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Never Again: School Shootings

March 1st, 2018

About five years ago a man with a gun was arrested outside the inner city primary (US equivalent elementary) London school two of my three children attended at the time. I am a European. To put a very fine point on things: I am Dutch. Like most European people I have not grown up in a “gun culture”. The only people carrying guns I encountered during the first 20 years of my life were policemen and soldiers. People who carried a gun for professional reasons. It was understood that those guns would be used only by those trained professionals in truly exceptional (read emergency) situations.

Here are the facts about the most recent school massacre:

On Valentine’s Day 2018 a mass shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in the Miami metropolitan area. Seventeen people were killed and in addition fourteen people were taken to hospitals, making this one of the deadliest school shootings or massacres the world has seen.

The perpetrator, a 19 year old young man called Nikolas Jacob Cruz was arrested shortly afterwards. He confessed and was subsequently charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He purchased his rifle legally from a nearby store.

It appears that Cruz made death threats on social media many months before he committed his crime. Some of the students who survived this shooting have become advocates for stricter gun control legislation and they have founded the advocacy group Never Again MSD (also a hashtag phenomenon on social media).

As a mother of three teenagers my heart goes out to all people affected by this tragedy (students, teachers, emergency workers, police offers, their families and communities and so forth). Taking one step back from the incomprehensible horror of this, I believe that we urgently need to ask ourselves some very uncomfortable questions indeed.

Uncomfortable Questions:

1. What makes a 19 year old walk into a school with a rifle and shoot indiscriminately?

In part because he had legal and easy access to a weapon – but that is not the whole story (every family keeps knives in a kitchen drawer…)

Because he was troubled – but most profoundly troubled people do not go out and shoot other people. We need to dig deeper…

Because the authentic person Cruz was born to become was abused, bullied and violated for years to the point where he felt others “killed him” and he felt compelled to express his rage at this death no one stopped, no one observed and no one honoured. To me this feels like a possibility.

Before reading further I strongly suggest that you watch this video:

“I was almost a school shooter” with Kyle Clark – about a school shooting that never happened at Denver’s North High School:

https://www.facebook.com/Nexton9NEWS/videos/544982175885521/

2. What creates the phenomenon of repeat school shootings?

At least partly the massive publicity they receive. This follows the same principle as terrorist attacks – school shootings essentially are terror attacks. Knowing that a media circus will unfold gets others (read “future shooters”) hooked on the idea of committing the heinous deed. I have read research indicating that such people read all the media coverage and actively plan to kill even more people or add some shocking twist.

Now I am not advocating that the media stop reporting such events but I am trying to raise awareness of the fact that all of us (as viewers and people who buy the newspapers) carry a (small!) part of responsibility for this phenomenon. We need to give this more thought, collectively speaking. If we do not, the issue will keep coming to attention. Brutal fact: we are all co-creating that outcome by not doing our shadow work on this and not owning our part culpability in this.

There is a sick kind of overnight fame in becoming the next school shooter. For some young people – who feel that there are absolutely no positive opportunities open to them – this may appeal. We live in a world that rates fame and mass media attention.

3. Will the Never Again MSD initiative change things?

Starting an advocacy group called Never Again is a wonderful positive move. This is much needed and our young people are leading the world in a revolutionary way here and I applaud them. I thank them wholeheartedly for holding up a mirror for politicians making decisions about gun control. Will this really stop anything similar happening in the future?

This remains to be seen. Many survivors (of other traumatic mass events or private tragedies) have started charitable organisations to raise awareness – but their campaigns have not stopped such events recurring because we do not seem to have reached “critical mass” when it comes to collective awareness of the larger picture.

I have written many blogs attempting to raise awareness about the shadow manifestations of various phenomena in our world – offering a shamanic perspective – but there has always been another occurrence of the same thing.

***

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Today I would like to paraphrase T.S. Eliot’s famous words:

“Humankind cannot bear to do much shadow work”.

***

Now before we all sink into powerlessness and despondency, let us ask another tricky question:

Is there anything we can do to prevent these things?

All of us face a loss when so many people lose their lives prematurely, in an act of senseless violence. Their talents and unique gifts are now lost to the world. Incidents like this also feed the Demon of Fear: do we feel entirely safe going anywhere, with so many threats hanging in the air? The thought occurs that many of the young people  killed recently would have seen footage of previous school shootings and thought: “I am so grateful this was not me”. So this issue truly concerns all of us. Life on Earth is not meant to be a game of Russian Roulette.

In my first book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (published by Moon Books in 2016) there is a chapter titled “Spiritual Warriors With Water Pistols”. I appreciate that the title may sound a bit frivolous in the context of today’s events but in that piece of writing I attempt to provide a serious spiritual perspective on war, terrorism and the innate human need for fighting. I am not going repeat myself here but I will make a few points:

Take a step back from the shock and outrage you feel seeing the footage and hearing the reports. Observe the vibration of your response exactly right now: is the reporting moving you into anger, fear or even hate? Is that going to help the situation in any way? When we respond to any violent situation on the same level of consciousness, we add to the reservoir of violence held in our collective human consciousness. Take a moment to choose your response: what vibration (my youngest son would say: “What colour of the rainbow?”) do you wish to anchor and embody in this world? What response is this situation calling for? Are we as powerless as we (perhaps) feel right now??

The more people beam compassion at this situation, the more this place is held in light and the more it receives an energetic invitation to shift mass consciousness. People with the right shamanic training could undertake to do psycho pomp work, once an appropriate interval of time has passed. The families affected by this will need loving support, a listening ear and quite possibly financial support long after a new tragedy takes center stage in the world press. (Yes, I will call a spade a spade!) The land and building also hold trauma and will need healing work.

Now take another big step back. In the Western world we have freedom of speech and opinion and we have the free press. This is one of the reasons we feel so threatened by fundamentalist regimes. Observe how much attention this shooting gets. It is all over the papers, internet and TV. Beyond the need to know – what other energies do we detect in this mix? Are all of them honorable and in service to the situation?

Read for yourself how much is made of the fact that there were more victims than in any other school shooting so far. (so far?!) That makes this the worst school massacre (of this kind) in American history. Let’s read that again…. Is there some competition in progress? Well, we don’t like admitting it, but of course there is! Future gunmen and suicide bombers follow the media just as we do.– This is not a comfortable thought. Neither is the reflection is that people with jobs in journalism make money from disasters (and only rarely from happy events).  We are so much part of this that we choose to NOT see that every single one of us is a cog in a larger industry: the reporting industry, the media industry, the newspaper industry. This means that all of us together hold some collective responsibility for the next massacre that occurs. This is a sobering thought… I know.. perhaps it feels like a physical punch in the gut…. and it should.

While I am at it, another uncomfortable question: do we still think of the people who died in the recent plane crash in Moscow, on that beach in Tunisia, in Paris and Brussels a few years ago? I think that perhaps we do, because those tragedies received huge coverage. Do we think of the children dying in war zones right now, of 14 year old soldiers and 12 year old prostitutes all over the planet this moment? Of the people dying in floods in Bangladesh or of famine in Somalia? Often it is tempting not to think too much about these things but something is desperately trying coming to attention. If we won’t look, it will find other ways.

My first book is about using shamanism in creative and empowering ways with a group for children. I once did a session with my London group (The Time Travellers) titled Meet The Monster – All About Shadow Work. That title was chosen months in advance, but the session happened to be on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. I took the children through many exercises owning their own shadow (the hidden parts of ourselves we all have but only few of us admit to). The children went on a tough ride finding many shadowy aspects lurking in their own psyche. Ultimately this work is liberating: what becomes conscious loses the power to “bite our bottom unexpectedly, like a rabid dog”. By the end of the session I asked the group: “This session is called Meet The Monster: WHO IS THE MONSTER?!” All of them shouted ME! No one shouted the name of the school shooter. –Result! Proud teacher!! If children as young as 7 years old can do this (and passionately so) – all of us can do this inner work. If all of us do this – a huge paradigm shift will occur because of it.

I think we have all read about the young girl on holiday in Thailand who had studied tsunamis in school and recognized the signs when a very serious one was on the approach. This dramatic example illustrates something I wish to hammer home relentlessly: incidents like this are an invitation to all of us collectively to pay far closer intention to our intuition. This is not generally encouraged in our culture. Our focus is on science, rational thinking, evidence and so forth. We almost “beat” this natural function out of children by constantly asking them to focus on the dominant mode of perceiving reality.

We send our children and teenagers to school assuming they are going be safe, that they are going to be taught be people who have their best interests at heart. However, we may be living in a world in such great turmoil and transition that we cannot afford to live like that just now. 

One evening many years ago I went for an evening walk in Stockholm, where I lived at the time. I stopped to look at the window of a jewellery store. A man stopped, too. He was doing absolutely nothing other than looking at rings and watches. Yet… my alarm bells started screeching: “This man has killed before and he is looking to kill again. GET MOVING!!” I have absolutely no evidence that I was right about this. There was no point alerting the police either. I made the quickest exit I could manage without showing fear and actually running. Nothing happened … yet … until today I remain convinced that I was in danger that evening.

We all have an internal alarm system. It is perhaps more finely honed in some of us than in others. I know that growing up in a family where I never felt physically safe did hone and fine-tune my “physical danger radar”. So perhaps a childhood spent living with violence now saved my life? (Quite a thought that!) Or maybe it attracted that man in the first place. – Both scenarios are perfectly possible. They may also be perfectly wrong!

Long before this young man, Cruz, committed this massacre, he may well have had friends/neighbors/colleagues/parents/siblings, who could have chosen to “read the signs”. Children who are brought up with a well-tuned spiritual compass and focus on listening to their instincts and intuition will be much better at reading such signs – but our society does not currently encourage this. My eldest son says that some YouTube personalities claim that one young man did contact the FBI about Cruz month ago. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not.

All of us collectively have a responsibility here: not to be too wrapped up in our own concerns, not to habitually ignore our instincts and intuitions, to find the courage to act on such hunches/hints and premonitions when they do occur, and to do our shadow work – so other people out there do not need to embody and express our shadow material for us.

So… are there things we can learn from this? I think so. We are all powerless and powerful both – but not always in the way our society has us believe we are.

Are there things all of us can do in response to this? Very much so! Start by asking yourself: when was the last time I thought (or said, even jokingly): “I could kill that person…”

When was the last time your teenager logged on to a computer game and tried to shoot as many “people” (characters) as possible in the shortest span time? The dark truth is that our young people are becoming addicted to those kinds of games.

When was the last time one teenager messaged another teenager GKY (Go Kill Yourself). I have been told the abbreviation has become almost a term of affection in some teen circles…

Are young people, our (grand) children, given a wide berth and not included in parties and social events because they are awkward or difficult to be around? Do we give those same people a wide berth when we see them walking down the street? Do we exclude them from community events, make them feel unwelcome? – This is normal human behavior in the 21st century but it actively contributes to tragedies like this.

This problem is not only “out there” in society, it is deep within all of us. And the problem will not go away until we realise that and make a commitment to working on this, all of us. – Are we willing to look in the mirror Cruz holds up?!

Imelda Almqvist

*Please note that I used an earlier blog as a starting point for this article. You can find the original blog here:

The Orlando Shooting: Blog About Shadow and Intuition

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/the-orlando-shooting-blog-about-shadow-and-intuition/

***

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 Books 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 December 2018.

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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)

Kids are a problem.  No, no, I’m not talking about the trials of parenthood; I’m referring to the problem of teaching minors about Paganism.  Though there aren’t any laws that specifically say to teach somebody’s child about a religion is unlawful, there exist community and cultural customs that condemn the teaching if it is done without parental permission.  In the case of Paganism, the problem is just as big as it would be if a Jewish family was to find their child being taught Islam… maybe bigger.  The problem is complex and I don’t intend to cover every facet here, but I will put forth some ideas about it in the hope that it will stir the cauldron a little and cause some discussion.The age of majority in the USA is generally considered to be eighteen for most everything.  When a person reaches that age, they can be held legally responsible for their public and private decisions.  That is, they can legally be bound by contracts, sued in a court of law, hold a driver’s license, get married, join the armed services, be able to vote, and generally be treated as an adult in most social and legal things.  If anyone of that age or older comes to us and asks for teaching or initiation, there isn’t anything that can be done by parents or relatives to legally prevent it.  But if they are under that age, there are a lot of legal avenues a parent or guardian can pursue to make it a problem for anyone who accepts the child for studentship without parental permission.

Beside the possible legal trouble, a parent who doesn’t understand our spirituality is often afraid of it and will react in a violent way when they find out we have been teaching their child about ‘witchcraft.’  It doesn’t matter what we might call our brand of spirituality, what most parents will immediately think is that ‘devil worshipers’ are indoctrinating their child!  No amount of quiet reasoning will work against their panic, and the facts have nothing to do with their perceptions.  In case you forgot: perception is reality.  The determination and ferocity of a parent who believes their child is in danger should never be underestimated.  And even if you have parental permission, you should still be aware of how your teachings might be misinterpreted by society and attract the unwanted attentions of any number of governmental groups.  This can be true even if the child you are teaching is your own!

There is a great deal of information that can be passed on to the next generation but you should be conscious of four considerations whenever you go about teaching anyone about our faith:

  1. WHAT is being taught?  There is more to a myth besides a fun story, for instance.  The traditions and lore of any faith group reflect its values and perspectives as well as customs and culture.  Information about any aspect of magic or spirituality always contains a subtext that you need to explore fully before trying try to pass it on.
  2. WHO is being taught?  Information that would be appropriate for a person who is 20 is not likely to be suitable for a youngster of 10.  A child probably won’t be interested in the complexities of western religious and political history.  Similarly, an adult isn’t likely to want to draw pictures of Isis for an hour.  And, in case you didn’t know, boys learn differently than girls.  They pick up information and use it in different ways, even if it is the same information.  It is not just a cultural prejudice; male and female brains work differently.  And, as any parent of teenagers will confirm, there sometimes isn’t any way to figure out how a pubescent child will react to anything!  Even they don’t have a clue.  There’s a good reason that the most common answer to the perennial question, “What were you thinking?” is a blank look and a mumbled, “I don’t know.” They really don’t.
  3. HOW is it being taught?  You can teach the information about incense making by the book.  But to get down and dirty with the actual making of a particular compound, to use it for an actual purpose, or to present it to others with, “I made this,” will make the learning more powerful and meaningful by far.  Learning is more than memorizing information; it’s about making a change in the learner.
  4. WHY is it being taught?  There must be a purpose and a plan to your teaching.  Simply to spout information is not the same as teaching.  Information needs to be related to real life as well as everything else that the student has or will encounter.  Any teacher worth their salt will transcend their own agendas and look to the needs and visions of their students.  If you teach because you think it will make you look important, you will only be seen that way by yourself.  Think back to the teachers in your life that have had the most impact on you and you will see the truth of this.

Our ideas and ways of looking at life are especially appealing to people in their late teens.  Our freedom of spirit and joy of living are much like their own youthful enthusiasm.  And, at least on the surface, our belief in magic seems to answer their wish for simple solutions to the complex problems they are becoming aware of all around them.  We will always have those who think of magic as a quick fix for all the ills in the world. They come with stars in their eyes, blinded to the fact that all true magic workers are hard workers.  Their naivety might be a source of amusement but it also makes them extremely vulnerable.  They so much want to believe there are easy ways to overcome large problems they will do almost anything to prove themselves ‘worthy’ of such fantastical powers.  Instead of allowing them to be victimized, we need to find ways of educating them about the real powers of magic.  Simply trying to burst their bubble of fantasy will not work.  They will reject our discouraging words and go looking for someone who will reinforce their dreams.  We must translate their visions into actions that allow them to find their own truths and powers.  Putting them to work on real projects, giving them an opportunity to figure out how to make something work and make a change is the greatest teacher of all.  Yes, they will make mistakes; who doesn’t?  But let’s be frank, isn’t that the way we learned?  Celebrate their successes and don’t ever be too busy to offer help.

Because we don’t have ‘all the answers’ written down, our beliefs are centered on individual experiences.  We call them ‘the mysteries’ because that best describes the role these have for us.  We ‘solve’ these mysteries by living the moment and discovering who and what we are in relation to the reality of our experiences.

Providing opportunities for the young to encounter their own mysteries needs to be tailored to the abilities of the student.  Most school systems use a three-tiered structure for teaching youngsters.  The youngest group usually covers from age six to eleven or twelve.  The next learning group is the so-called ‘tweens,’ ages twelve to fifteen.  Last, there is the sixteen to eighteen group.  There are sound reasons behind splitting up the learning in this way.  Each age group learns in different ways.

The brain functions of the youngest group are nothing like the oldest.  Though they absorb prodigious amounts of information at an astounding pace, the information is in its least complex form.  Very little associative thinking goes on in this age group.  For instance, a child in this group might easily learn the names for every town in their state but not be able to understand a map.  Complex relationships between one thing and another are difficult for them to understand.  That’s why stories for this age group are written in such black-and-white terms; heroes are all-good and villains are all-bad.  No explanation is necessary about why the kiss from a charming prince is required to awaken Sleeping Beauty, it simply does.  As any parent who has had a child go through this age knows, explaining why a certain rule is established doesn’t mean anything to these kids.  That’s why, “Because I said so,” really is the best explanation in many cases.  Teaching this group about Paganism requires information that is not subtle:  Pan is the god of wild things… period.  The more you explain, in some cases, the less they will understand.

The middle group, the ‘tweens,’  is in the transitional stage from one method of learning to the other.  Their comfort zone in learning is still back with the black and white, childhood model.  But their world is steadily growing and they’re becoming more independent every day.  Relationships are now more apparent and reasons are becoming necessary to explain them.  This is the age of reason for these people so what is taught to them needs to be accompanied with more in-depth information.  Motivations behind actions and beliefs begin to play an increasingly important role in their understanding and they will question boundaries and limitations more.  Because their bodies are going through an accelerated growth time, they will often physically test themselves against many of these limitations and dare the universe to slap them down.

The oldest group is making its entrance into adulthood and the methods by which they learn are pretty much the same for the rest of their life.  Associative or relational thinking has become more comfortable and its value to the student has been steadily growing for several years by now.  From here on, the student will question relative value structures, relying less on quantitative and more on qualitative information.  Though their decision-making abilities are relatively immature, they nevertheless feel the need for independence and freedom to act.  Lessons must relate to this urge or the importance of the information will not be perceived.  Now, not only does the information about Pan being a god of wild things become a part of their overall consideration, but background information that makes Pan a more interesting and complete god-form must accompany it.

Our rituals allow the primary school child to enjoy the fantasy and wonder of our beliefs.  For the middle school aged, they also teach something about the complexities of those beliefs.  For the young adults, the fullness of meaning is a feast for their minds and hearts.  It is the same demarcation as the teaching levels.

Teaching about our beliefs is quite different from exercising them on circle.  Nothing we do, with the exception of where we meet and with whom, is a secret.  When you teach others about our beliefs, our lore and practices, you should be mindful of how your words will be interpreted.  Your students or audience need to understand what is meant, not just hear the words.  For instance, “to make a spell,” will undoubtedly be interpreted as some sort of supernatural hocus-pocus by any who are not aware of the processes involved.  Far better you should forego the term and explain the process.  Then you can tell them that that process is called spell craft.  The same goes for many other words and phrases we commonly use in Paganism.  All specialized knowledge has its jargon and we aren’t any exception.  Educating others requires us to explain things without the confusion of language that can be easily misinterpreted.

Teaching others is also a way of learning.  Every teacher is a student and every student is a teacher.  The Pagan faiths have grown and will continue to grow because its people have had the courage to teach and train others.  It is one way we can help our faith group become better, both because we will refine our own knowledge and because we will gain new perspectives with each person who comes to us.  We must take this challenge seriously and never allow charlatans or abusers to rule over people whom the gods have sent our way.

Revision Books

 

A year ago I started using some tried and tested  techniques from shamanism (the most ancient spiritual practice known to humankind) to support my eldest son through his GSCE exam period (those are general exams for all 16 year olds in the UK). I can’t be the only parent who is actively looking for a spiritual toolkit specific to the challenge of exams. In this article I will share some tried and tested things that work well for our family.

Powering up!

Our society has (largely) replaced religion with science. This means that most people roll out of bed and start their day without prayers, meditation or actively setting their focus and intention for the day.

In shamanism we greet every day as a wonderful gift, not a God-given right. Before we do anything else we power up! By this I mean that we greet our personal allies and helping spirits. We seek alignment with luminous beings more powerful than ourselves . My son knows how to do this for himself (for him this means calling in his power animals: e.g. his Clan of Monkey Spirits!)

 

Monkey Clan

(Clan of the Monkey Spirits)

As the exam period arrived, my son asked me to do some spiritual work on his behalf every day. At 8.45 a.m. on school days you will find me standing by my altar: drumming, rattling singing. (Not only for him, also for family members, clients, students and colleagues who have asked for spiritual support). Next I make the procedure a little more specific: e.g. my son had a poetry exam recently, so I call in the full ‘society of dead poets’ in the Other World and ask them to watch over his shoulder and guide his hands. For an exam in mathematics I call in the great mathematicians of all time. For the Newtonian type of physics 16-year olds study in the UK, I call in Isaac Newton. For the Quantum Physics my son is studying this year I do not shy away from calling Niels Bohr, Max Planck and of course and Einstein himself!

And so it goes…. I always get the feeling that these great spirits LOVE being of help. The essence of those great minds lives on outside time (one of shamanism’s great teachings) and you may call on them – in my experience there is always an instant response. – And isn’t that cool, seeing your son walk up the Hill in his school uniform accompanied by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and a veritable society of long-dead poets? I love the limitless potential of creative shamanism!!

and that includes Calling In The Ancestors!

On a similar note: make a point of also calling in your child’s compassionate ancestors. We have an Ancestor Gallery in our house (where I have photographs of ancestors up and a special cupboard where I keep family heirlooms). I go there every day to light a candle, place a small vase with flowers from our garden and so forth. I talk to them and tell them what is happening in the family, who needs spiritual support. Then I ask them to watch over all our three children: to please walk with them, keep them safe, help them make good choices and so forth.

 

Ancestor Gallery

(Ancestor Gallery)

In exam periods I especially call on those ancestors who share the same talents and interests as my son. After all those passions were passed down the blood line, they didn’t come out of nowhere! I thank them for watching over him and nudging him in the right direction when it comes to choosing a profession later in life. And I have no doubt that they do this. They are only too happy to be asked!

In our society we have lost the concept of ancestor veneration but in any tribal communities this is seen as essential to the well-being of members of the Tribe and to maintaining the balance between worlds. (Take just one moment to think about how relatively short a human lifespan is: we are ancestors for a much longer period than our own “butterfly lifetime” on Earth!)

Revision Parties” + extra attention on your son or daughter’s emotional life

For most parents unconditional support is a given at any time in a child’s life. However, as they grow older (taller than us and very independent and opinionated!) there can be a tendency to get busier with our own personal and professional lives and miss those little hints that something isn’t quite right. That lovely boy who used to drop in three times a week – why hasn’t he been here for nearly two months now? Have they fallen out? Has something happen in their friendship group??

Our own son’s first serious girlfriend broke up with him (after 17 months together!) just before their exams started. He was feeling rough and in the end we hosted a Revision Party with unlimited supplies of chocolate and crisps. It was really a getting-over-the-girlfriend party but we couldn’t call it that! A posse of teenagers came around, dressed up in animal costumes (that I keep around the house for workshops), played four-handed piano and actually studied some physics. My son was his normal self after that. Equilibrium had returned, PHEW!

 

Revision Gorilla

(Revision Gorilla)

This is obviously a very tricky area: some teens want to talk and others feel the last person they’d ever speak to is the weird creature commonly known as a parent. The trick is to be available but not in their face. They will talk to you when it suits them  – not when it suits you!! In our house this means me settling down again for a long midnight conversation when I was just heating a mug of milk and headed for bed at 10.30 pm. Losing sleep (even daily, large amounts of it!) is definitely the lesser evil when compared to losing touch with the emotional life of a teenager…

 

Spiritual Principles for navigating Teenage Tempests

I have discovered that the general principles of shamanism (and shamanic healing) work perfectly well for the dilemmas that this age group runs into. With my son I make a point of reinforcing the following core principles:

  •  Fair Energy Exchange – in all of your relationships/friendships observe how energy is flowing. Does it freely flow both ways? Do you support your friend and does he or she support you back? When it becomes one-sided, something tilts out of balance. Perhaps a heaviness or lack of joy sets in. Time to renegotiate?!  Example: my son has been going to parties but he is very anti-alcohol at the moment (“I can’t afford to lose brain cells when I want to get into a good university long-term!”) This meant that at parties his friends get drunk and he gets involved in cleaning up vomit and seeing them home safely etc. He does not find this role entirely enjoyable. In the end I have said to him: when a friendship starts to feel like social work you may just want to reflect on the energy balance. He took that on board and made changes in his choices.
  • Reflection on what we can control and can’t control Change the things I can and accept the things I cannot change (the Serenity Prayer is very useful here, I will paste the first part below) – My son has a heavy dose of teenage idealism, meaning that he doesn’t always see clearly where we need to draw a line goes between “what we can control”, “what it not worth even trying to control” and “where we can actually make positive changes by shifting our own perception”. Lucky for me he has always been a talkative child. He processes things by talking them through. This means I am on an intensive course in understanding the world of teenagers (because I work in a professional capacity with them as well, meaning I see a wider range of expressions, boys/girls, all ages…)

God/Higher Power grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

  • Doing Inner Work with Noticeable Results Outside Us – When we cannot engage with something externally (meaning: in the world around us) we can always work on things internally. We can put focus on things, we can hand issues over to spirit allies for safe keeping or resolving, we can ask our power animals to go talk to the other person’s power animal and ease the way between us and so forth. There are always more options that we commonly realize when we get frustrated. (Teenagers often feel frustrated: they have the bodies of adults but not yet the freedom of choice, lifestyle or financial freedom that adults have).
  • You remain responsible for your own choices and actions, no matter what another person does! My son has been on quite a journey with this one. He is a little hot-tempered and has an over-developed sense of fairness. He gets upset when people break promises or mess around with the feelings of others in any way. On a few occasions I have had to invite him to express his anger (safely, without directing it at anyone) but then think long and hard: what kind of person do I choose to be? Do I choose to meet this person on their level of functioning or do I set my own code of ethics for how I behave and respond? On reflection my son will agree that he needs to actively choose his own actions. Meaning that he is acting, not re-acting to others the whole time.
  • When we set strong intentions, energetically speaking we set events in motion. E.g. my son felt he needed to talk to one person in private because she was blanking him in school. I helped him formulate a strong intention for what he actually wanted most of all: to meet up privately, after school, and discuss whatever is going on. My son didn’t believe for one minute that this would produce a result. He said: “OK Mum, we try this and maybe by the end of the school year something will happen” (this was in March). The next day he came home from school and reported that this person had approached him and asked to meet up after school.  My son was suddenly very impressed by “the stuff shamanic teacher mum peddles”!

Last but not least:

Teenagers are fully fledged sexual beings…

I could go on and on – but if I do this article turns into a book! However, one final thing I want to say is this: by the time young people are 16 years old, they are fully fledged sexual beings. The statistics tells us that young people are sexually active at an earlier age than we ourselves (perhaps) were. However you privately feel about this, it is a fact of modern life. As regards my own son I recently made some comment that my child-bearing days are in the past and that any babies arriving in our family might just be courtesy of son #1, one day. Oma (Grandma, my own Dutch mother, who happened to be visiting) was aghast and accused me of “promoting teenage pregnancy in my house” – am I mad or what?!

However, my son looked quite pleased to be acknowledged as capable of fathering a child but he said: “Not for years and years Mum! I still remember vividly what it was like when my baby brother (son #3) was born and I want to enjoy my years of freedom before I embark on any of that!” So he and I were in total agreement and he gave me a lovely smile. I knew that we had understood each other. Only grandma (aged 77 1/2) nearly had a heart attack. A different generation and in truth my mother has always been “elderly” in her approach to life. (My brothers says she was middle-aged by her late twenties). I doubt that this is going to change as she sails through her 8th decade on this planet!

If you like the sound of using shamanism in parenting and you want more suggestions or tools, I invite you to check out my book. Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life (using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages). It can be ordered from amazon (as well as any quality bookstore).Soon after publication it was listed as “a hot release in shamanism” and it even achieved best-seller status…. As my own son concluded: the stuff I teach must be effective – why else would people show up for my courses or read articles I write?!

I invite you to find me on Facebook and join my Closed Group NATURAL BORN SHAMANS where anyone can ask questions, start discussions or share interesting links and information for parenting and working with children. Welcome!

 

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(Please note: this article was adapted and expanded from a blog by the same title I wrote a year ago).

Imelda Almqvist

 

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About the author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in July 2016.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

http://shamanismsummit.com/

 

This year I was asked to appear on the Shamanism Global Summit, July 2017. The Shift Network requested especially that I speak about my shamanic work with young people again, as I did last year. My shamanic group for children, The Time Travellers, has grown “older and wiser” since 2012, when we started this work. They are all teenagers now and acutely concerned about what is happening in our world

One thing is clear: young people MIND not being asked for their opinions and visions. They will outlive us and inherit the consequences of many decisions we are making right now. Decisions about the environment and global warming, political and financial decisions and so forth.

Children have not been on the planet as long as we have. They have absorbed fewer layers of conditioning and “old energy”, the old paradigm. They have a talent for seeing to the very heart of the matter (many urgent matters) and we would do well to listen to them and take their voices and dreams into account.

To hear what young people are actually seeing and saying, please listen to this recording. I have tried to use their own words where possible. You will also hear me “campaign” for a Summit for young people – but I am not sure if The Shift Network is ready for that just yet. However, I will keep on repeating my message!!

The last thing I will say is that when children are encouraged to listen to their own spirit allies, they have the power to transcend the divisions that exist even within shamanism today (core shamanism, Western shamanism, various schools of thought). All existing cultures (including those of Europe) were preceded by earlier shamanic cultures. Shamanism is our birth right!

If this work calls you and you are looking for practical ideas and sessions plans to help you get started – please read my book!

 

 

This interview was part of the Shamanism Global Summit a free online event helping you discover ancient shamanic practices from diverse traditions to apply to your daily life and our world! For more information, please visit http://shamanismsummit.com. This recording is a copyright of The Shift Network. All rights reserved.

 

Imelda Almqvist, 29 July 2017

 

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Imelda Almqvist is the author of Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life, (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) published by Moon Books in 2016. She teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. Imelda pioneered a shamanic program for young people called The Time Travellers. This offers safe group space for children and teenagers to develop a viable spiritual toolkit and her first book describes this work and why young people are our greatest spiritual teachers! She is currently working on her second book (about sacred art).

 

 

 

 

Imelda’s otherworld paintings can be found in art collections all over the world. Her courses take place in the fertile place where art meets shamanism. The focus is on engaging in innovative ways with both mystery school material and on creating healthy vibrant reality rather than continuing to create reality from wounded or distorted old blueprints. Our ability to do this lies at the heart of navigating the current paradigm shift successfully.

Imelda is starting a school of Norse shamanism  based in Sweden called True North. She has three teenage sons and loves making art videos. The most extreme thing she has ever done is assisting with eye surgery in a field hospital in Bangladesh. One of the most life-changing things she has ever done is teaching art and design to under-privileged children and teenagers in Lima, Peru!

 

Death is a life teacher because it is unavoidable.  It makes life that much more precious to know that your death is around the corner.  It can teach you about what is important and what is not.  It can jolt you into an understanding of how each moment is fleeting.  It destroys the illusion that things remain the same forever.  Death is also present in every experience of change that you have because there are always losses associated with it.  Whether the change is good or bad, self initiated or a surprise, it creates a hole in the reality you have constructed.

-Hyemeyohsts Storm? from “Lightningbolt” 


Death is considered one of the “20 Great Teachers of Life” in indigenous teachings shared by Hyemeyohsts Storm. Most shamanic practitioners believe that our spirits are everlasting; they remain in energy form when we die and we are reincarnated into a new life. In traditions that connect with past lives for healing purposes, it is imperative to see life, death, and rebirth on a circular continuum that has no beginning or end. I believe we come to earth with a mission each time we are reborn. It is our job as humans to remember what the mission is and learn and grow while we are here. Though death is a natural part of life, most of us in North American society are taught from a very young age to fear and even fight death–as if such a thing were possible!  At some point in all our journeys, our illusion that we are immortal starts to crumble. But what if we raised children from the very beginning to see death as an ally?  

In my experience working with children, they are natural psychopomps in a lot of ways.  Psychopomps have been present in all shamanic traditions since ancient times. These people know how to guide departed souls through the spirit world to merge back into the Great Mystery we all originally came from. I am not necessarily suggesting that children be encouraged do this work without guidance from knowledgeable adults, but in a world that is so death phobic, many children with the ability to commune with spirits are unfortunately left to figure this out on their own. This need not be so: There are many shamanic practitioners that can train children properly if parents remain open-minded and are willing to seek these people out.

In my work with children and families, I openly explore death and dying most commonly from three different angles: moving through grief and loss of a loved one, moving through transitions and changes in life with more grace and acceptance, and helping the spirits of departed souls move on to the great round.  Children often speak to me of seeing spirits because they know I will take them seriously.  Other times, children are naturals at creating rituals to support grieving and loss. I notice that healthy, well-adjusted children often move through life transitions with ease.  Many children are curious about death–even if they are afraid to talk to most adults about the topic. One of the reasons we created grieving ceremonies in our book, “The Magic Circle,” was to address this gap in guidance that is out there for children.  In the book, we introduce the topic in simple terms children can understand and then we offer a ceremony that involves building a descansos.  This excerpt is from that book:

We all experience loss in life. Sometimes a pet or a loved human dies. It is often hard to lose someone we love and with his/her death can come many feelings that are maybe new and hard to go through. Emotions such as: sadness, anger, loneliness, confusion, denial, fear and anxiety are all normal during the grieving process.  Grief is a word that describes the emotion of deep sorrow someone feels at the loss of something or someone. Those feelings of missing the person are natural. Grief sometimes feels like it will go on forever when we are in it. Grieving is important because it helps us to transition into the next phase of life without the person we love. People grieve in different ways; there is no one right way.  Although it is healthy to go through the grieving process, holding onto grief long-term is not good for us.  Many people don’t allow themselves to grieve because they are afraid of all the feelings that come with it.  Some people are uncomfortable with death.  Other people feel that ending their grief means they will forget the person they love.

 

It can be helpful to remember that letting go of someone or something that is important to us is not the same as forgetting; we can still keep their memory our hearts even as we carry on living. Letting go bit by bit in an honouring way as a part of our grieving process can bring peace.

 

This ceremony may help you to answer some of these questions as you work with your descansos.  A descansos is a memorial put up by mourners when someone dies.  In Mexico, it is common to see ones like this by the side of the road with objects that remind mourners of the person they love.

Thankfully, society is now beginning to see the need to discuss death and dying practices.  Death Cafés are cropping up in cities all over the world and people want to know how to live, die, and grieve well; in fact, people are often surprised to learn that the three are all interconnected.  Unsatisfied with the big business of pharmaceutical and funeral companies and what they have to offer, more people are looking to cross over in ways that are reflective of the way they lived.  They want to be able to talk about death and dying in intimate, meaningful ways.


A lot of shamanic practitioners (myself included) are working in the realm of death midwifery. Reach out for support. If death makes you feel uncomfortable, I recommend reflecting on the following questions for some time to work through these issues:

Do you fear or embrace death and death as change? How come?

Have you ever held onto something that actually causes you pain because of this fear? If so, what is the cost of this in your life?

What has death shown you to be of greatest importance in life?

Have you learned to trust death? Why? Why not?

If you knew you were going to die in a year, what would you do now that you are not currently doing?

How does the natural world embrace death and change?  How is it a part of natural cycles?

What has grieving losses fully taught you about moving through transitions in life?

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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 practitioner, 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 below.

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

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