Click the link to go to my interview for MysticMag website, Sept 2022.
In western society we have an organised funeral immediately, or relatively quickly, after the death of a loved one. However this is too soon for most people to work through their grief, especially if the death was sudden. Such a funeral serves a purpose of course, but the immediacy of its occurrence, the formalised ritual, any religious influence, and the relatively impersonal nature of the ceremony may not feel right for truly expressing one’s grief.
Holding a separate, deeply personal memorial service, or passing over ceremony, for someone you love, makes it far more applicable to you and your relationship to the person. Such a ceremony provides a space where the grief process can be entered into more fully, without your guard up or, as is often the case in the UK, with a “stiff upper lip” keeping the emotions under check, especially in the case of men.
Some people may feel they never grieved properly for a loved one. Maybe they didn’t want to express their emotions at the time, did not have a chance to grieve fully for one reason or another, or felt they “had to be strong” for the rest of the family. The circumstances surrounding the passing of a loved one also have a major impact on how our emotions manifest. The shock of a sudden and unexpected death can mean the grief process is almost bypassed, and the emotions not given a chance to be accessed, let alone be expressed.
Then there are global issues, such as the current coronavirus pandemic. COVID 19 has affected everyone on the planet and has taken (and continues to take) many lives, in some instances very quickly, and often with the patient allowed very limited contact with family and friends towards the end of their lives. Additionally, and understandably, to minimise transmission of the virus, the number of funeral attendees has been restricted in the UK (as in most countries), depriving people from being able to pay their respects in person.
Other large scale losses such as disease, war, famine, genocide, ethnic and religious cleansing, natural disasters, etc., all lead to the loss of lives in devastatingly traumatic ways.
All loss of life is difficult to take but when it seems senseless, of no fault of the deceased, based on circumstance, colour of skin, sexual orientation, faith or just bad luck, there is an inherent disbelief, a lack of understanding, outrage and anger at what has happened, all of which overshadow and undermine the grief process of those in mourning.
For all and any of the circumstances around the loss of a loved one, conducting your own memorial service, or passing over ceremony, can offer great solace. The service can be either individual or with a group, but I suggest trying the individual ceremony first to familiarise yourself with the process and give yourself the opportunity to tap into your own grief, allowing the release and the expressing of any emotion.
In both cases the ceremony is conducted predominately for the people present, not the deceased. By that I mean the ceremony is for you and, in the case of a group ceremony, also for those you have invited, to go fully and openly into the depth of their felt grief. It is not meant to be a celebration of the life of the deceased. This can be done at another time in another ceremony.
If the deceased was religious, or if there are certain beliefs to be honoured, then by all means incorporate them in some way, but do not feel that the ceremony has to be led by these beliefs.
As individuals perhaps we do not feel qualified, or possibly feel scared, about conducting our own memorial service or passing over ceremony for a loved one, thinking that we may get it wrong or be disrespectful, especially when there is such a well established industry around such matters.
There is however no reason why you cannot hold your own ceremony for a loved one in any way you see fit. The below outline is a suggestion that you may wish to use, but I strongly advise that however you conduct your ceremony it should consist of a beginning, a middle and an end. Ending a ceremony is especially important psychologically, as this draws a line under proceedings and formally closes the ceremony, thereby providing a form of closure.
Both the individual and group memorial services follow a similar outline;
– Prepare the area ready for the ceremony.
– Open the space.
– Conduct the memorial service.
– Close the space.
– Give thanks and ensure everyone present is grounded.
– Clear the area of personal items.
As a note, conducting such a ceremony doesn’t mean that you are having to let their memory go totally, or are saying goodbye forever, let alone be free of all of the emotion or feelings surrounding your loved one. The pain may well endure, the grief still be present, but it is my hope, and experience, that you will be lighter and more comfortable in your own feelings, knowing that you have held a sacred ceremony based upon the love you had for the deceased. Of course, you’re loved one will not be forgotten and forever live on in your memory.
The ceremony described here has its roots in the natural world and my shamanic training. As far as I know it is not an appropriated sacred ceremony. As every culture and society has their own take on how to prepare a loved one for whatever lies beyond this life, there is no right or wrong way to carry out such a ceremony. There is also no need for any religious or spiritual beliefs to conduct such a ceremony. Intention, respect and love are all that really matter.
Plan and prepare for your ceremony. Pick a time and day, and choose a suitable space to conduct the ceremony, ideally a private space and one where you feel comfortable releasing any emotion. Either indoors or outdoors is fine.
The dress code is entirely up to you. Dress up if you like, wear black, or be casual. Whatever you feel comfortable wearing is OK.
Collect together a few personal items, such as clothing, shoes, jewellery, etc., and one photograph, to represent the person you are holding the ceremony for.
The following may seem a little macabre but I suggest positioning their possessions as if the deceased was laying down. Use a rolled up blanket, pillows or cushions covered with a sheet or similar, to represent the body, and adorn it with their clothes. Place shoes at one end, jewellery where it would normally be worn and put the photograph near the head area. An actual photograph or one on a phone or tablet is fine. If you do not have any personal items, just lay a sheet over the rolled up blanket, pillows or cushions, and place a surrogate pair of shoes one end and the photograph at the other. There’s no need to go into too much detail here, just enough to evoke the sense that their body is in the room.
Don’t forget a glass of water and a box of tissues. Its worth preparing for some emotion to come up, and in doing so, you are subconsciously telling yourself that shedding tears is ok. In fact during this preparation process you will probably be feeling very emotional anyway. Go into the emotion as it comes up. Cry. Release. You don’t have to “save up” the emotion for the ceremony itself. This whole process is for you to go as fully as possible into your grief, allowing emotion to come up and be released, whenever and however it manifests. In a way, this process started as soon as you decided to conduct a ceremony.
When you are ready to start the ceremony you should “open” the space. This marks the beginning of the service, recognising the space as being ceremonial (for the duration of the ceremony), and is a way to say “I am here and I am ready to hold this ceremony for my loved one”.
However you wish to open space is fine as it is the intention that counts. Some suggestions are to either say an opening prayer, invite the spirit of your loved one to be present, call to the directions (north, south, east, west, below and above), connect with God, religious or spiritual leaders, angels, spirit animals, or ask for ancestors and other loved ones in spirit to come and be with you. There is no right or wrong here, or a necessity for any belief in the afterlife to do this. It is the intention that holds the power, not the reality of the situation. The intention is to offer an invitation to those unseen (and energies unseen) to be present with you at this ceremony, and comes only from a place of love. You are asking for help in shifting the emotions of this life, the powerful emotion of the loss and passing over of a loved one. It should feel both respectful and comforting. At no time should there be a fear of ghosts or anything supernatural. Only ever love.
Alternatively, just offer up a humble request to the universe or for that which is outside of your consciousness (maybe just your subconscious), to be present with you today for this ceremony. Allow any wording to come from the heart. As it is the intention that matters, however the words come out will be fine. If you are unsure prepare something to say beforehand and have it ready on a sheet of paper. Even though you are conducting this ceremony by yourself, try to say any words out loud and not just in your head.
Burn some incense, smudge (the wafting of smoke from smouldering sacred plants or wood), or light a candle if you are drawn to. Play background music if you wish. Create an atmosphere that feels right for you.
So you have prepared the space, set the scene, and asked for help from whatever lies outside of our consciousness.
Now is the time for the main body of the ceremony and for you to speak from the heart about your loved one. In fact speak your words to them, as if they can hear you. Say what you want to say to them. Maybe say things that were not said when they were alive. Clear the air, get everything off your chest. Speak as if you were having a conversation with them, with their spirit. By pretending they are there, or they are listening, whether you believe they can hear or not, psychologically brings you closer to them, or to the memory of them, thus creating a more personal and authentic ceremony. This in turn can make for a deeper release. Talk freely with them, chat about whatever comes up. Even seemingly banal things if they come to mind. There is no need to rush.
Spend as long as you want with this. Accept it will be a one way conversation but be open to signs of a response, an acknowledgement from the universe for your humble ceremony. Maybe seeing a certain bird or animal in your garden, hearing a specific noise from outside or even seeing a particular image or programme on TV or the internet later that day. Do not get caught up in a two way dialogue unless you are comfortable with your psychic abilities.
If at any time you feel like you want to cry, sob, wail or collapse, do so. This is the time, and an ideal chance for such a release of emotion; a clearing of any emotional blockage. Feelings of embarrassment may surface by this show of emotion, but as you are conducting the ceremony alone and in private where nobody else can see or hear you, these feelings should pass quickly. Be brave. Go as deep as you can. Tap the throat, heart or belly areas with your fingertips or a short wooden stick to aid the release. You can also try drumming or rattling (a steady medium paced beat) to give a background pulse to help occupy your mind and drive the release. If you don’t have a hand drum or rattle there are mp3s or videos online that could be used. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqrBfyCQ0lQ&ab_channel=BiacsiAdam)
Having a wooden staff or stick for support and grounding is also useful as it is something natural to hold, giving a strong connection to the earth.
Many emotions can come up, and perhaps not only around the person you are holding the ceremony for. Others who have died may come to mind and you may release emotion around their passing. Not only people but maybe also pets that have passed. There may even be emotions around wider issues such as the pandemic, habitat loss, species loss, pollution, disease, famine, natural disasters, etc. Allow whatever that wants to come up to be expressed and released.
When you feel you have released as much as possible, tell your loved one that is time to send them on their way. At this point you may want to drum or rattle, and visualise their spirit being taken away into the ether. Maybe chant or sing, and say “goodbye”, “thank you”, “I love you”, or any other parting words you wish, words to help send them on their journey beyond this life. There is no right or wrong here. If it comes from the heart then it is right. Feel as though you are helping them on their way, letting them go to wherever and whatever lies beyond. This intention of sending them on their way reinforces any similar soul flight that may have occurred since their death. Even if you (or the deceased) have no belief in an afterlife, speaking out loud helps shift the emotions, more so than just thinking the sentiment. The act of sending them on their way as best you can is a potent symbol of your love. It can often provide some level of closure.
As a suggestion try using a bird of prey, maybe an eagle, in your visualisation of their spirit or soul moving on. Visualise the eagle coming down and lifting your loved one up and away into the sky, reuniting them with the universe/God/Great Spirit.
Do your best to set them free and let them go a little more in your heart.
When you feel ready, just as you opened space at the beginning, at the end of the ceremony close the space. This is done simply by thanking those unseen that you invited, when you opened the space, for coming and being present with you throughout the ceremony, whether you felt their presence or not, be they family members in spirit, ancestors, God, other deities, spirit animals, gurus, ascended masters, angels, etc. If you called in the directions, turn to face each one and give thanks.
Give a final thank you to your loved one, knowing that you have done your best in sending them on their way spiritually. Spend a few moments in gratitude for what has transpired and feel proud that you have just completed a beautiful ceremony honouring your beloved.
Afterwards ensure you feel grounded and back in the present moment. A simple way to do this is to imagine roots coming out from the bottom of your feet into the earth and connecting you to the planet. Feel balanced. If you have one, hold a wooden staff or stick, and feel the direct connection down through the wood into the earth.
Alternatively having something to eat or drink, or going for a walk in nature are good ways to ground yourself.
As soon as possible after the ceremony and when you feel able to, clear up the area where you have been conducting the ceremony, removing all the items. Try and do this with a lighter heart and with a feeling of gratitude. It is difficult to let go of a loved one’s treasured belongings but try to keep only a few items. Be careful not to create a shrine as this is “holding on” rather than “letting go”.
If, on reflection, you feel there was more to be said, or you feel that you didn’t do something correctly, you can always try writing a heartfelt letter to the deceased and posting it “to the universe” or burning it ceremonially. Alternatively, hold another memorial service at a later date. However if the intention was there, then one ceremony should be enough, even if it was not exactly how you wanted it. Undoubtedly it was as it should have been.
If you wish to hold a memorial service or passing over ceremony with other people I strongly advise conducting one on your own first to familiarise yourself with the process and provide the opportunity to tap into your own grief.
Invite those you wish to attend and inform them a little of the process, asking them to bring one object that reminds them of the deceased. Also advise them on what to wear. People often default to black, but whatever people feel comfortable wearing to such an event should be fine. However you are holding the ceremony so whatever feels right needs to be communicated.
On the day of the service prepare the space where you are going to conduct the ceremony, using the rolled up blanket or similar to represent the body and place their objects and photograph appropriately. Keep one particular object for the ceremony itself. Have water and tissues handy.
When all your guests have arrived make them as comfortable as possible with what is about to happen. When it comes to ceremony, it is hard to please everyone due to the variety of beliefs, but it is the intention and an open heart that matters. Let them know this is a safe and loving space to show and release their emotions.
Open the space as you choose to. The same method as used in the individual ceremony is fine.
Smudge or burn incense and light a candle. Play some background music, but remember this is not a celebration of the life. This is a ceremony to provide a space for those present to release, to let go and move through the grief process. So the music should be soft, soothing, maybe even sad. This is a space to go into the sadness, into the grief and release it, not to mask or avoid it.
As with the individual ceremony, invite God, Great Spirit, ancestors, the directions, etc., to be present. Whatever feels right for the group is fine, even if it is just calling to the universe.
Start the process yourself, thereby showing the others what to do, by placing the object you have kept back on the representation of the body, and speaking your words to your beloved. Talk from the heart.
Then invite each person in turn to come to the body, place down the object they have brought and to say what they have to say. Give everyone time to say as much as they wish, again speaking as if the deceased was in the room. Also allow them the space to release. I suggest that if anyone does begin crying, sobbing or wailing, or even if they collapse on the floor, allow them the space to do this without consolation. It is only natural that we want to console someone who is grieving, and clearly in emotional pain. We want their pain to stop. We don’t like how their pain is making us feel, it holds up a mirror to the grief we may be struggling to release from our own hearts. But by going to them, by holding them or comforting them, only acts to interrupt and stop their grief process. If you feel you must do something, tell them they are being very brave and now is the time to go deeply into the grief. Often one person’s courage to lay bare their emotions can be a trigger for others present to do the same. One person’s crying gives another permission to cry. So expressing these emotions is both cathartic and helpful to the group. Only if deep emotional releasing is prolonged and becomes too much should anyone be helped and comforted. You have to be the judge of this. Drumming or rattling, with a repetitive beat, can be used to distract people’s minds and help with grounding during and after the sharing and release.
Once all present have had their time to speak, give everyone a final chance to say something. Often by being in the ceremonial energy and witnessing family members open up, others can become confident to speak freely and from the heart.
Conclude the ceremony by singing or chanting, sending the energy or spirit of the deceased on their way and saying goodbye. Keep any chant or song simple, short and repetitive, so that all present can join in easily. Ideally do not to use words, as these convey a certain meaning and not everyone’s interpretation will be the same. Try singing or chanting from the heart and see what notes come out.
As with the individual ceremony ask those present to visualise the spirit of the deceased being taken away to the heavens, maybe by an eagle, to be reunited with the universe, Great Spirit or God.
Allow the energies of the ceremony to settle, maybe with a few seconds of quiet contemplation.
Give thanks to those present for coming, for being open to what has just happened and to feel proud for being part of a beautiful ceremony honouring a loved one.
Close the space and thank “those unseen”, be they ancestors, Great Spirit , God or the universe for being with you today.
Encourage everyone to ground themselves, imagining roots coming out of their feet and going deep in to the earth whilst taking a few balancing deep breaths.
Clear the space and remove all the items and possessions as the ceremony is now over. Do not leave the objects in place to become a shrine. Giving away your loved ones personal objects, perhaps saving only a few keepsakes, is cathartic and can be done when the time feels right. As previously mentioned, love is about letting go, not holding on.
It is a good idea once the ceremony is formally closed to share some food and drink, gather around a real fire, or go for a walk together, so that everyone can share, relax and feel even more grounded.
The Loss of a Baby or Child
An individual memorial or passing over ceremony can be conducted for a baby or child, in a similar way to that outlined above. Of course there are likely to be a wider range of emotions felt, such as a deeper sense of injustice, a more pronounced feeling of loss, tremendous guilt (whatever the circumstances of the death), acrimonious blame, the shattering thought of a life not lived, a potential not even begun to be fulfilled and the opportunity to raise a child to adulthood and pass on wisdom and knowledge taken away. It is also not the normal order of things. A child should outlive their parents.
I would suggest that any memorial is carried out with both parents present instead of individually, as this allows for each parent to be there for one another and to understand more of the other’s perspective, as often the mother and father differ in their grief and how they show it. Then, if wanted, a larger ceremony can be undertaken with more family members.
To represent the child use something small (maybe a doll or teddy bear) wrapped in a blanket. Again use a photo and place any sentimental objects on or near the blanket.
The loss of a child through abortion or miscarriage is clearly also traumatic, particularly for the mother, who may have had to face such a loss in private, possibly even alone. There is no reason why a memorial service cannot be held for this loss. Carry it out in a similar way to the loss of a child ceremony using a small doll/teddy (or whatever feels right for you) wrapped in a blanket to represent the unborn life. Also I suggest not giving a name to the child if it was never met in life. Often a name may come to the parents once a child is born, a different name from what they have imagined or decided upon beforehand.
Gravestones, Memorials and Scattering of Ashes
The use of a gravestone, memorial plaque, planting of a tree or any other way of remembering and honouring the deceased, are all personal and entirely up to the individual and family wishes. However I would say that it is best to avoid forming a shrine to the deceased. This is often the case when it comes to the loss of a baby or child. Many small graves in cemeteries are elaborately decorated and adorned with children’s toys, playthings and often many photographs. Clearly any comfort that can be taken by the parents and family by tending the grave is what is most important, but be careful not to let it become a shrine over time. How much time is enough is up to the individual, and each parent or family will be different, especially when there is peer or family pressure, guilt or shame. To let someone go (whatever their age) with love is to set them free. Holding their memory in your heart is enough. Conducting a memorial service or passing over ceremony as outlined above may help with this.
Scattering ashes is clearly personal and can be carried out any way you see fit. By all means create a ceremony around the process, but saying a few words, or even just being in a loving state of remembrance when you scatter the ashes, is enough to honour your beloved.
It is my sincerest wish that you feel able to honour your deceased loved one in any way you see fit, whenever and however they may have passed.
And it is my hope that what I have written has helped, and given you an idea of what you can do yourself, and for yourself, above and beyond a traditional funeral, further honouring your beloved and helping with your own grief process.
With much love
It was a beautiful, clear and relatively calm Wednesday morning in mid February earlier this year, as I walked along the beach near Playa Negra, about an hour’s drive south of Tamarindo, Guanacaste province, Costa Rica. My intention was to try and meet the owner of the local hotel, to introduce myself, explain what I do and offer my shamanic services to him and his guests.
The tide was out and the exposed expanse of flat sand made for easy walking. As I progressed along the beach, the ocean to my left, I glanced out to sea and saw a man, heavy set and maybe in his sixties, wading out into the surf. A wave hit him, not a huge one, but powerful nonetheless, and I thought to myself , “Wow that was a big hit.” I looked back after the wave dissipated and realised I couldn’t see him any more.
Fear and adrenaline began to rush through me, and then I saw the shape of someone floating upside down in the water. I dropped my small backpack, saying “no no no” over and over, in disbelief and shock at what I had just witnessed. I had to do something, so I rushed out towards him shouting “HELP!”, louder than I have ever shouted before in my life. In seconds I was there, but he was face down in the water. I tried to haul him out of the sea but he was a big man and I was struggling.
At that moment another man arrived, answering my scream for help, and together we dragged the limp, heavy body out onto the beach. We laid him down and the other man (Chris) checked for a pulse, which was present. We asked the injured man if he could hear us and tried to reassure him, but he was unresponsive. Others had come to help and 911 was called. In moments, it seemed, two doctors, who were on vacation in the area, were on the scene and one of them, a man from France, took over, and began chest compressions. I explained what had happened, what I had seen and we continued to work on the body as instructed by the doctor. I stepped back to give space to the three or four people, who were carrying out the CPR in turns. This continued for some time, everyone working incredibly well together, no arguing over what to do, seemingly expert in their application. But it was to no avail. After thirty or forty minutes the doctor told everyone to stop.
My heart sank. This man was dead.
Something kicked in within me and I asked if those present wouldn’t mind if I carried out a ceremony to help send his soul or spirit on it’s journey. I heard an agreement from Chris so I grabbed the small rattle from my back pack and knelt before this man lying on the sand, his physical body lifeless. I said some words, along the lines of, “Thank you brother for the life you have lived, the joy and happiness you have given others, but today was your day to leave this world. We send you off with peace and love as best we can. Our thoughts are with you, your family and friends, those that you leave behind. Thank you to all those that helped today, we could not have done more. It was his time. So we send you off from this world. God’s speed brother.”, and I performed a soul release process that I have been taught, and finished with a chant which became almost a wail, as I tapped into and released some of the emotion of this tragedy.
It was over within a couple of minutes and I moved away, back from the body, knowing that I could not have given more.
For some reason I gazed up towards the palm fringed back of the beach, some fifty metres away, and as I did an eagle carrying a fish in it’s talons caught my sight. This is not a sight I have seen before with my own eyes. I was struck dumb as immediately I realised the significance of this. Eagle, in the teachings I have received, means flying with Great Spirit, and this was confirmation to me that what I had done was correct and appropriate, and that this man’s spirit was being taken away by Great Spirit or God. My tears flowed.
Playa Negra is rather remote, accessed only by dirt roads and far from the nearest hospital. The paramedics arrived about an hour and a half after the tragedy, by which time I had met the agent for the house the deceased man was staying at and a surf instructor who had been teaching him. I found out his name was John, from Oregon, USA, here in Costa Rica on his own.
I left the scene and walked back along the beach stopping at one point to release further and let the tears of shock and grief flow, knowing that I was meant to be witness to this tragedy, to be there to help as best I could and to send his soul on it’s journey as I have been taught. The rest of the day however was rather a blur of emotion. A lot of whys and what ifs came up which I tried my best to deal with.
The next morning I walked again on the beach and bumped into Chris (not a coincidence, I’m sure of that), who had rushed to help me the day before. It turns out he is an ex lifeguard from Ventura, California and told me that we could not have done more to help John. He said he had felt John’s neck and it was broken. It seems as though the wave had thrown him down onto the compacted, rock hard sand, head first. Chris also thanked me for my words and the brief ceremony. He said it really helped him.
About a week or so after the tragedy I spoke to John’s brother on the phone, shared what I saw and what happened. He was very grateful as that was the first detailed information he had been given. John had one brother and two sisters but no wife or children.
As seems to be my path now, I am very much aware of signs and lessons put my way, to help me on this often difficult and solitary shamanic journey I have signed up for. I knew, as this tragedy was unfolding, that there was a deeper meaning for me. Of course the sadness and grief of John’s family and friends at this terrible loss is rightly first and foremost, but on reflection, now five months later I feel I can share this story and the bigger picture that arose from the sad passing of a life from this world. I was helped as the tragedy unfolded, by an ex lifeguard and two doctors, amongst others, so the responsibility and necessity of me “doing the right thing” was taken out of my hands, and I met Chris the following day who confirmed that we could not have done more, alleviating any fears I may have had over my actions. Also I was able to give some closure to John’s family, who had been given very little information about what had happened.
I was there to witness, to take action, to help, and then to send his soul off and finally, I believe, to share this story.
Is death the end? Well maybe, just maybe, as the eagle symbolised as it flew skyward carrying it’s precious cargo, with the mortal body left behind, John’s soul had been taken elsewhere, perhaps borne away to it’s own little piece of heaven.
Meditation is a word that covers many different forms of stilling the mind. It can range from sitting on top of a mountain in the lotus position in total stillness, with seemingly no thoughts in the mind, to being present whilst out walking in nature or doing mundane chores such as washing up or cleaning the house. There are many forms and many opportunities to practice and none are better than the other but I want to explore the more common sitting still method.
What is important in meditation is your intention, relatively regular practice and feeling comfortable with the process. There is little point trying to force your body into a position it is not used to, one that is uncomfortable or painful. You will not see any benefits, only frustration. Make meditation easy for yourself. It’s not meant to be the goal of a lifetime of devotion that only yogis can achieve. It is available and beneficial to everyone. Relatively regular practice means if you can spare 15-30 mins a day for your practice then great. If you miss a day or two then don’t worry. Just come back to it when you can.
Meditation is not just about calming the mind, becoming one with the universe or achieving a deeper understand of the self, it has proven health benefits for both the mind and the body and great stress reducer. You will become calmer, more focused, more relaxed and ultimately feel healthier and more engaged with life. There is also a spiritual aspect to meditation, whereby just the act alone of sitting down to meditate is saying to the universe I am here, I am with you and you are with me. I am ready and open to grow and connect with all that is. It is quite profound but in reality meditation is a little like a prayer. You are asking for help from that which you are not aware of in your normal day to day consciousness. Maybe you are connecting more to your subconscious, maybe you are connecting more to the universe, god, nature, spirit. I cannot give an answer but I know the benefits for myself are worth the small regular effort.
Some simple methods include:
– Following guided meditations on the internet
– Staring softly at a flower or plant (a small pot plant is ideal as you can use it anywhere in your home),
– Staring softly at the flame of a candle for a few minutes then closing your eyes and watching the image.
– Repeating a mantra (positive phrase) in you mind with eyes closed.
I would suggest using the mantra method as you can use it anywhere, at any time, and do not need the internet, a plant or candle. Using a mantra also seems to occupy that part of our mind that wants to be thinking, to be active. A mantra is a good way to keep it busy!
Ideally use a mantra with words that are unfamiliar to you, otherwise you may focus too much on the meaning of the words. For example, using the mantra “peace, love and happiness” sounds great but then you may end up just focusing on this and if you feel you are lacking in any of the areas then negative thoughts may come in. I suggest starting by repeating the Hindu mantra “Om” or “Om Namah Shivaya”. You can change mantra whenever you want and playing with different ones is a good way to find one that you are comfortable with and that works for you.
How to meditate with a mantra:
Find a safe, quiet or serene place to sit comfortably, with hands resting in your lap, settle yourself and take a nice breath in and when you breathe out feel your body relax even further. Move your focus around your body as you breathe, feeling your jaw loosen, forehead and eyelids soften, fingers, toes and shoulders relax, belly become more softer. If you have any aches or pains breathe into those areas and imagine them loosening and relaxing. If you wish you can do a full body scan starting from the toes and working up to the top of the head, focusing on each area as you breathe, repeating in your mind “my toes are relaxed”, “my ankles are relaxed”, “my calves are relaxed”, my knees are relaxed”, etc. Don’t forget the parts of you head. Focusing the relaxation on your cheeks, lips, tongue, jaw, eyes, nose, ears, forehead, scalp may seem to be a waste of time but try it and see 🙂
Once you feel totally relaxed begin repeating the mantra in your mind over and over at a pace that feels right for you, whilst trying to stay still physically. Initially you may want to fidget, scratch, and get more comfortable. That is fine. Have a scratch, shift your position, clear your throat, whatever. But then come back to the mantra and continue. As you progress with your practice over the days or weeks the amount of fidgeting will reduce.
It is likely, in fact certain, that your mind will drift as you meditate, away from the mantra onto many other thoughts from “why am I doing this”, “this is a waste of time”, “I should be doing …”, to “what will I have for dinner”, “what did that person say to me yesterday”, “what if someone sees me”. In fact your mind could wander onto absolutely any subject or question. That is OK. When you notice you have drifted gently bring yourself back to the mantra and begin repeating it once again. Similarly the more you practice the less your mind will drift, but often the thoughts or images that come up will have a meaning to you and be pertinent to your life at the time. Allow these thoughts to come up but then let them go. It has been said that you can be like a movie goer and allow these images to pass you by as if they were on a screen and you in a seat in the cinema watching.
You may lose yourself in the meditation, in the peaceful restful state you are in, and totally forget about the mantra. This too is fine and to my mind one of the benefits of meditation. A great way to recharge and similar to a power nap! If you wish, when you remember you are meditating, bring yourself back gently to the mantra and continue.
When you feel ready, and it may have been only a few minutes, half an hour or even longer, bring yourself out of the meditation simply by returning to your senses, stopping the mantra and slowly begin to move your body, starting by wiggling fingers and toes. When ready slowly open your eyes and take a moment to become present again wherever you are. A good stretch may be nice afterwards before you carry on with your day.
Noting down in a journal any thoughts, ideas, issues that came up in your meditation may also be useful to help you in your day to day life. Also be mindful of any signs or coincidences that happen during the rest of the day and again note them down in a journal for future referral and review.
We have all been through difficult times and have people or issues in our past that may still be influencing us emotionally in some way today. Below is a process that can help address these emotions and clear any blockages allowing us to move on and be more authentic.
Begin by identifying the top three traumas or emotional situations you want to let go of and the people involved with them. By letting go I mean you transmute the emotions into energies that can be dissipated. You will always have the memory but the emotional charge with it should be eliminated or, at the very least, reduced considerably.
So let’s say you have three people or issues you want to work with.
Find something physical that represents the person/issue you are working with, ideally something from nature but it doesn’t have to be. Keep this item with you when you do the next stages below. You will be letting this object go too, so make sure you are ok with that.
This step comes from a Hawaiian process called Ho’opono pono.
Firstly find a safe and private space to “work” in (I call any spiritual/emotional healing and releasing, work). Make sure you will not be interrupted. You can do this anywhere but ideally you should be sat at a table, preferably wooden.
Imagine and feel the person sat opposite you. If it is an issue and not a person, visualise the issue or yourself as you were during the issue, sat opposite.
Say to them (out loud or in your head),
Please forgive me.
I love you”
Do this slowly, concentrating upon and feeling each sentence.
“I’m sorry” – Feel this. Feel repentance even if you know you were not at fault. Take responsibility for what happened. Somewhere guilt sits between you and the other person. Maybe you are clearing for both of you. If it is a situation let the remorse take over you. Really feel this. Let tears, sobbing flow. Even curl up on the floor in the foetal position if that’s where the pain sends you. I’ve been there. This is your time to release. Do whatever it takes to let it out from your body. Often tapping the throat, heart or belly will help the release.
“Please forgive me”. This is humility. Again even if you are convinced it was not your fault, take responsibility. Take the higher ground. And again most definitely feel this. Forgiveness clears the past. You are also forgiving yourself. Spiritually we a children. We are allowed and meant to make mistakes, they help us grow.
“Thank you”. Be in deep gratitude. For the person, for the situation that has helped you grow, for the process, for being you, for being able to take this step, for the help the universe has provided you to get you to where you are today.
“I love you”. Say this to the person or the issue and send as much love as you can out into the universe. But also realise that by saying this you are saying you love yourself too. Accept this love for yourself, you deserve it. Nothing is more powerful than love.
It may also be helpful if you can “see” the other person and notice how they react (in your mind) when you say and feel each of the above sentences.
When you are finished blow any residue emotions, feelings or energies into the object, rub it on your body, if that feels right, to draw out any further negativity and find somewhere to throw it away, even if it just in the dustbin.
Do this for each of the people/issues you want to release energetically.
When you feel you have finished spend some time in gratitude for what you have just accomplished and if you feel drained or tired, breathe in life force and love energy, imagining yourself filling up with a life affirming, nurturing, wonderful colour or light.
Make sure you feel grounded again before carrying on with your day.
My friend John (1967-2017)
Last year I decided to go to India and John kindly offered to put me up whilst I planned the trip, as I had recently moved out of my home in Billericay. It took about three weeks to organise the visa, tickets, vaccinations, etc and it was during this time that I met John’s sister, Teresa, and her grown up children, Daniel and Matilda. Teresa had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was back in the UK, from her home in Sweden, to sort out some of her affairs. A difficult time for everyone, but John put on a brave face and tried to be bright and bubbly, however the underlying stress was apparent.
As I spent time with John he shared more of his worries and concerns that were depriving him of sleep. Not only his sister’s illness but work and relationship troubles. He had left his job at the family farm and was trying to take stock of his life and find new direction. He even applied for a builders merchant manager’s job, for which he was way overqualified, but was unsuccessful.
He had split with his partner, Sue, some time ago but still regularly saw his two girls, Isabella and Ayesha. John’s house had three rooms that were devoted to the girls, adorned with pop band posters, cuddly toys and the like. Wardrobes and drawers were crammed with their clothes, as they stayed over two, three or more nights a week. In the three weeks staying with John I got to know his daughters a little and saw how he absolutely doted upon them. They wanted for nothing. Both the girls, although quite different in character, came across as intelligent, well mannered and considerate. They could even take themselves off to bed without a fuss. As young teenagers (almost), that was impressive.
At the end of November 2016, with a six month visa and no real plan in mind, I left for India. Some healthy food and exercise, walking and yoga, were as far as my intention went.
I swapped whatsapp messages with John and sent the odd photo of my travels but then, in early January 2017, he sent a message saying he had been diagnosed with cancer.
The shock I felt must have been nothing compared to that felt by John and his family. From then on I was in regular contact with both John and another close friend, Kevin, who kept me abreast of the situation. Speaking with John on the phone, I was surprised to hear how upbeat he was but understandably that didn’t last. As his situation worsened he became more accepting and reflective.
During one of the many email exchanges we had, John replied with the below after I had written about some of my spiritual thoughts and beliefs:
That was a very thoughtful message.
Believe it or not I don’t think what you have suggested is something I don’t believe in.
As I said to you, my body has been out of alignment with its natural state for years. Essentially I realised that I m not a hard nosed businessman in pursuit of untold riches. I pursued a life that never suited my personality. I m not a greedy and selfish person deep down. I now believe following this path has led to my illness.
The stress this has brought has caused me untold damage.
I think you knew I wasn’t well when you were here. I was quite sure there was something wrong hence my visits to doctors. It was a virus that triggered the cancer off over Christmas. It was almost like it was waiting to be kick started. If you remember I told you I couldn’t breath in the pool in Sweden while at my sister.
Stupidly I didn’t push the doctors for a simple X ray and just listened to them saying there was nothing wrong.
I guess now I’m facing the daunting task of operations, chemo and radiation treatments. Basically, a sledge hammer to open a walnut.
I do now need a deep healing within my body to withstand this onslaught. I’m looking at ways to meditate and find peace with myself.
As you can imagine, I have just told my children the news and the devastation I feel inside is a pain I cannot explain. My head at night is in turmoil. Sleep, as you well know, is now a precious commodity.
All my dreams, hopes and plans are distant memories. We talked about riding across America on a Harley, finishing my flying course etc. Now I face the fear and emptiness of this long dark road. Time suddenly feels like it has stood still while I watch everyone move forward past me.
It’s almost like you have stepped into God’s waiting room.
To make things worse I had to break news to my sister who is dying that I cannot give her stem cells to fight her disease. We both get cancer within months of each other. I was already suffering her burden in my mind and now she is staying looking after me!
If you believe in fate then I left work 5 months ago and maybe something has given me this time to reflect before I face this trial.
I just hope I can face this with dignity and not let my daughters suffer watching me waste away. I hope you find that peace and end the pain of the Tinnitus. I can assure you my sister and I knew you were going through hell with it. Again unless you live it for a day you cannot understand the torment.
I want you to have a good life and find a woman to share life with. At times like these you realise only love, friendship and happiness really matter.
Enjoy your trip and hopefully I’ll still be around when you come back.
The girls are here and they said hello as does Teresa.”
I held a couple of shamanic ceremonies for him on the beach and upon a cliff top, where I was staying in India. They seemed to make sense to me and I got confirmation back from the universe that I was on the right track in the form of acknowledgment sounds and sights. A local man asking for a photo with me just as i finished the small ceremony on the beach (I had been discreet and he had not seen me conduct it), a bell being rung when I completed the cliff top work with a multitude of eagles.
During this period I spent a week in the city of Trivandrum in Kerala, southern India where, as serendipity would have it , Amma “The Hugging Mother” was holding an event. I went along and took a sacred stone that I was using in the work I was doing with and for John, said prayers for him, and left it in the temple. Again this felt right.
However after a few weeks working shamanically it felt as though I could do no more where I was and, as I had been thinking about flying back to the UK to be with my friend, I booked a ticket back.
I returned early February and stayed at John’s house. Teresa was there nursing him as best she could and many other family members and friends came to help and offer their support. But John had deteriorated rapidly. I worked with John using my teachings and was there to help out as necessary, even if it that only meant making cups of tea for the many visitors. My ideal, of course, was to be able to help him battle the disease and cure himself, but that seemed out of the question now as destiny had other plans.
The decision was made to move John to a hospice and I agreed to spend the first night with him, so that he was not alone in a strange place, and Teresa could try and get some rest, as she had been in constant attendance since coming over from Sweden.
As night fell the hospice became quiet and all I could hear was the sound of the oxygen machine, rhythmically pumping out life to a slow morbid beat. I lay awake on the bed in John’s room as he drifted in and out of a medicated consciousness in the chair just round the corner. I may have grabbed some sleep but mainly I lay and meditated and prayed. I did some more work with John, again hoping in some way it will help him, at least to try and overcome any fear of death but there was little, if any, energy left in him.
Around noon the next day Teresa returned with her dad and brother, so I left, saying my heartfelt goodbyes to John, in case I didn’t see him again and returned to his empty house in Southend.
I did more shamanic work that night and realised I needed to do some anger releasing work with him when I returned to the hospice the following day. I have a piece of broken mirrored haematite in my mesa, or medicine bundle, that represents anger which I use with clients. This healing was confirmed when I noticed another smaller piece of haematite stone under John’s empty massage chair, a stone given to him by another friend, who had offered his spiritual support.
The next day I packed my mesa and shamanic “tools” into my backpack and made my way to the hospice.
But John had passed earlier in the morning.
When I arrived I tried to support the family in their grief as best I could without being intrusive. Whilst sitting talking with his Teresa, I offered to conduct a shamanic style soul release ceremony for John, to send his spirit off to wherever it goes next, even though I had never done one before, I’d only ever been taught it. I told his sister this but she asked me to do it anyway. So I did. His whole family came into the room where John was laid out and I carried out the ceremony.
Teresa and other family members thanked me afterwards and said how beautiful it was.
Sometime later I walked along the beach near the hospice and had the small piece of mirror like haematite in my hand. I knew I had to release it into the sea and was drawn to a monument, an obelisk about thirty metres out from the shore, but reachable due to the low tide. I think it is a World War II monument but I’m not entirely sure, however I knew the stone had to be placed there, for the tide to come in and wash away. It was also within sight of the hospice so the connection was strong. As I walked out on this wonderfully becalmed day, I looked down to see a small toy mirrored heart lying there on the stoney foreshore. I knew that this was to come with the stone and I placed both of them on the side of the obelix, said goodbye to John in spirit again and left feeling somewhat lighter amidst such a tragedy.
Farewell my friend. Safe travels wherever you are.
It didn’t go unnoticed to me that the place where I received most of my shamanic training was almost directly opposite the hospice in Westcliff and my dad’s wife, Margaret, also volunteers at the same hospice. Yet more synchronicities confirming to me a connection to something bigger.
Trevor Cowan April 2017.
The below was written a few years ago but it feels ok to share it now. To set it up, my mum passed in 1998 after a car accident in the UK. This was obviously a big traumatic event in my life, as well as in my dad’s, sister’s, rest of the family, friends and the others involved directly or as witnesses to the accident. The first part of my medicine wheel training delt with the past and traumatic events. So this, unsurprisingly, was number one on my list to work upon. Part of the shamanic process is to use a stone to represent the trauma. I won’t go into details as to how that happens as it is part of the training, however, suffice it to say that the stone became part of my mesa or medicine bundle and was used in healings with others. Then a couple of years later I knew the stone and my work with the trauma was moving on….
Sunday 29th Sept 2013 – The scene of the accident
I had planned it to happen today and made sure I did not forget by putting the mesa trauma stone in my pocket.
Having spent the weekend with friends who live just outside Ipswich, I was returning home on the A12, just as mum and dad had been doing after visiting their friends, John and Marion in August 1998. I’d passed the accident spot many times, where a car had taken off from the oncoming carriageway and collided with mum and dad’s car head on, resulting in mum passing and dad being badly injured, and I hd stopped in the same layby near the scene a few times to grieve and release but this time was different.
The mesa stone that had been with me since the South training on the medicine wheel was ready to leave. It had made this known a couple of times recently, by falling out or jumping out of my mesa medicine bundle. The stone, multi coloured rainbow jasper, had served me well as the ”trauma” stone, representing the car crash, the way it’s colours mingled with each other and it’s use had helped me deal with the tragedy. However it was time to give it back to mother earth and see what final work it had to offer.
I came towards the Witham Bypass and the parking area and, as is often the case, the musical accompaniment was a wonderful gift acknowledging that “they” were there. The song playing as I pulled in was Heatwave’s 80’s soul classic “Mind Blowing Decisions” which has the line “mind blowing decisions causes head on collisions”. I can’t think of any other song that has “head on collisions” in the lyrics? How prophetic, apt and magical that it is playing as I arrived at the layby. I am so used to this kind of coincidence, synchronicity, spirit message, call it what you will, that I wasn’t phased by it at all. I had work to do, I knew that. This was only confirmation that the universe was working with me and maybe God or Spirit were close.
I turned the car stereo off and sat holding the stone in one hand and my mastery stone, received only a couple of weeks ago after completing the Masters Shamanic course with my Shamanic teacher Skie Hummingbird, in the other hand, and closed my eyes. I allowed my thoughts to flow and put my face into a wailing/keening pose to aid the release until it happened naturally. Images of the car wreckage, mum in dad’s arms, a last embrace and thoughts for the others involved in the accident, including the driver of the other vehicle, his wife and children on the back seat, all of whom were not seriously hurt, but have grown up with the accident in their consciousness. My thoughts even turned to those that had witnessed it or helped, they too have it embedded in their psyche. I energetically unwound mum’s chakras or body energy centres and felt her across my lap as dad had. I felt a group of shaman and tribesfolk swaying and slowly moving forward in lines either side of mum who was laid out in the centre similar to how I saw her at the hospital when I identified her body. Images came and went, emotions surfaced and tears flowed.
When it was over I left the car and walked to the embankment at the side of the layby overlooking a freshly ploughed field and startled a rabbit from its resting spot down a tunnel in the undergrowth. Am I going further down the metaphoric rabbit hole? Ploughed fields have always reminded me of my pledge to the shamanic path when I took a step forward next to a ploughed field, directly after coming out of three days of darkness at the Sacred Trust Darkness Visible retreat in Dorset a few years back.
I sat on the bank facing south, out of view of the road and looking over the field. Two crows took off in front of me as I called in the directions, N, E, S, W, Mother Earth and Father Sky and more tears. I looked down to the ground between my feet to find a spot to bury the stone and there I noticed a piece of rusted metal poking out from the earth. I pulled on it quite firmly to shift it and it came away from the entangled grass and dried mud. Could this be a part of the wreckage from the crash over 15 years ago? As coincidences go this would be a doozy. One to tell the grandkids! Looking closer at the fragment I saw some old paint and yes it was of the same colour as mum and dad’s car, a brown/grey Toyota Corolla. Maybe it is that car, maybe it isn’t. It doesn’t matter. It represents the crash to me and so I added a dab of my blood from a graze on my finger I got a little while before onto the metal and placed the stone under it, to be left here to rest as now it’s job with myself and mum is over.
I spent some time afterwards picking up rubbish that was dotted around the place and got back in my car and drove off feeling quite blessed. When I turned the stereo on again the next tune was “Yah Mo B There” by James Ingram and Michael MacDonald with the lyric “Heavenly father…just reach out and call his name”. Yah Mo B There is a derivation from Hebrew and supposedly translates roughly as “God be with you”
I like the way the colours match, another synchronicity.
Life would mean very little without beats, without a rhythm to dance to, a pulse to keep us on track or even to denote the cycles of our lives, from day to night, the phases of the moon and the changing of the seasons as our planet keeps its regular orbit around our star.
Beats and rhythms are everywhere. Starting within the womb, surrounded by fluid and in darkness, the mother’s heartbeat is the soundtrack to the first nine months of our lives. This rhythmic sound is so comforting and familiar that it is used by new parents to help their little one(s) sleep as can be seen by the number of womb noise Youtube posts.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tycKhXaYw8Q)
Our heart beat is also a valued ally throughout the rest of our life, letting us know when we are scared or startled by wanting to jump out of our chest, pumping hard to prepare us for fight or flight, becoming a calming focus for our mind when drifting into meditation, fluttering when we meet someone we love, seemingly stopping or breaking when we have to let them go. We hear it’s beats in our ears when we physically exert ourselves too much, telling us to slow down and then finally, of course, when the beat stops our time is up.
So look after your heart as best you can and be wary about putting it solely in another’s hands. It is your responsibility, your driving force and your connection to the rhythm of life.
Much love, Trevor.
I have always trusted science and the proofs and truths it has afforded me through my education. However through my spiritual work I now understand that science does not explain everything. In time it’s envelope will increase to encompass what is currently unclear, such as the quantum world, the human brain, consciousness, black holes, dark matter, etc, and maybe even some spiritual techniques, but it will always be a subset of what humanity (or some of humanity) already know, and this in turn is just a part of “what is” or how things are (see below pdf). Gravity for example was never discovered. It has always been there doing it’s thing. Perhaps other forces are there too, just waiting to be detected, measured and recognised by science. Maybe some of them can be felt and used by people in healing. Maybe there have always been people who have used these forces or energies to help others. Shaman think so.