Marianna's Writings - Table
Trips to Spain
These are some photos & writings from our trips to Spain
and of visiting Flamencos in our home.
Freddie Had a
Experience in Tulum April 2005
healing Dec 2004
Holiday Letter 2004
Letter Dec 8, 1999
Unwritten Rules, Following A Dream
Written for therapist newsletter re
Marianna taking a 7
month sabbatical from her psychotherapy practice.
Letter From Marianna & Freddie
1997 Holiday Letter
Mill 1996: Dancing
About the changing generations at music camp.
About a shamanic connection with childhood
identification with horse.
the Shamanic Journey in
and the Toys
Letter to my young grand-neice about the
who made her toy.
Following A Dream
by Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia, M, LMFT
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
the end of November.
• Because I want to stay available to you if you should need
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,
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
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
Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia, MA, LMFT former president and
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
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
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.
couldn’t ask for more. I will try to sum it up briefly, if
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
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
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
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
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
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
Our life here is
blossoming like the
flowers I’ve been planting all year! Freddie and I keep
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
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
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
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
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
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
my aunt Dorothy (my father’s sister) died. After that a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
1996: Dancing Mortality
by Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia
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
This summer at Sweet’s Mill, in the cool shade of the trees
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
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
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
Santaur, Sol on Saz, Brian on violin, Armando and Don Brown on
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.
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
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
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
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
would live on through them.
I knew this when I
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
3. Nightmares and other sleep disorders
4. Chronic illness
5. Multiple Personality and general dissociation
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
• A client can journey for what issues and in what order they
most useful to work on in therapy.
• A client can journey for deeper understanding of a specific
• A client can journey for information that would be useful
from a specific experience worked on in the therapy.
• A client can journey for further information about and/or
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
Conflicts between Shamanic practice and organized religion:
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.
• Use of alcohol or other drugs just prior to or during the
• Not staying with the power animal or teacher (helping
• 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
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,
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
Shamanic Journey in
Psychotherapy”, has been published in “Shamanic
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:
Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, by Sandra Ingerman, San
Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1991;
Yorgos and the Toys
Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia
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
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.
to Cuba '98-'99
Writings and Photographs Copyright 1999-2007