Chapter 1: Your Toast Is Ready

My September trip was supposed to be a hiking journey through Tibet with my mom, an adventure that was postponed until next year at the last minute when my mom broke her foot. I shifted into top gear, scrambling to move 2019’s planned trip to Australia and New Zealand forward to this September instead.

But my mom still needed a break from her stressful job, so we flew her out to Minnesota to stay with me for a week before I left. I wasn’t expecting to write about this trip at all, since I didn’t even leave my state, but so many meaningful awakening experiences came up in those days... and I realized there will be a big gap in the overall story if it just suddenly jumped forward to Australia.

This was written in a huge rush as I packed for Australia, so it may or may not be entertaining, may or may not have been proofread, and may or may not suck like shit on toast. But it’s honest to what happened and what happened was pretty damn cool.

Chapter 2: The Fairies by the Pool

After visiting Minnehaha Falls, we drove the short distance to the parking area for Coldwater Spring, a little-known spot near the Mississippi river that’s held sacred by the Dakota people, the water there used in their healing ceremonies for thousands of years. I’d never even heard of it in nearly 20 years of living here. After parking and heading off on completely the wrong trail, we cut through the tall grass and eventually found the spring.

It was not an immediately impressive site visually, a small reservoir completely covered in a green, mossy scum, with a small stone spring house on the far side. It looked decrepit and abandoned. But as soon as we approached it I felt a peculiar energy. For lack of a better word the whole pond felt enchanted and alive.

I sat on a stone at the edge of the pond and soaked up the living energy. I laughed, as all I could think about was Yoda living on Dagobah because the life force was so strong there.

A thin white mist that seemed to glow curled around the edges of the pond, where the grass hung over the water. I watched the mist for a few moments and suddenly realized it wasn’t there. I mean, it wasn’t a physical mist, I was seeing something on another dimensional level. I could tune out and watch the mist fade away or tune in and see it grow more intense. I became aware that I was seeing something alive right along the edge of the water, something I didn’t have the ability to see any more clearly. It was like the glowing mist was the best my mind could resolve out of what it was seeing. In my mind’s eye, I saw sudden flashes of little people dancing joyously along the edge of the water.

My mom was sitting at the springhouse on the far side, and I walked over and sat with her. We watched birds flit among the flowers as the bees made their rounds.

“There’s fairies on the other side of the pond,” I said, never having made such a claim before.

My mom went over to investigate as I hopped across the stepping stones that spanned the center of the pond. Tiny frogs hopped out of the water every time I landed on a mossy stone and managed to not fall in.

“They’re so happy!” my mom called out. I crossed the pond and joined her sitting in the grass on the edge, near where I’d seen the little dancing people.

In the grass around us were vague little blurry patches of light. Huh. I wonder if I can talk to them.

“They’re talking to me,” my mom said. “They’re telling me to really look at flowers. That flowers are like crop circles, looking at them closely changes your brain, it evolves you.”

Huh. I cleared my mind and tuned in. What will they have to say to me? I figured it would be something like “You can come back here any time-”

“You’re already here with us,” is what a voice said instead. Huh.

What does that even mean? Is it a statement on now being the only time there is? Or is some aspect of my soul’s energy actually embodied here in their realm? Maybe-

Two women stomped up from the trail to the edge of the pond. The fairies instantly vanished.

“Look at this!” one of the women groused to the other. “This place is disgusting!”

Their energy felt viscerally jarring. They stomped away.

Very slowly, the fairies returned.

“They don’t like people, we’re too coarse,” my mom said. “They’ve been here a long time and they like that people don’t like to come here now, that the pond is not attractive to people.”

“They’re talking about the sounds the insects make and how beneficial they are.”

I smiled. This had been a subject I’d been very focused on all week. After my mom started talking about the trees outside my apartment, I became increasingly aware of the sound of the wind blowing through their leaves and how this WHOOSH was an energetically powerful sound, something that was doing some kind of space clearing to transmute negative energy. The more I’ve ventured away from watching TV or listening to music at home, the more I’ve been drawn to the sound of the crickets and frogs outside. Every night I get a stronger and stronger intuition that this sound is important.

As the days of this trip ticked by, I became increasingly aware that the sounds of these creatures are a service they’re doing for the Earth. Their sounds are balancing the energies. We think of them in terms of crickets or various animals attracting a mate, but this is a lot of sound for such a temporary purpose. All night every night. I began to notice the sounds even during the day. Around the clock like chanting monks.

As I’ve become more still I’ve noticed the chaotic sounds we people make all day, the sounds of our lives. It’s a New Age concept that we create reality with our thoughts, sending out waves of commands imposed upon the invisible substance of the universe. And that our words add physical vibration to give these thoughts even more power. This has come to seem self-evident to me, and as it has, I’m amazed by the chaotic signals and energy we all send out. The negative and self-limiting thoughts and statements. We don’t speak with awareness or conscious intent, and our discordant thoughts are all over the place.

I chuckled as I observed the day shift of people transmitting their chaos, being replaced by the night shift of crickets, cicadas and chirping frogs toning it all back into coherence. What dedication and service. Wow. Thanks bugs.

I thought back to being at Standing Rock, listening to the young people having their angry rap concert out in the field. And after it was over, the elders walking out into the field in the middle of the night and drumming for hours, clearing that space, bringing it all back into harmony.

Walking back from Coldwater Spring we passed a few hikers who were arguing inanely about something. Every time I hear people talk it makes me not want to talk at all.

A year ago I’d bought a Balinese temple bell from an author who writes about space clearing. The bell has an amazing sharp tone that cuts right through you, it’s great for breaking up stuck energy. When I do occasionally watch a movie at home now, afterwards I like to ring the bell around the room, breaking up that energy of conflict the movie created. Sometimes I wake up from chaotic dreams and can still feel the dream in the room around me, which ringing the bell takes care of too. Other times when I’m meditating and I have a repetitive thought that doesn’t want to leave my head, I ring the bell close to me and the sounds seems to shatter the thought form itself, leaving silence behind.

While my mom was here, she gave me a huge crystal singing bowl for my upcoming birthday. It’s tuned to resonate to the heart chakra and when you play the bowl, the sound seems to vibrate the entire room. Take that, Irish past life wounds. After I play it I can still feel the tone in my body hours later, it’s pretty amazing.

Chapter 3: Pipestone

One day we drove 200 miles southwest to Pipestone National Monument, a sacred site where the Native American tribes for several states around came for thousands of years to quarry the rock they used to carve their ceremonial pipes. The pipe wasn’t just a smoking implement, rather it was a tool for prayer, as it was believed that the smoke carried your prayers up to God. Even the “tobacco” smoked was a blend of different plants unique to each person, based on their affinity to those plants and their energetic properties.

I could feel the energy in the air before we even got to the monument. This is going to be cool!

We hiked the trail that wound around the various quarries and the red rock formations.

Turning one corner, we came upon a beautiful waterfall. As we walked up to it, a butterfly coasted down over the top of the falls, straight over our heads, and on down the river without flapping its wings once, gliding slowly and beautifully on the spray curling up from the waterfall.

Photo by Sheila O’Donnell

I sat down. Wow, the energy is incredible here. I sensed intuitively that some kind of portal was created when all the elements meet in one place like this. The water coming down over the falls, mixing with the air and lit by the sun as it falls down onto the Earth element of the rocks below. I’d been transfixed at Minnehaha Falls by the way I could stare into the falls and see individual drops of water falling as if in slow motion. Here, the effect was even stronger. Watching the water swoop off the rocks above, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy from the water itself. This water was having a great time. This is the one time it gets to feel what it’s like to be air.

The deeper I stared into the water, I began to see, more and more clearly, a consciousness in the ripples and wrinkles of the water’s surface, and an empathic joy in existence that radiated out from this consciousness. As the water curved around rocks or swooped through dips in the stream bed, I was filled with a telepathic sense of how much it loved moving like that. Who wouldn’t? That looks fun as shit. This is water’s roller coaster.

In the spray of the waterfall I began to pick up translucent balls of light floating through the falls. I’d seen air elementals like this once before in the forest, years ago. Here in the spray at the base of the falls, the air got a little taste of what it was like to be water.

I looked at the rocks, covered in moss. A few were glowing unnaturally, an intense green. Hmmm. One rock seemed to have a face on it. Then I noticed another. And another. Earlier in the trail I’d seen several faces and forms in the rocks, which I wrote off as a game of the imagination. But here in the spray of the waterfall I realized this was the Earth elementals showing themselves to me. These weren’t their faces, necessarily, but my mind was bending the cracks and lines into identifiable forms so that I could recognize the life that was there.

On one of the rocks in the pool at the base of the waterfall, a white light glowed. For a brief second it took the form of a small white figure, which almost looked like a little ballerina. Then it was just a glow again. A few hikers stomped by and the light disappeared. I was struck by what a profoundly different experience we seemed to be having compared to the other people who hiked by. They stopped with a brief “Huh, neat” before continuing on, barely breaking stride in their conversation. It reminded me of the group that went into the crop circle after us in England, who took a couple of photos, scratched their asses and promptly left.

As I sat by the falls and the inner levels of this scene unfolded to me, I began to understand how our subtle perception works. I know many people who want to experience things like this, but we tend to expect things to knock our socks off. We expect clairaudience to manifest as a voice yelling in our ear, suddenly jarring us out of our normal daily life. We expect visions to drop out of the sky and blind us to the world around us. Anything less than that, we doubt and write it off as imagination. But I’m coming to see that’s not how it works. It’s like a flower opening, it’s very soft.

Clairaudience starts out sounding like just another thought in your head. If you fail to acknowledge it, it never gets any stronger than that. But if you do listen to it, if you get quiet enough to hear it, if you can question why that thought would come up at that time, why you would think that at all, you can begin to see it more clearly. You start to feel, hey, that thought has a certain presence to it, a certain energy. When I really listen to it I can almost feel someone standing next to me, huh. And the more you acknowledge it, the more you don’t write it off, the clearer and clearer it becomes.

Visions need to be let in, in much the same way. Why is that rock glowing brighter than the others? Must be a trick of the sun reflecting off- oh, wait, now it’s gone. Maybe I’ll just watch it, instead of letting my mind shut down the pathway that subtle information was coming through. Wow, it is quite a beautiful glow. And that shade of green is amazing. I feel it in my heart. I’ll let a little more in. Huh. I just got a brief flash in my mind of a little dude sitting on that rock. Must be my imagination. But why would I imagine that, right then? Maybe there is a dude. Let’s just play along. Let’s just pretend for a minute I’m someone who can see things like this, why not? Oh, now I can see him a little clearer.

And on and on. When you release the vise of the mind, of your concept of who you are and what you can or can’t do, the world rushes in. When you really do it well, the rush can be a little overwhelming. But little by little the door opens.

All trip long I was aware that I was constantly dipping my toe into a new awareness. I felt almost afraid to do so at times. When you truly open up and all the new, unfamiliar levels of awareness rushing in, it feels like losing control. We’re so used to categorizing and structuring everything that comes into our awareness, and I had no ability to even begin to categorize the trippy shit that was flooding into me. Much of it was beyond all my known constructs, impossible to even put into words. And it was all so intense. You find that you need to enter into a new state of allowing, and just be with what floods in.

Later on I saw the white figure return and wade gently into the water. Tiny fish leapt up out of the frothing pool and up into the falls. They seemed to be having a great time.

My mom and I followed the trail past The Oracle and Leaping Rock to the overlook at the top of the falls. As my mom was negotiating with the bees to leave her alone and I was tuning in to the thrill of the water swooping down a dip in the stream right before it launched into the abyss, suddenly a huge snapping turtle came drifting down the river. He seemed to be sitting up, with his front legs out of the water, like he was driving an invisible car.

“Oh my god!” my mom and I both said in unison.

The turtle slowed down and paused briefly at the edge of the falls, and then, SHOOMP, he went over the edge. After a long, expectant pause, we heard him KERPLUNK into the pool at the base of the falls.

“I hope he’s okay!”

“I think he did that on purpose.”

“It’s really weird that we saw that.”

On our hike back the cicadas were making their alien space clearing noises. The fairies had suggested we try to emulate the insect sounds we heard.

I very quickly realized I don’t have the right equipment to emulate a cicada.

At the native crafts shop in town, the owner opened up to us immediately and told us all about the traditions of his tribe up on the Bad River reservation, the round grandfather stones they collect on the beach and the ceremonies he performs for native men in prison. He drummed around our bodies to break up any stuck energy causing pain or discomfort. This kind of thing was constantly happening all trip long, behind every door there was another interesting person waiting to tell us all about their lives. We stopped into a craft shop in Minneapolis and after a long conversation with the owner, discovered he was the brother of the health director my mom had come to Minneapolis to meet.

After Pipestone we made our way to Blue Mounds State Park to watch the large bison herd there.

Photo by Sheila O’Donnell
Photo by Sheila O’Donnell

“You’re scaring the buffalo, Sean.”

“I’m sending them love! I don’t think I’m-”

A low, guttural growl rose up from the herd.

“Okay yeah I’m scaring the buffalo let’s go.”

Chapter 4: You Can Learn a Lot of Things from the Flowers

We made our way to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to see what was going on with these flower things the fairies had told us so much about.

Walking through the first garden, we stopped to smell the roses. As I inhaled, an entire essence flowed into my body and spread through my head. Wow. No wonder you’re supposed to stop and smell these things. Another. I felt particles of light float through my body, as some inherent quality of the flower seemed to be interacting with my cells in a deeply therapeutic way. Damn. Again and again, through all the varieties of roses. Even the ones without a strong smell had an essence emanating from them that felt like spiritual medicine.

Photo by Sheila O’Donnell

A flower by the walkway caught my eye. I sat down on the sidewalk to look at it more closely. As I stared into the flower, I saw it superimposed over the sun, and a knowing filled my head. This is what stars look like on higher dimensional levels. This is the soul of a star.

Photo by Sheila O’Donnell

I walked by more flowers and saw this again and again. The sun gives life to all these plants, and these flowers are their tribute, reflecting the sun’s essential form back to it.

I walked by another patch of flowers and saw them all as stars in a constellation. Huh. One beautiful little flower especially caught my attention. I sat right next to it and looked at it very closely. In its tiny folds, its multiplicity of tiny blooms and petals, it held the shape of the universe.

It wasn’t just that it looked like the universe, in a way I couldn’t explain I felt that it was somehow a portal into space.

This feeling repeated as I went from flower to flower. Some flowers, as I stared into their center, formed into a long tunnel and I felt myself traveling out into space. Finding myself floating amongst the stars like I had experienced at Stonehenge. Damn. This is a lot cheaper than flying back to England.

Other flowers held other beautiful scenes. One reminiscent of planets covered in trees. One coleus holding the essence of fire elementals in its intensely glowing orange and red leaves.

Others transported with their colors, the vivid purples seeming to burn through the air. It was the first time I’d ever felt like I was feeling the colors in my heart.

I stopped at one point to look at a perfect white flower.

On the way back from Coldwater Spring I had been struck by the unconsciousness of people’s speech, the discordant vibrations they were sending out in all directions. It made me not want to speak and made me wonder what we should, ideally, be holding in our minds. Should we just be walking around in meditative silence? I looked at this perfect flower. This, I decided, would be a great thing to hold in your mind.

We eventually found our way to the assortment of dahlias. Staring deeply into a beautiful white dahlia, a vision opened up for me and I saw the flower itself was a model for our own consciousness opening up and flowering. I tuned into this and imagined my own sense of conscious energy in and around my head opening up in the shape of this white dahlia. The experience was both profound and profoundly disorienting, as I felt my awareness branch out in all directions. My entire crown chakra was open in a way it never had been before. I felt this intensely for the entire rest of the day, both a feeling of wonder and also a mild discomfort, like a sore, cramped muscle being stretched.

I stopped to look at an interesting multi-colored flower. I bent over and leaned in to look at it closely. As I did, the world suddenly rushed away from me, as if the flower and I had instantaneously been shot up into space. The Earth and everything on it was tiny off in the distance. Whoa! I stepped back and my senses normalized. That was crazy disorienting. I leaned in again, and again the world receded far away and seemed to disappear, with only this flower existing in my consciousness, nothing but a distant haze around it. ZOOM I came back. Is this some other kind of etheric transportation device?

After that experience my third eye buzzed the entire rest of the day, seeming to have been awoken and activated. Damn. Flowers. Who knew?

On our way out, I bought an annual membership to the gardens so I could come back and work on this some more.

Chapter 5: Who Said That?

One morning early in the visit, I woke up stiff on the couch and I went out on my balcony just before the sun came up to do some yoga. It was a beautiful scene, the sun peaking up above the horizon and sunlight streaming majestically through the low clouds. After I got done with not falling off the balcony for an hour, I laid on the hardwood and looked up at the brightening blue sky.

The tall trees beside my balcony swayed. I’ve always loved these trees. When the wind blow through their leaves it sounds just like the ocean. My mom has a telepathic connection with trees from her time in the California redwoods, and when she walked into my apartment the trees immediately greeted her and said “Don’t worry, we’ve been taking care of him.”

During this trip we took a page from our Native American friends and walked through these woods, making an offering of tobacco to each tree in the little grove next to my apartment. Walking back through the woods after making the offering, the feeling of energy in the air was profound, like some kind of blockage had been cleared away and now the very air was buzzing.

Laying on my balcony after my yoga was done, a tiny hummingbird hovered over and flitted among the branches of one of the trees a few feet from me. I’d never seen a hummingbird so small.

It was the size of a peanut M&M.

I was completely in love with this tiny bird. I wished I could somehow express my appreciation in a way she’d understand. One of the books I’m reading deals with telepathic communication with animals, something that strikes me as intuitively plausible. More than plausible, it seems like something we should be able to do, but have forgotten.

A few days later we went to the Minnesota Zoo. I hadn’t been in over a decade. I have mixed feelings about zoos. Even with our best intentions, I don’t think we have the awareness to truly recreate an animal’s natural environment and give it anything remotely like the richness of its life in the wild. But, when you’re dealing with animals that have been injured or are otherwise incapable of surviving in the wild, an argument can be made for caring for them in zoos and giving people an opportunity to learn to appreciate them in a way normal city living doesn’t allow. It seems possible that some animals could volunteer for this on the soul level, to help educate people about their kind.

Photo by Sheila O’Donnell

Walking from exhibit to exhibit, I found myself increasingly curious about the potential for telepathic communication with the animals. How do you start? What do you even say?

Looking at a tiger lounging at the base of a fence in the distance, I sent the though “Hello! How do you feel?” I heard back “Okay. It’s hot.” Huh. Maybe I imagined that, maybe not.

Walking along the Tropics Trail, I rounded a corner and inadvertently startled a monkey behind the glass in its exhibit. He jumped back onto a tree branch and looked at me startled, his long white hair trailing behind him. I stood for several minutes looking at him, attempting to send him my feelings of gratitude for his existence in this world, thanking him for being here so I could see him. He seemed to be listening to me carefully as he sat there on the branch. His composure softened until he seemed slightly apologetic for his earlier reaction.

I carried on to the next exhibit, an entirely impressive Komodo Dragon. The dragon didn’t seem to be picking up my thoughts that he was bitchin’.

In the middle of my Komodo Dragon time, I looked to my left and noticed that the long white haired monkey had ventured over to the near end of his habitat, all the way down into a cramped corner, to the only spot where he could see down the long walkway to where I was standing. He was watching me intently. Hmm.

I walked to a nearby aquarium full of fish. In the center was a large white fish. I focused my thoughts of appreciation. “You’re beautiful! Thank you for being here and letting me see you.” The fish, which had been floating motionlessly, arched back and wriggled ecstatically, seeming to bask joyfully in the attention.

Interesting. I need to get a membership so I can come back and work on this some more.

The next morning I woke up and peered out onto the balcony. A red bird was sitting motionless in the tree outside. I watched him for ten long minutes as he sat perfectly still and the leaves twirled around him. So unusual to see one of these birds sit for so long, I could tell he hadn’t seen me. I sent the thought “Hello. How do you feel?” The bird made a startled hop and jerkily looked all around him. Left, right, up, down. “Who SAID that??”

I waited a few moments as the bird calmed down. “You’re beautiful! Thank you for being here,” I thought, with an intense focus on the little bird. The bird began to frantically look around in all directions again, like “Where is that coming from??”

After several moments of this he made a “Fuck this!” gesture and flew off. Hmmm.

Chapter 6: Everything Old is New Again

I always take anyone who visits me in the Twin Cities to the Cathedral of St Paul, a huge, beautiful cathedral up on a hill overlooking the city of Milwaukee. (I’m kidding, it overlooks St Paul.) I’m not Catholic (I was raised partially Catholic, but it didn’t take), but they don’t check your ID for a little cross when you go in and it’s a great building. My mom and I had had a very meaningful conversation there at a turning point in her life during her visit in 2003, so I thought it would be nice to take her back there again.

My favorite aspect of the church, aside from the dome so high it seems like it must be an optical illusion, has always been the church’s alignment like a cross that’s been laid on the ground, with the altar at the foot of the cross and an alcove at the end of each arm, one with a statue of Jesus and the other with a statue of Mary. The energy in this cross section has always been impressive to me, especially the loving energy around the statue of Mary.

We entered the church and I made the rounds through the T-shape. Jesus statute. Huh, not feeling much here. Mary statue, huh. The energy’s not bad, but not anything like what I remembered. Gradually it dawned on me that the church hasn’t changed, I’ve changed. I’m much more aware than I was the last time I came here. Now this place feels very worldly.

We sat in a pew and took in the massive interior space. The altar itself was contained beneath a huge dark brown bell-shape. Huh, that’s weird. I wrote it off. My mind returned to it. Damn. That think looks dark. Evil even. What is that doing in a church? The more my eyes returned to it, the more I felt like it was some kind of energy trap. I looked up at the dome of the building. It, too, had a similar shape. Huh.

I used to meditate with a group called the Self Realization Fellowship, a non-denominational group founded by Parmahansa Yogananda. I stopped going because there was a weird energy in the chapel in Minneapolis where we would meditate. It felt like some kind of etheric static in the air, like the air was thick with incense, but not on a physical level. It was very hard to put into words but also very noticeable. After doing a long meditation there, I always felt this energy following me around the rest of the day, and I always wanted to flush it out of my system as fast as I could. I started to wonder if there could be some kind of negative intent being focused on places of worship, to trap or hinder the energy of people’s highest intentions and keep it from impacting the larger world.

The inside of the Cathedral of St Paul felt just like this. Huh.

“Let’s get out of here.”

We hadn’t talked at all inside the church, but when we got to the car, my mom described experiencing all the exact same thoughts and feelings I’d had inside. Strange. Maybe the church was always dark in a way I could only truly see for myself now. What a shift. You’re off the tour, Cathedral!

Photo by Sheila O’Donnell

Just as these old things were being discarded, even older spiritual things were coming into the forefront of my life. My mom and I had attended a Native American community meeting for opiate overdose awareness, in conjunction with her role as the director of behavioral health for a health center on a reservation in Northern California. As the meeting began, the church was packed with both service providers and opiate addicts. I looked around and could see the grey haze of entities hanging off people who were struggling with addiction. We had just spent the entire day in a rough part of town visiting the various Native American health services, and I was feeling totally wiped out from the heavy energy. Man, how long am I going to be able to hang in this church?

Then, the drums began. Native American singers pounded their drums and sang a high, wailing song. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. The vibrations shot straight through the building, shattering the thick, cloudy energy. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM! I could feel the air clear as everything that comes with addiction was blasted out of the room, entities and all. Holy shit.

I’d always understood that the native drums were about energy work, about space clearing. But I’d never seen it in action as dramatically as this before. It was like you’d blasted out the room with a fire hose. After several minutes of songs it was an entirely different room.

At the end of the trip, we were invited to take part in a Cedar healing ceremony with the local Ojibwe tribe. As my mom said, natives don’t use the internet, so there was no information on this online and we had no idea what the ceremony was going to entail, we were just honored to be invited.

We ended up in a basement with about 20 members of the tribe, sitting in a huge circle of chairs. The Ojibwe don’t move counter-clockwise, so anyone who left the room did it by walking around to the exit in a big clockwise circle. In the center of the room there was a bear skin, on top of a bison skin.

The ceremony opened with a girl from the tribe going around the circle with a shell full of burning sage and a fan made of long (eagle?) feathers. Each person stands as she approaches, and she proceeds to smudge them, to remove any negative energy or spirits that may be clinging to them. She fans the sage smoke around them with the feathers and SWIPE whips the feathers across their body in a sudden sweeping motion. You turn around and she does the same to the back side of your body. Once everyone had been smudged, the full ceremony begins.

Each person in the circle takes their turn being the focus of the healing ceremony. One of the tribal elders leads to you to a small blanket, on which sits the little boy water drum. You take a pinch of tobacco from a little bowl, hit the drum once, announce yourself, say your prayer, hit the drum again and make an offering of the tobacco. Then you’re lead to the bear skin.

While one of the tribal members bangs the drum and sings a native song, and the full group joins in, you stand barefoot on cedar leaves spread on the bear skin, over the bison skin. Two members of the tribe proceed to wipe you down with a cloth soaked in “cedar tea,” water steeped in cedar. They rub it all up and down your bare arms, and over your clothed chest and legs. You put your hand on one kneeling man’s shoulder for balance so the other can wipe down the bottom of your feet.

Sage smoke is blown all around you and you take a pinch of ground tobacco and a pinch of ground cedar into your mouth, and wash it down with a tiny cup of the cedar tea. You’re lead back, clockwise, always clockwise, to your seat by one of the tribal elders.

As soon as the ceremony began and the first person was led into the center, I was completely mesmerized. The man sitting next to me sang passionately as he played the water drum, the tribe joining him in a chorus. Those of us who didn’t speak Ojibwe picked up rattles made from full turtle shells and shook them to the beat of the drum. As you shake the shell percussively right on the beat it feels like you’re playing the drum, and you feel connected to the heart of the singer. Everyone singing and playing together raises the hair on your arms.

I was so impressed by these people. Their loving, open way of speaking with each other, without the edge of sarcasm and passive-aggressiveness we tend to have in our culture. A softness and an honesty. And I was completely taken aback by this ceremony. We have nothing even remotely like this in our culture. The entire community coming together to focus their entire intention on the healing and well-being of each and every individual member, in turn.

I felt at a loss for a moment, wishing I was a part of something like this, such a healthier way of being. Wishing I was native, Ojibwe. But in that moment I also felt the other side of that, I felt the weight of historical trauma, the suffering we carry for our ancestors. It descended like an avalanche over me. Oh man. Yeah I don’t know how I’d feel about carrying that. You guys really need this healing and your superior culture to help carry this.

When it came my turn I prayed to be released from my limiting beliefs about myself and about life and was led onto the bear skin. As the men gently but firmly rubbed the cedar tea into my arms I was overwhelmed with emotion. Just the experience of being lovingly cared for by complete strangers. The beautiful intimacy of it. How giving it was. We have nothing like this. We are not like this. I choked up. And then I heard the singing. The entire circle all singing an Ojibwe healing song, just for me in that moment. It swelled to fill the entire room, seeming so much louder ringing out all around you than it had while I was sitting in the outer ring of the circle. I was blessed and completely overwhelmed.

The vibration of the cedar wash permeating through me, in a haze of sage smoke I took my pinch of tobacco and my pinch of cedar and washed them down, only as my stomach reminded me later I took way more than a pinch of each, more like a plug, wooh, and floated back over to my seat on the arm of the tribe’s female elder. Wow.

The male elder carried with him an eagle bone that had been hollowed out into a whistle, which he used in a form of shamanic healing to blow the illness out of people. My mom pulled him aside during one of the songs to work on her foot, and he blew the negative energy out to the East, to the West, to the North and to the South. He reminded her that she needed to fill that space with self-love if she didn’t want the negative energy to find its way back in.

When the ceremony wound down and the elders spoke, I was amazed by what they were saying. Everything I’ve been wading into and waking up to in the last few years is the newest of the New Age by our culture’s standards. Woowoo to the Nth degree. But these Ojibwa elders spoke of exactly the same things, the same ideas, the same concepts. Their people had known of all of this for thousands of years. Maybe the white culture is only just becoming ready to hear it now.

“The reason we sing for each other in this ceremony is that your thoughts have power, your thoughts create. And to speak them adds the power of vibration to those thoughts. And to sing them raises the vibration. As you focus on each person in the circle you can bring healing to them.”

“In this ceremony we have opened a portal here, to let in the spirit of the bison, and the spirit of the bear, and the spirit of the eagle to help us today. Now at the end, with all set right, we close that portal again with our final song.”

They weren’t speaking symbolically, using colorful analogies to conceptualize their world. They were being literal. And the more I see and experience, the more I see for myself that they know what they’re talking about. In our culture we have to tell ourselves the Native Americans are superstitious or that they don’t really “mean it,” because we have absolutely no framework in which to understand these things ourselves. We might admire the natives for their holistic approach to life, but we don’t literally believe the spirit of the eagle is coming down to help us, right? Come on man, it’s 2018!

We have to package everything in a logical framework the mind can digest before we’ll accept it. We’re not ready to accept the limits of our understanding and just go with the experience. I think this is tremendously limiting, as it means we can never be anything greater than our minds. I think there will be a whole new world waiting for us when we can learn to do this.

Chapter 7: Your Most Perfect Square

My mom’s gifted at astrology, and we got into a conversation one night about squares and oppositions in one’s astrological chart. These are the difficult aspects between planets that represent conflicting energies in your life, the things you struggle with. She was saying that the most exact aspect shows you what your most meaningful challenge is in life (imagine a perfect right angle between two planets, rather than them being, say, 92 or 88 degrees apart). I wondered what mine was.

Huh, Mercury square the Moon. The conflict between logic and intuition, the mind and the emotions. Finding the balance between the two and bring them into harmony. Huh. I laughed out loud, as that’s exactly the conflict I’ve been hashing out in this blog, and in my own being, for many months now. At least I showed up for the right class.

I wonder what my next-closest square is about? Communication and Travel. Finding a way to harmoniously blend… well, shit. I guess I was meant to write a travel blog.

. . .

September 12, 2018
Thank you, as always, for these beautiful insights into your life!

Also, totally with you on the flowers!!

September 18, 2018
Quoting you, "One beautiful little flower especially caught my attention. I sat right next to it and looked at it very closely. In its tiny folds, its multiplicity of tiny blooms and petals, it held the shape of the universe." That is one impressive flower - I think it looks a bit like a Centaurea but not quite. I would care very much to know its Linnaean formal species name. I'm like that; I would bet it was a Compositae family flower, but there's no one around to take the bet [*sigh*] :)

There is no flower like a little white flower found in the Canada forests (around early summer, if I remember correctly. Late June into July, maybe.) It is best approached by looking at it very closely while very nearly lying on the ground. It is called Oxalis montana, and seen really closely in such a situation, there is no sight like it.
Roses are justly famous and popular of course, and inhaling deeply from a good rose is a good healthy think to do.
The picture of you and your mother before the waterfall is very good to see.
(PS: if you ever deal with a tiger again, it is supposedly true that when they make a 'bison back' or humped shoulders, and pant like a dog, they're in a mood to slaughter any offender. If they 'chuff', it means they're amiable to a 'pack member' or 'peer'. If they pant, blaze their eyes at you, and snarl magnificently and make a meat-tearing sort of sound, prepare to make a good meal for one, or at least a chew toy. And if they smile at you 'patriarchally', you will *probably* survive your meeting with one - even without benefit of a sturdy fence between you.)

September 18, 2018
PS: If either you or your mother would wish to give a prayer to / for me, I think that would be good. (Some people's prayers are not so good, you see, IMHO.)
I wish your new experiences and learnings very well.

September 26, 2018
I often don't know what to say, when I get through one of these installments, that won't come off as trite or condescending, but I can say that I'm proud of you, for how much you've grown and learned over the years you've been writing this blog. I don't really know the word for your spiritual lessons and self-discoveries, as 'fascinating' is too patronizing and inadequate. 'I'm jealous' isn't right, either. It's more like you've been experiencing things that I've always hoped were possible for people to learn how to do, whether they started out in an environment where these things are known and accepted, or not. Reading about you identifying past lives and even finding mentors from those lives who can still speak to you is just... joyous. It makes it all the more real, to hear it from someone I trust, but haven't spoken about such things with. Unforced, I guess; no fishing for the answers I'd like to hear, but nevertheless hearing that attunement to nature and energies and elementals are possible. Your installments are greatly inspiring and reassuring, that way. Thanks for all the work you put into these installments, Sean.

October 01, 2018
" Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you. Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. "
[-Roald Dahl, supposedly.]


Monaco I was shocked. I had fully expected the ritziest casino in the world to have no problem with the fact that I was wearing bright orange trail runners and was otherwise dressed, as always, like I had just come in from a long, sweaty mountain hike and desperately needed to use the bathroom.

Egypt Standing outside the ruins of the Great Temple of the Aten in Amarna, a small Egyptian boy greeted our bus. “Hello Bullshit.” What? “Hello Bullshit.” Some killjoys in our group (Andy) insisted that he was just attempting to say “Hello, Bonjour” but I will never believe this. If that’s the world you want to live in, you can have it.

England Suddenly, I stopped. My whole body was boiling hot and I couldn’t breathe. I looked up and Patricia had stopped in front of me. She turned around with her eyes huge and said “Can you feel THAT?” Yep. I turned around and Rick had stopped behind me. “I can’t breathe,” he said.