans had their herbs.”

Wolfe had learned through his time spent with shamans about the relationship between certain plants and the body parts that they resemble. “If you are with eye problems, then they may suggest taking a plant that is shaped like the eye and has color.”

It was through shamanic processes that modern society had experienced breakthroughs in technology (including the computer age), Wolfe reasoned, and he felt these processes deserved greater credit. “The lesson is that we need to go back to our original shamanic values that these things came out of. We need to get ourselves sorted out, set the right intentions, be in a sacred setting, be supported by people with a shamanic lineage who are trained. We don’t want to mess around with this stuff,” he said.

Wolfe considered shamanic tools to be double-edged swords if not approached with reverence and caution, noting medicines like tobacco which he says can support advances in consciousness while also being among the most maligned substances on the planet.

“Tobacco in its natural form dilates the capillaries, allows someone to go deep, and is 27 percent mineral,” Wolfe reported, “the longest lived peoples in the world are tobacco smokers.”

But he went on to point out that typical chemically-laced cigarette tobacco introduces 4,000 toxic chemicals into the system. “Tobacco has nothing to do with lung cancer. It’s the chemicals breathed through plastic that are responsible.”

Wolfe pointed to the misuse and abuse of tobacco and cacao beans as examples of what happens when sacredness is undermined by improper production and consumption: “The human addicts, the plant doesn’t cause the addiction. Chemical stuff is designed to addict… The organic substance is sprayed with nicotine.”

For more information about David Avocado Wolfe, visit his websites: http://www.davidwolfe.com/ and http://www.thebestdayever.com/ . A second article about the event can be read here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Multi-Instrumentalist, Joseph "Pepe" Danza

One of my articles recently included in the Yoga Barn's newsletter:

International Musician, Pepe Danza, Brings Sacred Chants and Rhythms to the Yoga Barn

BALI, Indonesia – On May 22, 2011; Yoga Barn guests were treated to a multi-instrumental sound healing, meditation, and prayer performance from Uruguayan sound sculptor, Joseph “Pepe” Danza. Danza, a traveling musician with 35 years of world music experience, wove a mystical music-tapestry at the live recital using many instruments from various indigenous traditions.

“Wherever I would go, I would spend years trying to understand and get into the culture,” said Danza, who is a collector of over 400 instruments and is trained in the musical practices of Africa, Japan, India, and Tibet as well as his native South America.

According to Danza, his “Ocean of Sound” performance was a 100 percent improvised musical experience involving voice, woodwinds, crystal bowls, and percussion instruments, among others.

Integrating the full range of his multiethnic music gifts, Danza’s sound alternated from ethereal wavelike swells to frenetic drum solos, and he often played different musical instruments simultaneously and in unorthodox ways. Danza skillfully blended the entire range of his voice into his music: from impromptu chants to staccato rhythmic stabs.

“It’s very shamanic,” noted accompanying musician, Sparrow Deviyani, implying that Danza’s unrehearsed mystical sounds could induce powerful altered states through what Danza called a “sonic journey.”

Guests in the audience each took what they needed from the different sound modes on offer. Some sat or lay on their backs in meditative states while others moved their limbs to the rapid beats that would phase in and out of Danza’s music performance.

Pepe Danza comes to Bali and the Yoga Barn annually and will return in February of 2012. He considers Bali as “one of the highest civilizations on earth right now.” “As a whole, they live in a sacred way,” Danza said with appreciation.

As someone who honors the sacred dimensions of his own work, Danza emphasized the spiritual undercurrents that he offers, “I develop my techniques to a very high degree and then get out of the way,” he said, “I gather all these treasures in a ceremonial way.”

Danza will travel to Vancouver, Uruguay, and Mexico over the next few months. Learn more about him by visiting his website: http://www.pepedanza.com/home.html  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Some Principals of Sound Therapy

I drafted this article which is drawn mostly from the Fabien Maman radio interview with Jonathan Goldman last year and his Tama-Do Academy books. In a nutshell, it describes the science and reasoning behind his pioneering sound therapy treatment system. 

According to those in the sound healing world, music is the universal language. Fabien Maman experienced what he calls his first “meditative concert”—when touring Japan as a musician. He was first confused because Japanese audiences did not clap after each song like most Western audiences. It was this experience that helped Maman discover that music has a cosmic vibration that can travel through the field, become absorbed by the listener and then can return to the musician; and that clapping hands can get in the way of this feedback.

Fabien’s most famous book, “The Role of Music in the 21st Century” contains the story of Maman’s research. At that time he was testing the effects of musical instruments and tones on human cells. His experiments evaluated the double bass, human voice, vibraphone, flute, gong, and guitar, among others, and were conducted from 1 a.m.-5 a.m., between the hours when the Paris subway was closed. He played musical notes on a scale with different instruments, one note at a time and each time examined how blood cells changed shape and appearance. Maman discovered through this process that sound was changing the cells' shape and color; “doing something around people and cells; and around the aura of people.” To Maman, this was proof positive on the power of sound and its ability to help the body on a cellular level-- not just internally but externally.

Maman believes that sound travels first through the layers of the “subtle bodies” surrounding the cells and then it travels through to the physical body. On one hand, his results showed that different notes enabled healthy cells to expand, change shape or change color. On the other hand, cancer cells responded negatively to dissonant tones, which they could not handle in vitro, according to Maman. "With enough time, these cells would explode." Certain cells responded well to a frequency of a certain instrument, while others did not. But The human voice, he concluded, was the most powerful timbre of sound of all the instruments he tested. "The human voice carries something in its vibration that makes it more powerful than any musical instrument: consciousness."

Consistently, around the middle of the scale, there would form what Maman calls “a mandala, which represented what might be described as a sonic sweet-spot particular to an individual, or what Maman calls the "fundamental sound" of the person. To Fabien, these results confirmed that sound is a more powerful healing agent than we think.

Maman believes that the healing force of sound is not primarily in the striking of a note, it lies in the overtones and the harmonics that occur when the tone starts to fade, even when the tone can no longer be heard or is out of the range of human hearing. He believes that these can penetrate the aura and the body when it is naturally struck and acoustically shaped. Having to contend with the loud volumes and harsh modern urban sounds can expose people to detrimental sound waves that deplete the subtle field and shoot energy out of the body. People are often unaware of how sound can bombard their space. If the healing part of sound is primarily in the overtone, as Maman suggests, and the power of the harmonics is in the shape of the sound then most healing sounds "must be very subtle. Bigger and louder is not always better."

Maman was taught early on about the Kototama, which is an ancient science of vocalization and sound. After putting on hold his musical career, he was given the inspiration to start an academy for the development of human beings while he was in Egypt. His academy combines sound, color and movement and much of the science is based on acupuncture and the Chinese Medicine system. Maman's aim has been to marry music and acupuncture through this system, and he has developed 30 techniques that involve healing with sound over the years.

Why Acupuncture?—Maman found that this historic and precise practice provided an excellent established structure and preestablished body of knowledge for the application of Fabien’s research. Seven years after gaining his license to practice acupuncture in Paris and experimenting with tuning forks, Maman found connections and correspondences between tuning fork notes and each organ in the body. He finished the research in 1989 and started the Tama-Do Academy at that point. “The body is like a Swiss clock, every thing is precise; is in tune. So we have to apply sound in a precise way.”

Maman presented his work and findings at the World Research Foundation in 1988 and is considered the founding father of tuning fork therapy. When he returned to the US, he discovered a series of new tuning fork schools and theories. He was critical of the development of the massive wave of tuning fork therapists, and considers a lot of the work behind them as “incoherent”. “People who use tuning forks today, it is such a mess.”

For more information, visit the Tama-Do Academy site.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yoga Meets Shamanism: Danny Paradise

At the BaliSpirit Festival this year, I met my first yoga master who openly incorporates shamanism into his yoga practice and instruction. With 35 years experience as a yogi, American Danny Paradise is also a gifted musician, philosopher, political commentator and practicing shaman. He believes “yoga is shamanism,” because “both are about healing and awakening the body.”

Danny is an advanced master of Ashtanga Yoga, which is among the most physically demanding forms of yoga around. He balances out Ashtanga’s intensity by encouraging “a sacred, safe, meditative, healing, joyful, expanding, and pain-free,” practice for himself and his students.

Danny's shamanic experiences draw from the wisdom of various indigenous cultures including those of Hawaiian, Mayan and Native North and South American cultures. “It’s the same exploration all over the world,” he says, “we’re all part of nature, so we’re all part of Spirit.”

Danny links yoga and shamanism especially because of the underlying spiritual lineage of both, calling shamanism “the root of all religions,” and describing yoga as a way to “allow clarity to increase, and to step outside the regular order of things.”

“They have a crossing over point,” Danny says, “they both explore deeper levels of consciousness… These are sophisticated practices.”

While yoga is normally more physical in nature than shamanism, Danny talked about the inextricable link that unites both, “You can’t separate spirituality from humanness. If you start with the bones, human breath, your intuitive nature, then you are in tune with the shamanic realms,” he affirmed.

Paradise also devotes time to expanding his knowledge of history, power politics, self-development and other fields. He promotes community activism and personal education as well as spiritual and physical practices in his classes too, which may start with a group discussion about spirituality, yogic and shamanic values, philosophy or the current world order.

During his class sessions he may also cite authors, share his definitions of shamanism, or give his students a reading list handout, which contains his favorite texts on shamanism and yoga.

Many of us in the West start practicing yoga strictly as an alternative physical fitness exercise. Danny Paradise reminds us that doing yoga is not just about getting in shape or even closing our eyes and meditating—there’s something special about synching both. The ancients likely realized this.

It’s the movement-meditation, body-mind combo that is integral to Yoga, Qi-Gong and other similar physio-spiritual practices that, I believe, make them significant doorways to the creative realms/Spirit worlds.

Could growing interest in these forms be related to a blending of the body-mind in a way that supports a more direct experience of the divine/shamanic? Yes, I think so.

By emphasizing shamanic awareness through yoga, I believe Danny Paradise is signaling to us that making contact with our bodies in a mindful way creates a potent opening to energy, power, and information.

The benefit of mainstream yoga in this age is that Spirit can be accessed more readily by larger numbers of people—sometimes intended; other times not. Either way, yoga supports an expanded state of mind, which, in my view, and perhaps Danny’s too, can be the gateway to a deeper and more fulfilling co-existence with our inner and outer worlds.

For more information on Danny Paradise, visit his website at: http://www.dannyparadise.com/

Monday, May 16, 2011

Observations as a Healer

There are many aspects of training in the healing arts that came up for me lately. They have allowed me to reflect more deeply about what it means to fill the role of a healer. I have only had a limited number of years experience as a trainee, but I already can feel that the value of the healer is in raising consciousness by knowing, managing, and balancing what lies inside the entire human experience. It starts with the healer’s own consciousness, so here are a few observations and challenges in relation to my in-progress Tama-Do Academy training:

Set a Boundary—“Being open to receive” is a message that is consistent with practitioner and receiver and there is a fine art to trusting your intuition, knowing your protocols, inviting your guides in to your space to support you, and opening another person to receive your gifts. This work may involve opening your field to a person’s trauma and wounds and it will inevitably take some awareness to avoid getting caught in someone’s story or “stuff.” This has been a common theme in all the trainings I have received, and it sounds perfectly clear enough on paper. What I hadn’t noticed was that even when I consciously set the intention of not becoming involved that inevitably part of me could get unstuck if I was not careful, especially if there was a detection of what might be described as stagnant or heavy energy.

At Tama Do, we are advised to shower after each session, to remain physically clean and mentally present and to keep the conversation light. I would add that taking the time at the end of the day to check in with your body, your energy centers, and your guides to “feel” if there is anything unwanted that has unnecessarily stayed with you for release is worthwhile. Grounding through daily Chi Gong practice and sounding are methods used by Tama-Do trainees to help with this.

Beware of Doing Too Much—The feeling of being too involved can lead to feeling the need to do too much or to produce a miracle on demand with each healing given. This is the biggest impediment to remaining present with the person seeking help and remaining aligned—both are needed if I am to be effective. If a practitioner isn’t careful I believe they can get stuck in the idea of fixing a person and will burn themselves out on the healing work. The fact remains that no matter how well or poorly trained you are, some people may not respond or be open to the treatment—especially when it is more rooted in raising vibrations and not routine hands-on bodywork.

I have tried to close my eyes and go deeper within to find stillness during moments of doubt when I question my skills; when I need to impress the receiver or when I have an urge to do more unnecessarily. Daily affirmations/prayers in a ritualistic setting help me flow more freely, faithfully and effortlessly into my role.

Remaining Detached—The power of the work being done can be easy to get lost in. I have felt the receiver experience emotional reactions to the treatments and some of the places you take the receiver of the treatment can be quite intense or overwhelming for them. The Tama-Do practice is meant to remain light and let the waves come and go on their own, making sure that the practitioner doesn’t get overcooked.

Checking in—This is related to remaining present, although it is more along the lines of opening and maintaining the energy field to whatever may be happening. There can be a tendency to zone out while working on someone and getting lost in thought or surroundings. Sometimes I get too narrowly stuck in my head about the protocols or the way I am holding a tuning fork. I have to have faith in the training and just do what I can in the moment. One way to remain present is to open a window and just call in the energy of any outdoor natural setting into the room (even a plant’s chi will do). Or send any tension out through your feet into the core of the earth with an exhale.

Creativity—There is usually space for creative work within protocols and structure you are given in your field, after all we are dealing with the healing arts. Once you have begun to master the underlying work, try developing your own healer’s signature and consider what you look and feel like as a healer. I believe I am developing an individual expression based on what my personal field creates and how it interacts with others.

Developing relationships with my guides (see below) is part of establishing a stronger capacity to be creative in my own right without giving up the given structure and guidelines. It might be compared to delivering a solo during a jazz performance. This takes time and practice, of course. Once you can tune in to your healer’s energetic signature, you can invite this special unique energy in and let it flow into the practice.

Check Your Energy Levels—If you’re working other jobs to make money or are living in a challenging or unhealthy environment, there is a danger that your work will be impeded. The healer does not function with a working professional’s mindset. Further, toxicity on any level can have a negative impact on the ability to reach and read others. The added sensitivity from my daily training improve my energy and heighten my perception. I am reminded to honor my body first and to make sure that I am being nourished physically, nutritionally, and spiritually. Meditation and Chi Gong are great for improving energy levels. Still, I may feel like I need a solid chunk of time prior to any session to shift into the space of a healer and to further ground my energy levels. Jumping from one activity (or receiver) to the next is not optimal.

Create Sacred Space—Clearing the work space prior to the start of a session can help with the process of relaxation for the receiver. Sound and burning sage can effectively provide this. Let your space be inviting and allow it to carry your safety and comfort. I would not advise doing too many healings in other people’s spaces, especially if you have not inspected the space first.

Facilitate Openings- Inspiration works best when there is a certain emptiness and freedom involved. This is again where the word arts comes into play. There is more than just physical interaction when a healer and receiver connect, there are hidden energy field subtleties making themselves available to both participants and what some would call guides-- subtle energy entities—that are invited into the circle to facilitate action. In order to make the experience a dance, the practitioner’s energy is best off being drawn to his/her back and all other thoughts that prevent the ability to be present should be sent into the earth.

Build Relationships with Guides –Asking to be guided by your highest guides is not something that can happen overnight. In Tama Do, there are colors and essences involved, as well as personal guides. Each one carries energy and vibration and this energy can be called in more effectively when the practitioner has a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the energy itself. Poems, prayers, blessings, paintings, sketches, visual representations of the energy that is being invoked can all allow you to build a relationship with your guides over time. Call in your highest guides to know more about them and feel how they want to speak/work through you. If you feel a block between you and your guides, try to understand what it is rooted in. What does this energy want?

For more information about Tama-Do practitioner training, visit http://www.tama-do.com/

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daoism Training in China

The Zhi-Zhi-An Temple in the WuYi Shan Mountains, China

Last year, I visited a Daoist monastery to study Qi Gong, Daoist scripts, and meditation.  Zhi-Zhi-An monastery in China was originally built over 1,800 years ago, and was just recently restored after being leveled by the Chinese government decades back. Today it houses monks, scholars, and visitors year-round and is considered one of the most significant Daoist holy places in China.

Every day a ceremony was held at the Zhi-Zhi-An Temple Shrine
According to the retreat organizer, Medical Qi Gong Master Daniel Li Ox, Daoism is heavily rooted in shamanism and alchemy. And there were many overlaps--the toning, the offerings to archetypes and mythological figures, the content of the shrines, the imagery, and the effort to create sharper awareness. There was also an emphasis on personal empowerment, rather than dogma, in my view, which was well received.   

The monastery’s top lecturer and chief Abbott, Master Wang Li-Ming is known as one of China’s leading experts on Daoist sacred texts such as the Book of Changes or “I-Ching,” which he has studied for 30 years. Even high level Chinese government officials have consulted with him to learn more about the Dao. 

Perfectly Fengshuid at the base of one of the highest peaks
Wang says he practices the most advanced form of Qi Gong in China and has received the highest caliber of training available. Well versed in traditional Chinese Medicine and calling himself a practitioner of Chinese alchemy, Wang is one of the very few in the world who has gained the “Golden Elixir” in his body, according to our translator.

“Qi Gong is a discipline which combines patience, skill, and collaboration between the individual’s mind and body,” said Master Wang. Over 14 days of theory and practice, Wang showed us how to explore those elements as healing forces to support the body through meditation training. His aim was to help, “see with the heart in a still condition.”

Throughout this period, I took part in daily meditations, sound toning activities, Qi Gong practices, Dao Yin stretching exercises, a Chi Nei Tsang (specialized form of abdominal massage) training course, Chinese calligraphy lessons with an outstanding local artist, local tea culture, Daoist philosophy lectures, and free time to explore the UNESCO cultural heritage site location.

I received several gifts and expansive moments during my time in China, but the most valuable was being able to find a deeper degree of inner stillness. May be this had something to do with learning meditation from a master with an ancient lineage.  When I was training with Wang, I could profoundly sense there was more happening energetically, perhaps on a shamanic level--especially when our eyes would close and we would reach back to a theoretical point in the universe where all potentiality resides--"the Great Non-Ultimate."

I could concentrate more in these sessions and eased through any stiffness or aches that would normally keep me from going deeper. Wang's presence seemed to make it easy to surrender to the practise and open wider to the wisdom of his teachings. And this is something I feel like I can always return to.

Master Wang (left) and his apprentice
Wang emphasized self-development through discipline and called on us each to “transmute” his teachings subjectively. We would have to approach the Dao in our own way based on our soul’s individual journey, challenges, gifts, and developmental needs, he believed.  “No one else can do this work for you, not even an enlightened Master.” 

Another retreat is planned for the Summer. I recommend it highly-- http://www.wanderingdao.com/activities/wuyi/china_retreat.html

Friday, March 4, 2011


Jero Ayu greeting a guest. Only ceremonial clothes are allowed.

 The Balinese-Chinese shrine flanked by Kuan Yin images 

 A Balinese Hindu priest and his wife wait in line with others to receive a blessing from Ayu.
 One of Ayu's followers stands and starts to dance during a meditation session

 Some observers waiting for their turn

 My Guide and wood master, Wak, who is also one of Ayu's followers 
 A meal for all visitors prepared by friends and family members

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Balinese Mystic Jero Ayu

Last month, I met twice with Jero Ayu. She is a young mystic, who is reported to be highly respected by Bali’s Hindu clerical establishment. For a prodigy to take the island’s ancient religious order by storm is no small task.

Ayu endured a tragic childhood and gained her extraordinary ability to channel and memorize ancients texts mysteriously after falling ill and sinking into a coma. When she returned to consciousness, she claimed she was able to "communicate with spirits." She apparaently went on to passed tests of knowledge, religious scholarship and spiritual wisdom--all after only a week of training-- a monumental achievement that normally takes priests-in-training 10 years to complete.

According to one source, after Ayu experienced her near death episode that sent her into a coma for days, she gained an uncanny ability to recite ancient mantras and sacred texts by heart, as well as an incredible knack for speaking the Chinese language fluently—she was reported to have been a poor Balinese native prior to these events, who had never left the island let alone be exposed to other languages.

It was said that Ayo had activated the incarnation of a spiritual master when she almost died, and took on the essence of "Kuan Yin," a Buddhist figure of compassion. Her subsequent feats of healing and mastery of the ancient texts and rites made waves, and elevated her personal shrine into a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists alike. She now receives visitors from all over Asia.

During my brief visit with her, which included a Full Moon ceremony, I watched her as she channeled different energies, and conducted healings and offered blessings for those who came to her.

Balinese Hinduism is a special blend of two indigenous spiritual traditions from India—Hinduism and Buddhism. Indonesia recognizes 5 official world religions—Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Christianity, and Buddhism. On Bali, one of Indonesia’s smallest islands and popular tourist destinations, ceremony and spirituality are a big part of life. It seems that at every corner, there is a shrine, temple, sacred carving, or an offering being shared with the Spirits. Bali is also known for its prolific mysticism, popularized by Laurence Blair's "Ring of Fire" and Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love."

When I arrived at Ayu's temple residence after a breathtaking motorcycle ride through the Balinese countryside, I could tell that there was something special and ancient about the energy in her compound. It made me pause, smile, and breathe deeply in acknowledgement. Others were waiting to be blessed by Ayu when I got there, including priests who were much older and more established. I sat at a balee close to the mouth of her shrine next to an older man who was a credentialed priest. He had arrived especially for her. We talked about his reasons for visiting against the backdrop of a 12-second pre-recorded Chinese mantra, which looped over and over. The words of the mantra paid homage to Kuan Yin and after a while created a hypnotic atmosphere.

Before I was given the go ahead to enter the shrine area for prayer, blessing, and meditation, Ayu personally approached me and gave me a warm welcome. Her handshake was gentle and tender. I thought I sensed an electrical charge go into my body when we made physical contact. She definitely had a strong presence.

I noticed that Ayu’s shrine was adorned with the color red, with many Chinese decorations—it was a totally different environment than any other Balinese holy site I had encountered, but her traditional clothing along with the dress of her visitors clearly suggested that she and her guests were all Balinese Hindus.

I thought at first that the unfamiliar d├ęcor and Chinese recording might have been a special way to celebrate the Chinese New Year. When I finally got a closer look, I realized that this was the normal view of the shrine. I must have witnessed a half-dozen images of Kuan Yin posted all around the area of worship. There were also other shrine elements that drew from Buddhism, Daoism, and Hindu mythology, as well as flowers, incense, and holy water containers.

My guide and friend, who was one of her followers, explained to me that Ayu united three energies—those of: Kuan Yin, Shiva (who is said to be present in Bali’s Mount Agung), and a well known Balinese water goddess. Three different forces and energies united in one. When I visited her again at night, I finally witnessed her channel Kuan Yin.  Later that same evening she also took on what came across to me as a more irreverent male energy-- a spirit who appeared to represent wealth or commerce— With her eyes still closed, Ayu proceeded to light a cigarette and down two shots of liquor and take on an entirely different persona.

Whenever she would slip into her alternative identities, the crowd around her would huddle together, all eager to receive a nugget of wisdom or advice from the visiting energy she was reportedly channeling.

We proceeded to make an offering, receive a blessing, meditate, light incense, and pray. Afterwards, I received a personal blessing and message from Ayu and was sent away with a smile, a meal, and an invitation to return any time.

I saw that Ayu’s youthfulness kept an atmosphere of lightness and friendship among her visitors. Although I could not understand a word she said, she did not set herself apart from the rest the way some priests do and often joked and made her visitors feel at ease with humor and cheerful banter. Occasionally, Ayu would sit behind other meditators and place her hands at either side of their spine in what looked like an energy transfer.

I believe that Ayu may have undergone one of those radical shamanic experiences or awakenings that cracked her open and initiated her as a human bridge to the spirit world. She emerged from her traumatic episode with a knowing and a power that allowed her to introduce a unique combination of elements to an ancient culture. Her status among the priests allowed her to safely advance and share her shapeshift experiences with her people-- a rare occurance. While winning over the religious establishment with her wisdom, was a stunning enough feat all on its own, fortunately for her, the institutions of worship from her society opted to support and integrate her powers, and open up space for her unique mystical gifts to thrive. As a result, she now provides an alternative for worshippers on the island, seemingly without threatening her peers or the current order. But who really knows if there are those who feel threatened?

Ayu is said to be preparing for a visit to other parts of the world, including Australia and China.