Marianna's Writings - Table of Contents

Our Trips to Spain

These are some photos & writings from our trips to Spain
and of visiting Flamencos in our home.

Holiday Letter 2006

Freddie Had a Stroke!

Holiday Letter 2005

Healing Experience in Tulum April 2005

Freddie healing Dec 2004

Holiday Letter 2004

Holiday Thoughts 2003

Holiday Letter 2002

Holiday Letter 2001

Holiday Letter 2000

Holiday Letter Dec 8, 1999

Breaking Unwritten Rules, Following A Dream
Written for therapist newsletter re Marianna taking a 7 month sabbatical from her psychotherapy practice.

December 1998 Holiday Letter From Marianna & Freddie

December 1997 Holiday Letter From Marianna

Sweet’s Mill 1996: Dancing Mortality
About the changing generations at music camp.

About a shamanic connection with childhood identification with horse.

Using the Shamanic Journey in Psychotherapy

Yorgos and the Toys
Letter to my young grand-neice about the Greek toymaker who made her toy.

Breaking Unwritten Rules
Following A Dream

by Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia, M, LMFT

     This April I am going to Spain for six or seven months to continue my study of Flamenco and to experience living in another country! Yes I am following my dreams. But what about my psychotherapy practice? What will happen to my clients? What will happen when I return? How do I do this? I am excited. I feel as if I am jumping off a high rock into an unknown pool of water. I have to be careful. It is scary. And, it feels right.
     I made the decision a year ago in April to take this sabbatical from my psychotherapy practice in order to pursue my dream of Flamenco while my body is still young enough to do it. (I am 54 so I don’t have all that much time left for this level of physical exertion!) I talked to colleagues. I discussed it in supervision and in my own therapy and I received a lot of support and encouragement from my therapeutic community. I told all my clients last April and I warned newer clients when they wanted to see me. Eventually I stopped taking new clients altogether and now it is almost time to leave.
It has been so strange trying to decrease my practice instead of building it. Former clients have been returning as if intuiting my departure. Will some of my clients act out as I try to find them new therapists and focus on their future plans as well as their present feelings? Throughout the year we have talked about it, analyzed the feelings, and prepared ourselves and yet it still does not seem real to me or to many of them. It is an adventure of letting go and finding our ways in uncharted territory. How do you do this? Who has written about it? I feel as though I am inventing my path and I want to share what I have done.
     I plan to stay available by e-mail. Will it be hard to resume my practice in 2000? Will I want to? I love doing therapy and I assume that I will continue. Therapists aren’t supposed to take long breaks and I feel like I am breaking the unwritten rules. And yet, shouldn’t therapists be role models for what we help our clients to do? I had a client once who, with my encouragement, quit her good job and went to another country to study for six months, actualizing a long time dream. When she returned she thanked me profusely for the support and said it had definitely been the right choice.
Now it is time for me to take the same type of leap into the unknown. It is time for me to take a risk and to follow this dream. In preparation, this month before I temporarily close my practice, I have written my clients a letter detailing my plans. I am hoping that it will help maintain the connection when needed, that it will function as a self object for those who need it, that it will help contain anxiety about my departure and also that it will let my clients know that I care about them.

To My Dear Clients,

As you may already know,

• I am taking a sabbatical and am temporarily closing my psychotherapy practice on April 1, 1999.

• I plan to re-open in early 2000.

• I will be out of the country from the middle or end of April until the end of November.

• Because I want to stay available to you if you should need to contact me, you may telephone me when I am here, even after April 1.

• You may also e-mail me at LaMarianna@aol.com the whole time, while I am here and when I am out of the country as well. I imagine that I will be checking it at least once a week. Please let me know if you would like a response or if you are just checking in with me to let me know how you are doing.

• I wish you success and peace and happiness as you continue your lives beyond this transition and I hope to hear from you when I return. Whether you stay with a new therapist, stop therapy altogether, or return to me, I would like to know how you are doing when I am back.

• Be well. And may you follow your dreams and attain your most glorious potential.


Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia, MA, LMFT former president and newsletter editor of SC CAMFT, has been in private practice in Santa Cruz county since 1986. She also has a shamanic healing practice and has been a dancer (Middle Eastern and Flamenco) for over 25 years. Marianna and her husband, flamenco guitarist Federico Mejia, perform together as Flamenco Romantico. They lived and studied in southern Spain from April through September 1999 and then made yearly trips to Spain except for those years interrupted by accident and illness.

December 1998 Holiday Letter From Marianna & Freddie

Dear Friends and Family,

     What a year. I write this two weeks before we leave for Cuba on December 15 for three weeks. What a wonderful year we’ve had, filled with love, music and dance. We couldn’t ask for more. I will try to sum it up briefly, if possible.
     Last March my son Elun and Donna were married. Now I have a wonderful daughter-in-law. On my birthday, October 23, Elun passed his Ph.D. history orals with distinction. (His wife, Donna, passed hers the year before). At the moment they are both in Germany where Elun is doing research for his dissertation. They make a wonderful couple and are very much in love. Freddie played guitar at their wedding and I recited a poem they had chosen.
     Freddie and I have been blossoming with our music and dance. We keep each other growing and have a ball doing it! We call ourselves Flamenco Romantico. At Sweet’s Mill (dance and music camp) this summer we met a visiting Flamenco dancer from Cuba, Anibal Diaz. During the next few months we spent a lot of time together, including doing some shows, one of which was a benefit we put on here at this house. We had 100 people and a great show which many of you attended. Anibal is a lovely person and a stunning dancer. On December 15 we will be visiting him and staying with him and his family in Havana for three weeks. We have been studying Spanish with a wonderful Spanish tutor from Barcelona so we were able to talk with Anibal at Sweet’s Mill and will be able to speak with his family in Cuba. Anibal speaks almost no English.
     To back track further, one day in April we were in our living room listening to some tapes that Freddie had recorded when he spent six months in Spain in 1985. I commented that I had always wanted to live in another country, and as we talked I realized that if I wanted to do it I could and I should do it soon. Yes, this is one of the influences of the deaths I’ve experienced, including my step mother Elena’s, my mother Virginia’s, and my Aunt Dorothy’s. Freddie and I decided to go to Spain for six months next April, 1999 in time for the spring and summer festivales. We will also be taking classes in dance, guitar, and cante (singing). With that decision I have been decreasing my psychotherapy practice and preparing my current clients for my absence (my sabbatical).
     I am doing the same with my shamanic practice.
Since we will already be in Spain, we plan to visit Israel from there. As we were talking about traveling we decided that we should also visit the Philippines to look up Freddie’s father’s family (Freddie is half Philippino). My father suggested that instead of making a separate trip we should just continue on from Spain and Israel. So we will. We have invited Elun and Donna to join us in the Philippines, because Donna is one quarter Philippina and also has relatives there.
     So Freddie and I will be away for seven months! We will be available through e-mail and plan to have a web page to keep our friends updated while we are in Spain. We will leave this April.
     Our life here is blossoming like the flowers I’ve been planting all year! Freddie and I keep getting happier and our love gets better and better. I never thought this much happiness possible. We get along so well. We make our life fun. For example, every Wednesday is garbage night. Each Wednesday we hold hands and wheel the bins around the house and down to the bottom of the driveway. We enjoy the stars or the fog, the owls hooting and coyotes singing, the smells of the country after dark, whatever the night offers. Recently, after depositing the garbage, we have been sitting on the bench by my mother’s tree, the potato bush (purple flowers) we planted for her on the hill overlooking the ocean, on her memorial the May we moved here. We sit and talk to her and look at the lights of Santa Cruz next to the ocean. It is such a supportive way to mourn. I still miss her a lot and wish I could share my happiness with her. I do in this way.
     My dancing and Freddie’s music keep getting better and better. We had Flamenco guests from Sevilla staying with us for the last two weeks. Freddie has been studying cante with Luis Agujetes, a well known and talented gypsy singer from Spain. I have been studying dance with and organizing classes for Carlos Robles, an incredible dancer from Spain. We keep practicing our Spanish as our guests don’t speak English! It’s been like Spain here lately and we love it.
     They celebrated Thanksgiving with us. Seventeen of us ate on the front deck, overlooking the ocean, with my best china and crystal. We finished just before the rain! It was a marvelous party. Freddie’s mother Bea was there and his sister Dorothy and her husband John came up from Los Angeles. Almost all our guests stayed for the next few days! We had a great time and of course there was a lot of music, song, and dance.
     Together we seem to attract magic.
     Together we have continued to decorate the house. For my birthday I bought some beautiful rugs for the living room and we have been arranging and fine tuning and the house looks more and more exquisite. It is reflecting our inner state.
     Our interests and tastes are well matched and as I said before, we have such fun together and we stimulate each other artistically as well. We are truly Flamenco Romantico.
     We wish you all happy holidays filled with peace, beauty, and love.

Marianna and Freddie

December 1997 Holiday Letter From Marianne

Dear Friends and Family,

     Here is my second “news” letter for the year. So much has happened. As you know, 1997 started off with loss for me. First Elena’s mother, Oma, died. Then my mother Virginia died. Then my aunt Dorothy (my father’s sister) died. After that a contemporary of mine from my three year shamanic program suddenly died. On top of all that, I moved after 24 years in one home and now my Amesti house has sold. So I am getting used to loss and change. It probably helped me to discover that I could tolerate and survive loss and that I grew from it and my life opened up. At any rate, I made one more dramatic change in my life - Robert/Ekos and I broke up. While I loved him very much, the relationship was not good for me and his actions and attitude felt (although unintentionally) very abusive to me. When I became consciously aware of this in July, I was able to again take control of my life. We worked on our relationship in couple’s therapy and I became more and more clear that I needed the change. It has been great and I feel that I am now in a place where I can come back to myself.
     I seem to have made the right major decisions doing everything the way “they” do not recommend, such as buying and selling a home and breaking up a long term relationship in the same year of experiencing the major loss of my mother. For me it has worked because in some way my mother’s death has freed me. My dancing improved immediately. Then I moved here to Hidden Valley and my dear friend and guitarist Freddie moved here that same month, in May. Twenty three years ago I met him at Sweet’s Mill (dance and music camp) and I began then to study Flamenco so I could dance to his music. Over the years Freddie lived at Amesti three different times, in every structure except my actual house. We have always loved each other and had a wonderful dance and music connection. So I was pleased when he decided to move down here and experience my new place. He fixed up the loft above my dance studio and we practiced for two or three hours every day. Our artistic connection grew as we supported each other’s Flamenco and we realized that things between us were easier and better than ever before. This may be because Freddie had stopped drinking a few months before he moved down here. It may be because we have reached a more mature stage in life. People would ask us if we had a romantic connection but neither of us thought of that. We just knew we were close friends and were enjoying our time together. We found ourselves often nurturing each other and supporting each other’s emotional processes.
     Well after Robert/Ekos and I broke up, Freddie and I continued as before until we realized how incredible our present relationship had become. We finally acknowledged to each other the romantic aspect of our relationship and we are now “together” as partners. Yes it is fast, but we had been living here together as friends, sharing my kitchen and home, for almost six months. So the transition does not feel so sudden or abrupt to us. Freddie still has his loft as his space and my house is still “mine”. It is working beautifully and we are both very much in love. It is a feeling I had given up on ever having, a feeling I thought I would never get to experience in this life time. I am so grateful to finally have this and we are having such a good time together. Flamenco Romantico, the name of our group, fits us!
     In November I wrote some “diary style” letters which I have put together and will include here just to give you a vignette of what my life is now like.
     I also want to add that my father has grown and blossomed as he has recovered from his loss of Elena over two years ago. He is now happily married to Peggy. Elun (my son) is engaged to Donna, a wonderful woman who is in the Ph.D. history program with Elun at Davis. They will be married in March. And Natasha, my Goddess daughter, is also engaged. She will marry David (Solomon’s son) in June here at my new house. (Solomon and Nicole have recently moved their motor home and trailer here from Amesti, completing the transition). So love and happiness seem to be in the air, along with loss and change.
     I wish you all happy holidays filled with peace, beauty, and love.


November 23, 1997
     Today, Sunday, was leisurely and relaxing. I just finished dancing (Flamenco). I danced most of the day in between starting to hang pictures and sweat towel hooks in my dance studio and taking a break to eat the hot fritata that a soul retrieval recipient brought by. Later I did more dancing inside my living room on my borrowed stage. I was able to work through some steps and clean them up by finally understanding how they are supposed to work in the rhythm. It is extremely complex and tricky and I got two steps which I had been skillfully fudging on but not truly understanding. Again, as instructed in my shamanic journey before the benefit performance that Freddie and I did in October, I called in eagle and eagle came into my body and then my posture and elbows and arms felt perfect. I never would have thought of that myself, but eagle has helped me a lot. And the spirits keep telling me that they want me to dance and I love the interface and integrating between my shamanic passion and my dance passion. Anyway, I feel that I am living in heaven, in paradise here on my hill overlooking the ocean. Last week two eagles circled above us just before I did two soul retrievals. And dancing puts me in heaven. I have never been so happy in my entire life. I am madly in love with my guitarist, Federico (Freddie) whom I have known for 23 years.
     My house is turning into my home again. Freddie and I have set up Nicole’s portable masonite stage in my living room so I can dance my Flamenco and look at the ocean in the distance or I can practice without a mirror, or have parties and do house concerts. Sometimes, when it’s cold or late at night, I don't feel like going out to the studio, or one of my friends who lives here needs time in the studio to practice too. So now I don't have to stop dancing when I am not in the studio. I just go to my living room which I am in the process of transforming. I have Mantones (Spanish shawls) hanging up and am arranging my rugs and vases, flowers and pictures and candles, fetishes and drums and tapestries. I have placed my grandmother's crystal lamps in my bedroom and my Nepalese rugs from Larry in the living room and the halls. The beige wall to wall carpet in the living room is now covered with colorful Oriental rugs - Kurdish, Turkish, and Nepalese. A woven Arab strip from Israel covers the back of the stage. A pot of pink Azaleas that my son Elun and his fiancee Donna gave me for my birthday sits on the corner of the stage so people coming through, to and from the front door to the kitchen, won't trip on the sharp slightly raised edges.
It's starting to take shape and I love it. Breaking up with Robert/Ekos was the best thing I could ever have done for myself. My own personal growth has finally allowed me to understand how much I was being influenced in a negative or constricting way in that relationship. I can't believe how consistently happy I am now, as I feel myself re-emerging and living my own life.

Sweet’s Mill 1996: Dancing Mortality

by Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia

     This summer Sweet’s Mill’s memories fill me in a new way. This is the summer that I have seen myself and many of my friends, finally, as the “elders.”
This summer at Sweet’s Mill, in the cool shade of the trees around our community camp in back of Balkan Village, the Flamenco guitars of my long time friends are soothing and exciting to me. The practiced cante of Flamenco voices is filling me with dance, and my heart is again thankful for this sacred experience of renewal. As I move to the music on our small stage, avoiding the hole our heels have made in the thin wood, avoiding the crack in the middle, maintaining my balance where the stage slants down, I still laugh in joy that we are here. Our hair is graying, our muscles more stiff than they were over twenty years ago, but our music and dance is better, fueled by the years of living, by the births of our children and the deaths of our friends.
     The impact of our lives nearing the end, of our imminent deaths, is a theme which has begun come up for me in recent years. The summer Chris Carnes was having another heart operation and we were waiting to see if he had survived it, I remember standing by the lake aware in a new way of our mortality. Later, as I danced that night at the Coffee House to the musicians who had inspired me so long ago –Darioush on Santaur, Sol on Saz, Brian on violin, Armando and Don Brown on Dunbek– I became aware, embraced by their music, that I was dancing this dance for Chris, that my dance had become a prayer for his recovery. And then I realized that we were all playing music and dancing for Chris. And I danced my awareness of our mortality.
     Another year, it was the energy that struck me. As I danced in the night air, I could feel the energy of the music carrying me; as I moved my arms and hands I could feel and see the energy I was moving. And then the wind came up and caught my gold veil, which shimmered like the firelight and I was dancing the wind and the wind was dancing me. I learned that year to consciously see that energy, to use it and to honor it.
     Sweet’s Mill has given me these learning experiences as I have matured throughout the years. I have danced for Michael and for Virgil and felt their presences around me, in the trees and the mountains. I have wondered whom I would not see again, who would be claimed next by mortality, by death. Freddie’s fuzzy hair was black when I met him and now it is all gray. I too have gray in my hair. Katarina was in her twenties when I first met her. I have known Wendy Bird since we were teenagers. Don Brown gave me my first tip in the early 70 s. Sol used to scare me. One summer I saw Sharlyn throw star dust and dance a foot above the stage. She was my idol. I can still see the ornate, lacy basket in which Kathy and Sol carried their baby Fairuza. I remember the fancy and elaborate Bedouin-type campsite Darioush would set up for his family when I first used to go to Sweet’s Mill. My son Elun, as a child, went fishing in the lake with Freddie. This was his first fishing experience. My goddess daughter Natasha danced with me here also as a child.
     Flooded by memories of the past, I have become nostalgic. I see my generation slowly dying in its natural cycle. When Jude’s son Josh played the Dunbek so beautifully in other years I was awed and impressed, but it was not until this year that another part of the natural process came into my awareness, the continuation of the generations. Perhaps because I am a dancer, it had to be the next generation of dancers that would awaken me. With so many inspired and brilliant young dancers, I now knew deep inside me that we would carry on, that the new generation of dancers would be better and take the dance even further than we did, that the magic of Sweet’s Mill would live on through them.
     I knew this when I saw twenty-year-old Angel caught up by the music, dancing and dancing because she had to. It happened when I heard that sixteen-year-old Monica (after I had already gone to bed) danced up the sun with Darioush’s music, as I had done so many times before. It happened when I saw so many beautiful and unique young dancers –Natasha, Viva, Sophie, StarAlene, and many others– dancing with the spirit and the energy I remember from my young days at Sweet’s Mill. And so this summer I felt a sense of relief as the tears flowed from my eyes, a sense of relief that all this would continue (at least as long as our world continues) and that we could grow older and die and know that we are a part of a much larger whole.
     One night this summer at Katarina’s camp we were chanting the Guedra chants and trance dancing and I could see Katarina as the priestess training the young women in the sacred arts. And the young women danced and called the energy so beautifully as Katarina had been doing for so many years. And I knew that these young girls too would be doing this for years and someday teaching other young women. And this is how tradition is passed on. It is not just a concept, it is a gut experience. And this is what Sweet’s Mill has become for me. The Mill is not only a place for my own renewal, but for the renewal of the generations, so that this wonderful experience of music and dance in the mountains, in nature, will be kept alive to grow and change. It is like the river, which is always flowing in its form, but is never the same and is always new. Now I know the Sweet’s Mill experience, wherever it may occur, will continue. And I, as one of the new elders, will teach and encourage, and enjoy my aging in yet another way, enhanced by the beauty of the new generation.

August 4, 1996


Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia

     I was often a horse, as a child, whinnying and galloping and feeling the wind. I still make that throaty high pitched sound today, not only to honor and talk to the horses, but also, when made with a higher tone it is the zagareet sound of "bravo", "great!", for Middle Eastern dancing, the sound that I use to honor the other dancers.
Horses came most strongly into my life when I became a teenager. Needing a connection for my grounding, I received, as a gift from my parents, my own horse, Vicki. With Vicki I experienced both the earth's nurturing and a telepathic communication of her acceptance of me. And in return, I too telepathically communicated my own acceptance of her. I was fortunate to have that support. My horse, a three fourths Arabian and one fourth quarter horse mare, became my trusted friend, my emotional support, and my teacher. As we grew closer, I began to ride only bareback so that I could feel her more fully, her muscles moving under me as we loped over the fields and jumped streams, brush, old logs and other "obstacles" that my horse felt like jumping over. Often I leaned my neck down onto hers feeling our intimate bond deepening as we galloped, like the Indians I saw on TV and with whom I had identified since the time I was a young child. I let my horse take me to the secret places she discovered during the week when she was allowed to run free. With playfulness she often showed me new hidden trails that I had not known about, trails that wound down through the trees to the small creek. Sometimes she even found an easy crossing which led us further on our adventure. I sang to her and to the wind. I felt my power as the wind lifted my hair to the sunshine and I felt my connection to my wonderful horse, an energy funneling down through me from the wind, and then down through Vicki’s body out her hooves to the wild earth of the rolling, sun parched hills of Agoura, California.
     I have always felt that my horse kept me from going crazy. She taught me about strength and beauty. Sitting directly on her back, my jeans usually transforming to wet, stiff, white horse hair covered leggings, I experienced my own power, a power I learned from feeling as one, fully connected with the elements and nature. I was both energized and made at peace feeling a part of the world. I did have a place in this world; here I could be truly me, I could be completely real and unguarded and I was OK. As I write this now I know it more consciously than I did then. I have become conscious and aware of how to explain the value of that experience in my practiced psychotherapeutic terms. But then, I only knew that it kept me sane and grounded, happy and real. And I grasped at only that, knowing that I needed it to help my survival.
     So horse took care of me and gave me important teachings. I cared for horse when I was there, feeding her and cleaning her beautiful outdoor covered stable. I brushed her and combed her and checked her hooves. I practiced riding her backwards and jumping up to her both with and without help. On the trails my cousin would let me help her up onto her horse first and then she would lean down and cup her hands and I would step up and then jump up onto my horse’s back. At the ranch I did it differently. There we had wooden porch/sidewalks and hitching posts in the dirt street. Stage set western buildings stood behind the porch presenting the invitation to continue to honor and use the imagination in many ways. I often used this wooden porch as my jumping point onto Vicki’s back. Because I was quite short, mounting presented a possible obstacle. I had to position her neck and head so that they were close enough, and then I would jump to her shoulders and pull myself around, smoothly sliding my right leg down the other side of her back. I prided myself on being independent and resourceful and I learned to use the help of the nature spirits and the animal spirits (instead of people) to nurture and keep me. Then I had no name for the help of the spirits. I only knew that this was what was really important and was the real key to my independence.
     It is interesting how we are prepared for our lives in the very act of living. We are also prepared by the circumstances we come in to and how we manage to react. What is our purpose here and how do we manifest it? It is an ongoing question as I think the answer is changing and growing and refining. My horse prepared me for some of my current work. So did my dog Aloka, during my 20’s, and my connections with dog throughout my childhood. Dance too was a gift presented to me as a child. In a multi-media class which combined dance, art and music in the same time period, I remember, after first dancing, drawing my experiences with horse while listening to music which I was to interpret.
Looking back this way, now I see more than the disappointments and sadness about the lack of emotional nurturing from my parents. I see the tremendous gifts I have had from both my parents in terms of opportunity and the teachings they encouraged me to accept, in dance, music, art, crafts, and nature. They even read me the old magic fairy tales with the fine illustrations. So I was able to get and take in the pagan teachings as a child. I could experience the animals turning into humans and humans to animals. I saw the trees that spoke and had arms and hair. I read about the magic and the importance of honesty and integrity. I was instructed by the role model of the suffering one finally overcoming her many obstacles, and with the aid of a spirit and purity of soul, triumphing in the end, even a better person for the growth through the suffering. And my parents gave me the opportunity to have horse for a teacher. And, I am thankful for the gifts that my parents gave me. And I am thankful for the gifts that the spirits have given me, the instruction and caring and holding throughout my life. I have been carried gently in this life, as my horse carried me, with strength and power, softness and compassion. May I now pass this on to the future generations.

July 4, 1996

Using the Shamanic Journey in Psychotherapy
Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia, MA, LMFT

     The three women, one with her long, flowing white hair, one a wizened wise old crone from the north, and the last, a beautiful water spirit woman from an ancient fairy tale, all welcomed me and sat with me in the forest near the waterfall. "What is the work you want me to do now, in this year of 1995?" I asked. "What you are doing," they said, "Shamanism and psychotherapy, and we want you to write it down, to write articles about it, not just for therapy magazines but for people to see." I then saw myself sitting at my computer. "We will help you," they added. "How?" I questioned, really wanting the help and feeling a little helpless. "You will do a ritual before you sit down to write and we will write through you. You don't have to know what you will write beforehand, just sit down after calling us and we'll take care of it." "Thank you," I said and hugged them as the drum beat changed and I turned to leave. The drum beat was fast and insistent as I followed the trail back over the pine needles in the forest. I hurried along the white ethereal fluff after I left the cool cathedral-like darkness of the forest finally reaching the tip of my tree which stretches from ordinary reality through past the soft white barrier of the upper world. Quickly I slipped down the tree and back into my prone body. The drum beat changed again and I opened my eyes, surprised by what my three teachers had told me.

     This description is part of my personal Shamanic journey experience in the "upper world". It is a technique I use regularly with much benefit. Recently while attending a Shamanic workshop, I noticed that five of the participants, people I had known and journeyed with for the past four years, had undergone extraordinary growth and positive change in a short time. This, I thought, is what we try to facilitate as therapists and here I am seeing it in people who journey regularly, some of whom aren't even in therapy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the journey was a powerful tool, even more powerful than I had previously realized. If I could add this technique to my psychotherapy practice, what a potential gold mine for growth and healing I could offer my clients.
Although I already taught the method to a few selected clients who had expressed a spiritual readiness, I started presenting it as an option to more and more people and witnessed astounding results. I realized the strong connection between the psychotherapist and the traditional Shaman and knew that it was time to take this ancient method and use it to help the people in the 90's, in our age of technology and alienation from nature. It is time to reclaim this wisdom and use it in context of who we are now.
     Core Shamanism, a method developed by Michael Harner, is a distillation of Shamanic techniques from people throughout the indigenous world. This method is not culture specific, as it takes the key ingredients which are found in every Shamanic culture and presents them in a form compatible with use by people now, in the 90's. What I present here is based on this method and is accessible using a drum or a recorded drumming tape played on a walkman with ear phones. It is a simple technique which can be used easily by most people.

The Journey as a Psychotherapeutic Technique

The Shamanic journey fits into the class of therapeutic technique of visualization and imagery.

     I have been teaching the Shamanic journey technique, a form of visualization using one or more of the five senses, to many of my clients in order to help them decrease anxiety and stress, center, access information and positive resources, and in some cases to find and/or connect to their own spirituality.
A Shamanic journey is a structured visualization with a focused intention done while listening to a monotonous drum beat which quickly (usually within 10 minutes) induces a theta brain wave state (like that of a very deep meditation).
     A person experiencing a theta brain wave state (even without a "successful" journey) will often feel a deep sense of relaxation and well being, thus accessing a state conducive to spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.
     During the journey, while in the theta brain wave state, the journeyer (the "Shaman" in indigenous societies all over the world) will enter non-ordinary reality where she/he may contact spirit helpers for healing, empowerment and/or information. These spirit helpers are often perceived in the form of animals and humans.
     For the purpose of exploring the use of the Shamanic journey in psychotherapy, I will be talking primarily about access to the lower and upper worlds. The lower world is usually the home of the power animals while the upper world is the home of the humanoid teachers of the spirit world. The "middle world" (all between the lower and upper worlds) includes the realm of the nature spirits. Here one can access the spirits of nature, from stones to trees and other plants, to animals, wind, sun, and even the spirit of a specific place. When more advanced, the client may be taught about the middle world and encouraged to work with the nature spirits to aid in their healing.
     The basic intent of the Shamanic journey is to access spiritual healing and information from non-ordinary reality, from one's "spirit helpers". Whether the journeyer believes that this comes from beyond the self, from the spirit world or from deep inside the unconscious self does not affect the success of this technique and therefore is not important in this context. What is important is that the Shamanic journey technique works and is helpful. This must be communicated to the client.
The first journey is almost always to the lower world to meet a power animal. The power animal, as the name implies, is a source of personal power as well as a source for healing. This connection with the power animal connects the client with the world of the helping spirits, provides a guide for subsequent journeys, and spiritual protection for the journeyer. For most people it is often an easier journey than the upper world.
     Many of my clients have come back from this first basic journey with a sense of comfort, empowerment, joy, relaxation, and hope. I have often seen the heaviness of depression lift after a 10 or 15 minute first journey. However, more than one journey is usually needed for lasting effects and a regular practice of the Shamanic journey is recommended for continued healing.
     Why this method is so effective so quickly can be a matter for debate. The specific journey drum beat takes the journeyer into a theta brain wave state which is the state of a deep meditation or trance. In this state the immune system seems to be enhanced. A person who journeys, upon return, usually finds themselves extremely relaxed and refreshed, as if they have had a healing sleep with good dreams. Most likely, the effectiveness of this method is a combination of the benefits of the theta brain wave state, deep relaxation, an experiential spiritual connection, and actual help from the spirits.
     The act of Shamanic journeying also can function as a therapeutic container for a client. When in pain or in states of high anxiety, a person can journey and feel a sense of containment, a sense of being taken care of. I believe it is a similar experience to that of a Christian "finding" Jesus and feeling great peace and serenity. In the act of spiritual connection people tend to find wholeness, a sense of oneness, as well as peace and feelings of well being.
     This act of connecting spiritually not only functions as a container but also creates a sense of empowerment in that the client is taking initiative and asking (the spirits) for help. The actual process often has an element of instant gratification because the client will usually feel better, thus creating a beneficial positive feedback loop. Of course, this enhances the sense of personal strength and empowerment in the client.
     In terms of Self Psychology the journey may also function as a self object experience.
     In summation, when using this tool, clients can find comfort, relaxation, self soothing, a sense of well being, and feelings of self empowerment as well as accessing useful knowledge.

The Shamanic Journey is helpful for clients dealing with and overcoming many psychological disorders.

In my private practice, I have found this technique useful for clients suffering from

1. Depression
2. Anxiety
3. Nightmares and other sleep disorders
4. Chronic illness
5. Multiple Personality and general dissociation
6. Confusion
7. Low self esteem
8. Feelings of alienation and isolation
9. Hopelessness and despair
10. Spiritual bankruptcy
11. Negative habit patterns.

     The usefulness and success of the Shamanic journey in this context can be linked to the "intention" of the journey, and how that intention is framed. The intention is a specific question or plea for help to the spirits. It is very important and is the guiding theme of the journey. In other words, the journey is the answer to the question. Therefore a yes or no type of question would not be conducive to a good, full journey. "What would the result be ..." or "Please tell me about ..." would lead to a more full, richer journey. The following subjects for Shamanic journeys can be seen as examples of how to work successfully with this method.

The Shamanic Journey as used for deepening and guiding the therapeutic process.

• A client can journey for what issues and in what order they would be most useful to work on in therapy.

• A client can journey for deeper understanding of a specific issue.

• A client can journey for information that would be useful for healing from a specific experience worked on in the therapy.

• A client can journey for further information about and/or for healing regarding an issue raised in an EMDR or general therapy session.

     I have been using this method in conjunction with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, developed by Francine Shapiro). EMDR tends to speed up a client's processing and can quickly bring up vivid, traumatic past experiences in an almost brutal manner. There are times when this processing cannot be fully completed during the allotted therapy session and containing work must be done for the client to function safely after leaving the therapy session. When I feel that the client has not fully completed the processing I often recommend a homework Shamanic journey for further healing after an EMDR session in order to finish processing a traumatic memory. The journey can also be for more helpful information regarding the experience.
Another positive use of the Shamanic process can be made during the actual EMDR session. When needed, the client's power animal can be called to sit with, hold, or give strength in other ways to the client during a traumatic, difficult, or stressful EMDR session.

All of the above can be extremely empowering as well as comforting and soothing for the client.

The Shamanic journey is also useful for enhancing communication skills.
     The real art of journeying is the framing of the question. Journeying itself is easy once it is learned. However, the way the question is framed can be an important key to success. Learning how to frame the question for the best answers teaches and hones communication skills. It also reinforces teaching a client to ask for what she/he wants. One quickly learns from the spirits that one must ask for the help one wants in order to get it and how specifically, concretely, and directly you ask will very much affect the answer you get. Mastering this task also increases a sense of empowerment.

Conflicts between Shamanic practice and organized religion:
     Some clients, especially Catholics, experience an initial conflict or guilt about doing the Shamanic journey. I teach them that this is not a religion, but often that is not enough for them. However, when I tell them that a colleague of mine (John Tuberville) taught some former Catholic nuns to journey and they loved and used it, my clients feel better. The acceptance of the journey technique by these members of a church has helped my clients to resolve their conflicts and to be able to accept the Shamanic journey as an adjunct to their personal spiritual experience. In their journeys, my clients with strong associations to organized Christian religions often get spiritual teachers in the form of religious personas, such as Jesus, various angels and saints, archangels, and Mary. The compatibility of the Shamanic journey practice with organized religion is touched upon by Dr. Leilani Lewis in her article on "Coming Out of the Closet As a Shamanic Practitioner". Quoting the following passage from the Bible, Book of Job, Chapter 13, Dr. Lewis shows the similarity of the Shamanic concept to elements of Christianity.

     But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

     I find that helping my clients resolve any inner conflicts around the journey process is necessary for this technique to be useful as a psychotherapeutic tool as well being part of good therapy.

     This technique is contraindicated for any client who cannot distinguish between ordinary and non-ordinary states of consciousness and/or cannot move freely between these states at will. It is important to stress that this technique must be utilized intentionally. It is not healthy, for example, to go into this type of altered state of consciousness while driving. It must be done at will. One must be disciplined to return from non-ordinary reality when the drum beat changes (a signal to return). People who already have a problem with this should not be taught to journey until they have sufficient ego strength to utilize the technique in a positive manner.
     Some people may be concerned about the nature of reality. I prefer to use the terms ordinary and non-ordinary (see Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman) because to me there are many types of realities. Are the spirits really contacting my clients or is it just coincidence? Am I encouraging hallucination and psychosis? Whether the spirits are real and are actually helping is a matter of belief. In a sense it doesn't matter. My clients may merely be contacting their own inner wisdom. In any case, the advice is accurate and helpful. Hallucination and psychosis imply that a person cannot tell what is "real" and what is not (or which reality they are in at a given moment). One can evaluate a client by checking to see if there has been a consistent or at least intermittent pattern throughout his/her life of psychosis or hallucination problems. If it is not, if she/he can easily distinguish what is "real" or "ordinary reality," then it is appropriate to teach this technique.

Possible Blocks to the success of the Journey:

• Unresolved conflicts regarding the journey process, ie. guilt, fear.
• Use of alcohol or other drugs just prior to or during the journey.
• Not staying with the power animal or teacher (helping spirits).
• Not focusing on the intention.
• A vague intention.
• Trying to control the journey or do it "right".
• Trying to "see" the journey when the predominate accessing sense may be kinesthetic or auditory, etc.

More About the Shamanic Journey

     I have mentioned the first journey to the lower world and the journey to the middle world. There is also a journey to the upper world to meet a spiritual teacher. Usually one journeys to the upper world for advice and information and to the lower world for healing and empowerment. But, there is no hard and fast rule and anything can happen in either world. I usually teach my clients to journey first to the lower world. After they have mastered the technique and can use it at home, I will then teach them to journey to the upper world. People usually find one world easier to access (at first) than the other. While not totally necessary, journeying to both worlds adds dimension to this process and is recommended.
     The last aspect that I would like to focus on is that psychotherapy as it is done today is not a spiritual practice. The Shamanic journey is. While I have shown here how I use the Shamanic journey as a "tool" in my psychotherapy practice, Shamanism is a spiritual practice and should be viewed as such. This spiritual practice can be very powerful and therefore a powerful force in transformation. As one continues the Shamanic exploration, not every journey will feel good, because change and transformation can be difficult and challenging. But, a strong relationship with the helping spirits can increase trust and the willingness to face and to work through issues. Personally, my attitude toward death has changed since I have been journeying. Journeying has given me an experiential knowledge of other realities which goes beyond my former intellectual constructs. My gut attitude has changed and my old fears are no longer there. So, it is important to be aware that offering the Shamanic journey to clients is really more than merely offering a technique. It is the offering of a spiritual practice that has the potential to catalyze and integrate important positive changes in a person's life.
     After the upper world journey I described at the beginning of this article I made another journey that fall asking for a message, any message. Every so often an open ended question like this gives the spirits a chance to give me information I might not think to ask for but that is important. The message the spirits gave me was a detailed list. "Write, write, write," they said, "include case studies and soul retrieval experiences. Tell about your work with us and multiple personality clients. Winter is the time to write, read, and sleep. An inward time." They also gave me specific instructions for teaching a particular multiple personality client I was seeing that day to journey. They suggested I call a particular person to help organize my computer and they told me names of some places to send articles and whom to make connections with. I am still working on that list. It is important to do what you agree to do when working with the spirits (although you can also tell the spirits you are not going to do something. Free will is always in effect). Fortunately, the spirits don't seem to have a "western" time sense! And, I have certainly started on that list.
     This article is a result of that journey. I am not yet done. The Shamanic journey is continuing to aid my own growth and development as well as that of my clients. It is an on-going process and so is never finished. It is a tool that remains useful and relevant. It is a gift which I continue to treasure.


Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner, Harper & Row, San Francisco, CA, 1980, 1990
Coming Out of the Closet As a Shamanic Practitioner, Leilani Lewis, Ph.D., The Foundation for Shamanic Studies Newsletter, Summer 1991, Vol. 4, No. 1


     “Using the Shamanic Journey in Psychotherapy”, has been published in “Shamanic Applications Review”, Volume 1, Number 1, (this issue focused on Dissociative Disorders) Fall 1995, a quarterly journal published by the Foundation for Religious Resources in Psychotherapy (PO Box 0314, Niles, Michigan 49120, E-mail: shamanicar@aol.com).

Related reading:
Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, by Sandra Ingerman, San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1991;

Yorgos and the Toys

Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia

Dear Aradia,

     Happy third birthday. This present for you was made by a nice man whose name is Yorgos. Yorgos likes to make toys for children because he likes children very much and likes to make them happy. He also likes to play the violin and makes beautiful music when he is not busy making toys. If you don't know what a violin sounds like, ask your Mommy or your Daddy to play you a tape of a violin. Then, when you hear it you can imagine Yorgos playing a song.
     Yorgos grew up in a country far away called Greece. In Greece many people like to sing and dance and play music. They do this a lot and Yorgos used to do this a lot in Greece too. Like your Mommy does, he played music for people, especially at night when they were done working and had time to listen and to dance and sing. He also played music in the day by the ocean.
     One day an American woman whose parents grew up in Greece came to visit. Her name was Antoneea and she was very nice. She had long black hair which she wore in a single braid down her back. She thought Yorgos was nice, but when she heard Yorgos playing his beautiful music she knew then that he had a beautiful soul and she fell in love with him. He could see her beautiful soul too and then he played her some very special music and they decided to get married. They had a big, big party and when they were through they left Greece together and came to America where Antoneea lived.
     In America they lived in a town called Fresno near some other people from Greece and Yorgos played music for them too. But in America not so many people had time to listen to music and to dance and sing and Yorgos got lonely. He thought and thought while he played his violin at home. He liked to make people happy like he did when he played music for them. But here people did not have as much time to listen to his music. What else could he do to make people happy? And as he thought and thought he remembered when he was a little boy working with his father. In Greece he and his father used to make things out of the wood from the olive trees that grew near where he lived. As he remembered how much fun he used to have and how good it felt to make things with his hands, he decided to make toys for children. Children still have lots of time to play so he could make them happy by making beautiful toys out of wood for them to play with. So that is what he did. And when he did that he had so much fun that he wasn't lonely anymore. Now Yorgos could be happy making toys for children and playing music for everyone when they had time to listen.
     When I met Yorgos and Antoneea, it was in the mountains at a special place where people who love to play music and dance and sing together gather every year to have a big party. That's where I heard his beautiful violin which made me dance and dance. And one day while we were there he brought out his beautiful wooden toys to show me and that's when we bought this hippopotamus for you.
     I am telling you the story of Yorgos and the toys so that sometimes when you play with your toy, if you want to, you will be able to imagine the nice man who plays the violin and made your toy because he likes to make people happy.



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