About Michael

Michael-WatsonI am a shamanic practitioner, psychotherapist, educator, and visual and theater artist. I live and work in Burlington, Vermont, which is nestled snugly between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. Most days I can see the Adirondack Mountains across the lake. In childhood I had a catastrophic case of childhood Polio, an event that taught me much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

I have both European and Native heritage. My mother’s family identified as hailing from the British Isles, while my father’s family identified as Native American. Like many others, I do not have tribal affiliation, and grew up without a tribal identity.

I try to honestly speak about, and understand, our family stories and history as we know them. The lives of people of Native ancestry in Indiana have historically been difficult, and fair-skinned families frequently chose to pass as European. I grew up in a family that said they hid and passed. Not surprisingly, our birth certificates and military records, list us as Caucasian, even as our elders identified as Native.

Only on his death-bed did my father finally, proudly, say outright that we are Native, insisting both his parents were Native. Still, our aunts and uncles continued to refuse to speak further about our identity, other than to say my grandmother was Native; they passed without helping us to understand who we are. The events of the past few years have reminded me that, as my father, a career military man, insisted, there is still danger in being Native in the United States.

It seems likely we will never know the true story of our heritage.  I have decided to accept my father’s statement, and our family stories as true, even as they are incomplete. There is no doubt my father and grandmother understood themselves, and me, to be Native. I never met my father’s father who abandoned the family.

After I unexpectedly survived Polio, it became my family’s expectation that I would become a healer. It was only much later, in adulthood, that my journey into shamanism began; that was more than forty years ago. In the years that followed I was graced with teachers from many traditions. Some of these teachers have been greatly honored by their people, and some were controversial. Together they represent the wide range of approaches to shamanism, the good and the bad, and shamanic paths that seem beyond either. Each spent precious time with me, and helped to mold my vision, and I feel enormous gratitude to each.

As a Polio survivor I was also encouraged to pass as non-disabled. Passing for me proved to be an impossible task. From an early age I faced ridicule, bullying, and prejudice as both a disabled boy and as someone, although I am light-skinned, others perceived as Native.

Today my work as a shaman, psychotherapist, and educator draws from what was gifted to me by my teachers, rather than a singular tradition. It is also informed by the teachings passed on by my father’s family, teachings that reflect their life experiences and circumstances. This is itself a well trod path for those who practice shamanism.  I am not a carrier of any secret knowledge. I am just an elder human being, doing my best to help others, and striving to be a good person and “a good shaman.”

Growing up in this family launched me on a lifetime of learning. I am grateful to have met other individuals with similar family stories and histories along the way. As a result of my family experience, Polio, and my occupation as a psychotherapist, I think a good deal about identity, colonialism, inter-generational trauma, disability, and healing. I write about these topics frequently in this blog.

To learn more about our work, please visit our website .

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56 thoughts on “About Michael

  1. I came into the world singing. Even more than writing on blogs, I love to write “sound” thoughts on the air. I have sung for many, many different churches and have always heard the same One speaking everywhere, no matter where I go.
    I have been through a lot in life (as most people have), and somehow my voice connects with others because of that. I have been called a “wounded healer” a few times, and only once referred to as a “shaman.”
    Not sure what prompted that person to call me shaman.
    I’m Irish Italian and, although I have heard of shamanism, I don’t know much about that.
    I just sing because I do.

    • Maybe you were called shaman because your voice, stories, and songs are soothing and healing. The shaman is one who opens herself to the Creator and the spirits, and is a conduit for them to be powerfully present, and healing in the world.

  2. Oh wow! Conduit?
    I heard that word in a dream many years ago.
    I wrote the dream down and kept a copy, because the words struck my mind like lightning and woke me up in the middle of the night. It said:
    Always remember–
    You are not the creator,
    conduit of truth through sound.
    Stand strong without resistance
    let it become.

  3. ” Within us are the great storms, tides, yearnings, and passions of the world. We are each a force of Nature, larger than we can dream or know.” Thanks for sharing your amazing world and words of wisdom. It is very enriching and make us see the things we sometimes missed.

  4. What a fascinating history! I look forward to browsing through your posts at leisure. Thank you for your visit and comment on my blog earlier.

    • You are most welcome! Yes, the colonial enterprise has left many legacies, and affected everyone. Still, or perhaps “more than ever”, living the bi-cultural life is crucial to the future of people and the planet! I will look forward to reading your thoughts and posts on this.

  5. Hi Michael – I followed you here from a comment you left on Tree Girl’s recent post. So interesting how our words carry a certain energy that remains undefined yet compelling. What a thoughtful introduction of your heritage and combining two cultures in your life and your work.

  6. Congratulations, I have nominated your website for the Liebster Award! I wanted to thank some of the writers I have talked with on WordPress.

    The Liebster Award is used to recognize writers, and allows each nominee to nominate additional website writers. The tradition is for each each nominee to: (1) list 11 facts about themselves; (2) answer the 11 questions asked by the writer who nominated them; (3) to ask 11 new questions; and (4) to nominate 11 additional websites/blogs, and inform them of this and the rules. This can be done as a Page on your website, or it could be completed in a comment box. To see the new questions I have asked, visit the Awards and FAQs Page on my website Eusociality Blog.

  7. Hi Michael – This is a fascinating story about your background. I’m originally from the Caribbean, which is really a microcosm of the world – we are so mixed! I discovered some years ago that I may have native Carib blood (one of the original “Caribbeans” – Arawak and Carib Indians), so have some understanding of your story. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Michael, i lived in Vermont this spring semester, though I should put “spring” in those quotation marks since there were many -20 days in February and March! 🙂 I’m glad I’ve seen some of your part of the world.
    All my best,
    Paige

  9. I’ve read many About pages, as I’m always interested in learning a little bit about the people behind the blogs I visit. For whatever reason, your about page stands out from all the others I’ve read. It seems to have a calm, welcoming quality that I’ve not encountered before. It’s entirely possible that I’m projecting my own feelings onto your words, but it may also have something to do with your writing style.

  10. Dear Michael,
    thanks a lot for visiting our blog and commenting. So I found out that we have a lot in common. First of all I have had polio as well, but thanks to my mother and yoga I suffer no after effects. Then I lived not far from Burlington many, many years ago. I lived in the Frog Run community with Robert Houriet when I was teaching at the McGill University in Montreal. And last not least I was trained as a Jungian psychoanalyst and wrote several books about alternative healing. But that’s all long ago.
    Do you know if the Frog Run community still exist? It was Robert who inspired me to write my first book about the counter culture and farm communities in the US (in German) which became a German bestseller and changed my life from a university teacher to an author. I am German but living for over 30 years now in rural Norfolk/England next the sea.
    I have had a great time in Vermont living there on and off for more than 3 years. Unfortunately I have never visited Vermont again after I left America for England. Now I am privatising and love blogging with my Norwegian wife and our two Bookfayries Siri and Selma – we are the Fab Four of Cley (we live in Cley-next-the-Sea)
    Wishing you all the best
    Love
    Klausbernd

    • Klausbernd, I think the Frog Run community is no longer.

      I was also trained as a Jungian therapist, but not as an analyst. That training is still a part of me, and certainly influences how I see the world. That said, I seem less inclined to use Jung’s ideas these days.

      You are blessed to live in such a beautiful place, as are we. There are many days I miss the ocean, and we speak often of moving back to the sea.

      As to Polio, I contracted the virus in 1955 and began to have post-polio symptoms about 10 years later. The new symptoms came and went until I was in my thirties, then settled in. Somehow I still, have energy to work (about 2/3 time). I keep thinking I should retire, but I enjoy what I do. The down side to working is I do not have the energy for making art and writing I would like. We shall see how things progress. ((I was in the iron lung for about 8 days, and have all of the challenges associated with having bulbar involvement, although they are not yet debilitation.)

      Bookfayries?

      Warmly,
      Michael

      • Dear Michael,
        I studied scientific psychology and had a Jungian training afterwards. But nowadays I prefer Freud. Hardly ever I worked as a therapist. My field was symbolism as in film, literature and advertisement.
        Thanks for your reply.
        All the best
        Klausbernd

      • Dear Klausbernd, I, too, taught. Indeed, I only stopped teaching earlier this year, and already miss the stream of young people who visited our home. I enjoy being a clinician, and had the great good fortune to have studied with Michael White and others from the Australian Narrative Therapy world. As I age, I am more interested in finding ways to blend my worlds, both in therapy and in the everyday. I am also edging toward something more like retirement, although what that might actually look like I do not know…..

      • Dear Michael,
        I do love being retired. But actually I work not less than before, but only do what I like and not what my agents tell me to do. Hanne and I travel quite a lot and I am writing novels if I feel like. The rest of the time I care for our house and garden. Well, that’s enough for me. I noticed getting slower and I don’t mind.
        Wish you a happy holiday season and all the best for the New Year
        🚶 Klausbernd

      • Klausbernd,

        Yes, slowing is a part of aging. There is something sweet about it.
        I am settling into winter. With that goes a certain desire to hibernate. Come spring, I shall most likely be thrilled with work, but for now I would prefer to have days at home. I am edging, as I believe I said, towards some new arrangement of work and creative time. We shall see how that evolves.

        May this new year bring you much kindness and joy!

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