families

Children and the Seven Generations

July, 2018

 

Colonial states separate children from parents because they know it works. It destroys and traumatizes for generations. It’s an attack on the future as well as the present.”

-Jesse Wente

In my writing, I make it a point to stay out of commenting on political stances for many reasons. However, when policy starts to cross over into human rights violations that threaten the health of future generations, as a shamanic practitioner, spiritual warrior, and fellow human being, I am compelled to speak. And this article is the result of one of those moments. When the story broke of asylum seekers from Central, North, and South America being separated from their children at the US border, I felt it important to share what I know about child development and early childhood trauma. I also want to add from the beginning that this isn’t a solely American phenomenon but a result of patriarchal beliefs and structures that our world currently operates under. This system is hurting men, women, and children all around the world and it’s time to start questioning its modus operandi.

As an educator, I’ve dedicated my adult life to the thriving of families by supporting children and parents. This looks many different ways that go beyond academics and guiding families in setting up appropriate education models for their children. The truth is, children who are living in poverty and with a substantial amount of trauma are in survival mode: no brain can take in new information when it is in constant fight of flight. Poverty is not a crime nor a result of laziness; it comes out of oppressive policies that benefit the few and marginalize many of the most vulnerable citizens. Parents who struggle financially love their children and most are good parents despite the challenges they face. Poverty is not a reason to separate children from their parents; many social services seek to provide financial aid so parents can raise their children to adulthood. Supporting families means keeping them together, providing resources to help families to thrive, and creating policies that help parents to raise their children without so much stress on the family structure. Currently, we have a worldwide economic system that places undue stress on young families and when family systems start to collapse, parents are often blamed for their “failure.” My job is to advocate for kids and families, look for that support, and put it in place to give families some breathing room while they are doing the most important job on earth: raising healthy, resilient, compassionate, and creative citizens.

Recently, an excellent documentary series came out showing how we humans develop from our earliest years and how vital the first years of life are in creating our self-concepts, attitude toward life, creativity and flexibility of mind. In “The Beginning of Life,” experts in the fields of human developmental stages, pediatric medicine, psychology, and neuroscience come together to paint a new picture for societies that show how important it is to support families and what the effects are to society at large when we don’t provide this support (i.e. increased crime rates, higher health care costs, and higher taxes). One social worker recently told me that it is much less expensive for the government to provide groceries for a family for a few months while they get back on their feet than to pull a child from a home and put them in foster care. If you don’t care for the moral or financial arguments, the science is clear: parents and kids belong together. Many people don’t like the idea of using tax payer dollars to support families, however, when we start to separate families without providing them with the support they need first (i.e. parenting classes, financial aid, job training, good daycare, time for maternal and paternal leaves), the cost to society at large tends to be much greater for all of us. I personally want my tax dollars to be spent on investing in the wellbeing of future generations instead of on policies that focus on short term financial “gains.”

I made a spiritual vow many years ago to protect children’s rights. My motto is “do no harm.” This seems impossible for us humans and yet I feel that it is a worthy vision to hold in front of me as I do this work. Many people in the world don’t realize that we have a three-decade’s old international document in place that sets out the rights of children via the United Nations called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. icle 3 states the focus of the document: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” Most folks would agree that staying with his/her parents is in the best interest of the child unless the child is being neglected or abused, which is not the case here. And even though the children who are separated from their parents are being fed, clothed, and sheltered, we know from longitudinal studies of children who grew up in Romanian orphanages that providing the basic physical needs of life is not enough for children to thrive. For children to be truly healthy (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually), they need to be surrounded by safe and strong attachments to caregivers and community members who love and know them. When a child is taken away from a parent or guardian, this is a significant trauma that cannot be underestimated and often takes a lifelong toll on the child. If readers don’t know about the decades long Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), I highly recommend watching the TED Talk at the foot of this article. Many children and adults in our “corrections” systems have high ACES scores, not surprisingly.

You might be wondering why I am so passionate about this as a Canadian citizen with no voting rights in the USA. First, I am a child of immigrants who came to Canada looking for a better life for future generations. My family and I have been able to heal from the intergenerational trauma of growing up in a dictatorial state because of the relative safety and support we’ve experienced in Canada. Second, as a shamanic practitioner, I know that what we do today affects the seven generations ahead and the seven generations behind us. We have the chance to shift what we believe about children and their value in a way that our ancestors perhaps were not able to. Respecting the work of parents and the rights of children to explore their new world in safety is actually good for all of us because those kids will be deciding policy and taking care of us when we are elders. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a traumatized, jaded, and perhaps violent person taking care of me when I am an elder. I want to be surrounded by adults who were nurtured when they were children. These adults are more likely to be compassionate, have a strong sense of human and environmental rights, carry love in their hearts, and be active in their citizenship.

I know from researching that this practice of separating children from parents has been happening in the USA and even in Canada for quite a few years now; this is a non-partisan issue. I am not an American citizen otherwise I would be writing my local political representative. I will nevertheless look for ways to make my voice heard as an international citizen. I hope you will join me as a citizen of the world in making sure we protect the most vulnerable members of our society because the truth is that we are all connected to one another. We are all relations.

NB: Further information on the research presented in this article appears in the resources section below.

 

Resources:

 

The Beginning of Life

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bejT24M4TQ

 

TED Talk: How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95ovIJ3dsNk

 

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

 

American Civil Liberties Union

https://www.aclu.org/

 

article: Family Separation: Trump’s Cruel Immigration Policy

https://www.indivisible.org/resource/trumps-new-cruel-immigration-policy/

 

article: Canada Aims to Avoid Detaining Migrant Children, but it Happens

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/canada-detention-children-united-states-1.4709632

 

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Book Review: Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life by Imelda Almqvist

April, 2018

Book Review: Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages by Imelda Almqvist

In 2008 when I set out with my co-authors to write a book about doing shamanic ceremony with children and families, there was almost no literature on the topic–save Starhawk’s landmark “Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions.” Since our book was published in 2012, many more authors have been responding to the immense need for these resources, thankfully. When I discovered Imelda’s book “Natural Born Shamans,” I was thrilled to see another shamanic practitioner working with children and youth who was also dedicated to adding to this body of knowledge responsibly. Throughout the book, readers are warned of some of the pitfalls in doing shamanic work with children, as well as, how to work around those thoughtfully and with respect for both the child’s sensibilities and the family culture. Indeed, I use Imelda’s book as a reference today for my own work with children and families. This book achieves its stated intent:

All existing societies and cultures were preceded by shamanic cultures, where people lived in close relationship with the Earth, the ancestors, and the Spirits of Place. Connecting with Spirit is our own birthright and the birthright of our children. As I hope this book will demonstrate, it can give young people an exceptional spiritual toolkit for life in the 21st Century.”

Imelda explores key spiritual concepts and tools in ways that children and families can understand. Some of these include: shadow work, death and change, shapeshifting, dreaming, forgiveness, divination, and taking one’s power– learning to wield it responsibly. Imelda brings her substantial experience working with children of all ages to this book. I’ve worked as an educator for two decades; it’s easy to see how certain activities can be adapted to children at different developmental stages. Parents who have raised children through different stages will, also, likely find this easy to do. In addition, Almqvist speaks at length about the importance of offering rites of passage ceremonies to children to support them in the many transitions they make during childhood. She, also, describes the adult’s role in guiding children on their spiritual path:

If we do not offer Rites of Passage, children will either fail to complete crucial developmental stages or they will place themselves in risky situations trying to create communities and initiations for themselves, such as through street gangs, joyriding, drugs, crime or alcohol.”

This book provides a compassionate and extensive look at issues facing parents and children in today’s world. It offers ideas for how to look at these challenges through a shamanic lens, introducing new possibilities for transformation that are holistic, healthy, and healing. Imelda’s approach enrols children in their own healing and shows them how to become more confident in who they are at their essence. Through Imelda’s personal stories, parents receive understanding and wisdom from someone who has guided her own children through spiritual and developmental transitions. If you are a shamanic practitioner interested in working with children and families, this book is a “must have” for your resource collection! It is full of great ideas and links to the work of other shamanic authors that inspire her work. It will spark your own imagination and creative juices! “Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life” is published by Moon and widely available online. International shamanic teacher, Sandra Ingerman provides a wonderful foreword to this important book.

For Amazon Information Click Image

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

For Amazon Information Click Image

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Book Review – The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within

March, 2018

THE MAGIC CIRCLE

Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within

A year ago I wrote a brief review of this book on Amazon but in this review I will expand on what I wrote in February 2017:

This is an amazing source book for families, schools, grandparents and youth leaders in different capacities. It offers a breath-taking range of ideas and ceremonies – ranging from fast and simple to more complex. These ceremonies can help children and young people navigate life transitions and events. From losing a loved one, taking courage, the magic of our own body, the weather, animals, ancestral sleuthing and so forth the possibilities are endless and very inspiring! The future of our Earth depends on young people staying attuned to the Web of Life and honoring all different life forms. This book is a must have for anyone raising such children or hoping to raise such children one day! It has given me ideas for the children and teenagers I myself work with!”

This book was co-authored by a team of three people: Ann Dickie, Jennifer Engracio and Katherine Inksetter. As parent, shamanic teacher and author of a book about shamanic parenting it always makes my heart sing to find high quality resources about shamanism for families, teachers and youth leaders!

Essentially this book provides ceremonies for every conceivable occasion, following the Medicine Wheel (starting in the Center: the Land of Void and from there moving South, than West and so forth).

All this material has been tried and tested extensively and a lot of reflection has gone into the way that activities are introduced and structured. This is important because it reduces the risk of misunderstandings or things “going wrong”. – Having said that: when proper preparations are made, things going “wrong” usually means that the spirits are playing with us and getting creative. In a sense you cannot go “wrong” in ceremony when you work from the heart! – Still, some people feel a little nervous about using shamanism with children, which is understandable, so using properly tested material takes some of that anxiety away.

The authors also point out – very correctly! – that any deep spiritual work or personal growth work will flush out issues needing attention. As a shamanic teacher just want to echo how true this is but, I will also say how those things are ultimately the ingredients of life-changing adventures, they open portals and rewire us on the level of soul. Don’t let that put you off.

Working your way through the whole book can certainly be done but it is a big commitment. It might be better to use the book intuitively – do what calls out to you or what resonates with an issue your child (or grandchild, or youth group etc.) is facing right now.

The Medicine Wheel is a wheel in a very literal sense: one could start anywhere and a journey will unfold. Wheels per definition do not have a beginning or end.

Another good thing about this book is that it includes a suggested age range for every activity. If you are going to be working with younger or older children – no problem, but you may need to simplify things a little or add some complexity. Any parent or teacher (or person who spends time around children) will do this very naturally.

Ceremony is a key-concept in shamanism because it opens the door to our soul and allows us to step outside time. Powerful work is done in the place where the spirits, ancestors and sacred dreams of our collective reside. Healing occurs naturally when we perform ceremonies.

This book gives families tools and high quality activities. Following those encourages children to stay tuned and – most importantly – to keep the connection to their own spirit allies alive and strong as they grow older and face the challenges life will throw at human beings. I truly believe that this is one of the greatest gifts we can give a child.

This book encourages creativity, time spent outdoors, connecting to ancestors, knowing that (as my eldest son once put it when he was just four years old) that “everything is medicine” – or can be, when used or embraced the right way.

I invite you to take this journey around the Medicine Wheel and discover what your own calling and unique medicine is – so you can fully embody and birth this in our world. – Our world in great turmoil and transition (paradigm shift) needs every person alive right now to activate their divinely granted talents and medicine. If we all do that – our world can change overnight!

Thank you Ann, Jennifer and Katherine for this magical book!

Essentially a book like this is spiritual dynamite (and the authors may quote me on that!)

Imelda Almqvist, 22 February 2018, London UK

For Book’s Website Click Image

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and SACRED ART. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where ART Meets Shamanism will be published in the Autumn of 2018.

For Amazon Information Click Image

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86  (Year of Ceremony)

 

Forgiveness Practice in Families

August, 2017

In my daily work with children and families, the theme of forgiveness makes its way into many conversations I have with parents especially. Parents are in a leadership role that they are sometimes ill-prepared for. If they didn’t experience good parenting when they were children or see mentors engaging children with respect, it can be like becoming the CEO of a company you have no previous knowledge of. All of the sudden, parents are expected to launch into a demanding world of care, consistency, and responsibility while operating on very little sleep! This would stretch the capacity of any human being.

 

In Hawaiian culture, there is a forgiveness practice called ho’oponopono that is passed down through family lineages. Uncle Harry Uhane Jim is a Hawaiian kahuna and teacher. He says of ho’oponopono that it is a “time-evolved practice of managing trauma and transforming chaotic patterns into shapes and vistas of order and profound peace.” What I love about this practice is that it teaches us how to forgive ourselves and others when we inevitably make mistakes, trip, and fall in life. No one escapes conflict while they are in a human body and each of us need a way of moving through our failures–real or perceived.

 

I approach parenting as a spiritual practice with the families I work with. I coach them to look back on their experiences at the end of each day to see what they need to forgive themselves for, what victories to celebrate (however small), and what they would do differently next time. This can be challenging initially when parents are used to beating themselves up for not meeting their own expectations of themselves. We think berating and shaming ourselves will keep our behaviour “in line” in the future, but these patterns work to keep us stuck. One parent I worked with recently was so used to leaving herself on the hook that it was initially hard for her to come up with victories at all. This was my response to her:

 

Although I hear that this was rough for you, there were several victories in this experience that I can see:

 

1.  You were able to disengage to calm yourself down.

 

2.  You went back to brainstorm solutions when both you and your children were more calm and resourceful.

 

3. You continued to reflect after the fact until you figured out what your part of the conflict was. You redefined your boundaries and upheld them.

 

4.  You apologized and promised to change your responses in future and you followed through on that.

 

5.  You took responsibility for your role in the escalation as the parent (leader and guide).

 

6. You remembered that your children are not adults yet and were conscious of their developmental abilities. You changed your expectations to match what they could reasonably do at their respective ages.

 

In regards to this piece: When things are not working well, we will stop, sit quietly together and think of a solution.  I’ve noticed that this is not always possible when the conflict is really heated.  In this case, you could make an agreement that you will all take some space and problem solve when everyone’s calmed down to a resourceful state again.

 

How does it feel to you to see these experiences–though not pleasant at the time–as valuable learning moments where you get to increase your emotional heroism and level of vulnerability tolerance?  What if you re-framed these experiences by looking at all your victories instead of focusing your attention on your failures?  This doesn’t mean we don’t reflect on what we could have done differently, it just means that you put more of your energy on the things you did right because I’ve noticed you have a tendency (along with many other parents) to focus on how you are screwing up. The truth is that there are loads of things parents are doing right and paying attention to those things is just as important to keep perspective–especially in challenging moments.

 

I am not breaking any confidences by sharing my response. I’ve written various versions of this in the past two decades in my work with many families. In the hubbub of everyday life, it can be so easy to forget what is important. Ancient Hawaiian families knew this and infused their lives with ritual because they knew this was a way to keep their mind/heart/body/spirit clean daily. At the end of the day, they sat at their taro mat as a family and did ho’oponopono before bed.  This is a ritual where each member forgives themselves for their shortcomings in the day.  If there were any disputes, these were handled before bed so they were not taken with them into the dreamtime and the next day to be relived or expanded upon.  In this way, harmful patterns were curtailed daily.

 

This is one of many ways to do ho’oponopono:

 

Put your hands on your heart and do your forgiveness that way.

 

Say:

 

I forgive myself for ___________.  For as many things as you need to forgive yourself for until it feels complete.

 

I.e.  

 

I forgive myself for losing my temper with my sister.

 

I forgive myself for forgetting where I put things.

 

I forgive myself for believing that I can’t read.

 

I forgive myself for forgetting to remember all the things I am good at.

 

And allow yourself to learn from and let go of your mistakes. If you struggle with forgiveness, I challenge you to try this practice for a dream cycle (7 days) and notice any positive changes you experience in that time.

 

To watch more on ho’oponopono practice, go to this interview Jennifer Engrácio did on “Real Lives. Real People.” with Shyloe Fayad:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHgr45yx_aY

 

 

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Author Bio:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

 

 

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

 

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing”

 

 

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com