This post is in fond memory of two men who greatly contributed to my life: my father, and Ipu (Dr. Bernardo Peixoto).

I’ve come down with a cold, one of those sinus filling, lethargy generating viruses that linger. I try not to be too judgmental of myself or the virus, after all, we share this life; maybe we even need each other.

This appreciation for our shared desire to live is a fundamental tenet of the Jain way of life.  The Jains seek to do as little harm to all beings as humanly possible. As you might imagine, their diet is somewhat restrictive, allowing only foods that can be harvested without killing plants or animals. Yet, it is truly delicious, and when we are in India we go out of our way to find local Jain restaurants.

Traditionally, Native America has taken a different approach to the problem of eating. I was taught we share Mother Earth with innumerable other beings, all of whom need to live and eat. There is simply no way to move through the world without harming other beings, so the next best thing is to be grateful to, and respectful of, those who die so we may continue to live. Continue reading

Ancestors In Conflict

Window_As_Magic_LanternThe other day I found myself in renewed conversation with a few Native friends, discussing the presence of the Ancestors in our everyday lives. There was shared agreement that the Ancestors are often close at hand, offering perspective and advice, although the frequency and immediacy of contact was wildly variable amongst those present. All of us are of mixed Native and European ancestry, and agree that much of the Ancestral conflict we experience is between settlers and Natives. Continue reading

Two Cultures

Winter-SunsetLast night my good friend, Susan Grimaldi, came to my class, bringing stories from her life as a Choctaw shaman, and new ethnographic video from her work in Mongolia. Lucky students were able to engage in conversation with a highly respected shaman who has, over the past twenty years, conducted groundbreaking work with remote shamans in China and Mongolia, and has, at their request, shared their knowledge and experiences with others throughout the Americas. Continue reading

Conversations With The Ancestors

Snowy_TreeEarly music wafts through the house this early Sunday morning, as light snow swirls past the window. Listening to Harmonia on our local Public Radio station is a Sunday morning ritual in our house. I have loved early European music for as long as I can remember; I hope my European ancestors take as much pleasure listening as I do, that they listen through me. Continue reading

Spirits and Trauma

Winter_SunsetMy teachers insisted that each person carries a unique vision and way of understanding the world that must be honored. Of course, this uniqueness is expressed in shamans as well. Get a group of shamans in a room, ask them to check out some problem, and each will report a different take on it. Most of the time the similarities in vision will be dominant, fleshed out by nuance.

I’m trained as a mental health clinician and a shamanic practitioner. It should come as no surprise that I often perceive things in a way that combines both ways of seeing. A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a small group of concerned people about the spirits remaining at the college, a former orphanage. They were frustrated with me as I was insisting the spirits, mostly children, but also of those that harmed children, and a few Ancient Ones who had come to soothe those grievously distressed children, have a wide range of different needs. The others thought we should just show the spirits the light and send them on their way. I believe the spirits need to stay til they feel ready to move on. After all, some have been there for a long time, perhaps eighty years. Continue reading