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Self-Love: The Gift of Living Aloha

August, 2018

Love is the only emotion that expands intelligence.”

-Humberto Maturana

Recently, my partner and I went to see the new documentary about one of my childhood heroes, Fred Rogers. The film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” touched me at a deep, universal soul level; I am rarely affected this way by movies so this experience had my attention. I wept through the film wondering what words I could use to describe what I was feeling. When I was a kid, I used to watch “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” every weekday on television. At some point in the show, he would say the healing words that made me feel truly seen and accepted for who I was: “I like you just as you are.” In a society that is always telling us that we are not good enough, this was–and remains–a radical statement. If people love themselves, that love can’t help but extend out to others. From a shamanic perspective, the dark energies of the universe cannot exist in such blazing light. This is the way we use our personal power as humans to transform hate into love, as this quote by Adebe DeRango-Adem alludes to: Loving who you are means giving yourself permission to cherish your authenticity, and forgive the times you forgot your own power.” In Traditional Hawaiian Medicine, this is the way to maintain our personal sovereignty. Freedom starts with how we treat ourselves on the inside.

As an adult, I can see that Mr. Rogers was expressing a world view that I too held as truth and have been able to articulate better recently. I was invited to speak to mental health nursing students at a university from the point of view of a recovering addict who healed using shamanic medicine. In my sharing, I pointed out that some addicts are not able to heal without including the spiritual aspect of life, so often times mainstream medicine alone won’t cut if for folks like me. We also talked a lot about self-acceptance and how vital it is to the healing process. Many students were confused by this: “Why would you accept something that is causing harm like addiction?” In shamanic practice, we say that life is the greatest teacher. Our practice is in learning from every situation life throws at us. With each new challenge, we have a chance to grow our characters while becoming more content living in the present. We live in the present so we can see life as it is–not as we’d like it to be. If we don’t acknowledge the truth of our situations, we have no chance to transform our lives into ones that are aligned with our individual values and sacred dreams.

Like many of you, I was taught implicitly that I had to earn approval and acceptance by what I contributed and how I acted. It wasn’t enough to just “be.” Growing up Catholic, I was taught that I was a flawed being who had to prove my worthiness. I could understand how it was hard for the students at the university to grok how we could improve our characters by loving ourselves just as we are in this moment when many of them grew up with this belief too: If we don’t work hard to change the things we don’t like about ourselves, then we will never improve ourselves. It was hard initially for me to understand this, too. I learned that acceptance means being honest with ourselves about what is so and we can do that without applying negative self-talk and cruelty to the mix. Contrary to what many of us were taught, violence does not in and of itself inspire positive change. As Uncle Harry Uhane Jim says, “Love doesn’t prevent trauma; it prevails it.” If we really want to create positive change in our lives, the journey may involve endeavoring to learn to love ourselves the way the Creator/Creatrix does. In my experience, the universe doesn’t punish us for our actions; it merely gives us many opportunities to remember that we come from light and aloha. We can change course at any time as sovereign beings.

There is a saying I’ve heard that we are each a cell in the body of the Great Spirit. Christians express a similar sentiment when they say that we are all children of God. If we follow that out, it only makes sense that self-love is important because how we treat ourselves says something about our relationship with the energy of creation. It wasn’t until I started studying Traditional Hawaiian Medicine and practicing lomilomi that I began to understand the importance of maintaining this energy flow of aloha between me and Great Spirit. Simply put, aloha is the unconditional love of Spirit that moves through us with every breath we take. Lomilomi teaches the receiver and giver both how to live in a state of aloha where the energy of Spirit moves through the body with ease and grace. Richard Gunderman said that [w]hen Rogers encouraged children to be kinder and more loving, he believed that he was not only promoting public health, but also nurturing the most important part of a human being—the part that exhibits a divine spark.” Remembering that we come from aloha is vitally important to our healing as spirit beings in human form.

Often, people tell me that they didn’t come to a group ceremony because they weren’t “fit for human consumption”– or to say it more neutrally, they weren’t at their best. To that, I say: “That is exactly when we need to come together in healing–when we are not feeling great. This simply means that we have forgotten that we are made of light and need a reminder.” Over the years, I’ve adopted Mr. Roger’s statement and encouraged people to come as they are. Emotional expression is a valid way of communicating with the world. We don’t always feel bright or cheerful and expressing this authentically is truthful. If ceremonies are to be effective, there must be space for this. I may not always like the way people choose to express themselves, but I’ve trained myself to stay open to listening to the unmet universal needs they are revealing through their words and actions. I believe loving and being loved in return is a universal human need. Validating others as legitimate beings however they appear in the moment opens the door to greater healing. By holding space and healthy boundaries, we can support each other in figuring out new ways to heal, grow, communicate, and learn.

On my personal healing journey, I’ve tried healing by beating myself up and also by practicing realigning myself with the energy of aloha. What I’ve found is that starting from the belief that I come from aloha is an easier road to healing than staying with the belief that I am inherently bad and in need of fixing. I found that feeding this false belief took up a lot of precious energy that could have been going towards living my life purpose. Treating myself as a sacred being has helped me to enjoy the gift of being alive in a human body. Whatever happens, I can be present and practice new ways to move through challenges. I also catch more of the joyful moments because I am not so wrapped up in how I think things should go. I am not so caught up in presenting the perfect “me” that I think people want to see. Surprising things bring me pleasure when I can stay in this place of self-love. How can you practice living aloha to support your healing today? How might this help you enjoy your life more? When your container is filled with aloha, how will you actively allow that to spill over into your community?

I leave you with Mr. Roger’s words just before his death: “I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. And to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.” I send my heartfelt gratitude and blessings to your spirit, Fred Rogers.

Resources:

article: Self-Care Is a Radical Act, But Not in the Way We’re Practising It Right Now

https://www.flare.com/living/self-care-is-a-radical-act/

article: Mr. Roger’s Message of Love

http://www.dailygood.org/story/2062/mister-roger-s-message-of-love-richard-gunderman/

about Lomilomi:

http://spiraldanceshamanics.com/lomilomi/

***

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 more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Witch & Popcorn

June, 2018

 

Bright Blessings! I am thrilled to be doing a tv show & film review column. I DO sometimes luck into a film review and interview in a current film or book, but this column is different.

I will be selecting films and shows that have Pagan, supernatural, sacred, or witchy themes, and doing a review. No interviews involved, and I will be doing reviews of things that are not new releases.

How fun is that?

For my first review, I selected The Last Witch Hunter, a 2015 film starring Vin Diesel, the immortal Michael Caine, and Elijah Wood.

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsuG2JUgs_8[/embedyt]

(The Last Witch Hunter Movie Trailer on YouTube.com.)

 

Filmed in blockbuster style, complete with the good versus evil theme, strong, muscle bound heroes, and soft beautiful starlet ladies, this is pure Hollywood, non-intellectual entertainment, and translates into a lot of relaxing fun.

The plot is a simple one. An ancient diabolical witch was thought to be defeated by Kaulder (Vin Diesel) centuries ago, during which time she has cursed him with immortality. He uses his limitless lifetime to hunt down other diabolical witches, and keep more benevolent ones in check. Unfortunately for him, said diabolical witch was secretly kept alive, and centuries after he thought he’d slain her, the devotees of said witch resurrect her in what will be the biggest battle of Kaulder’s career.

I liked and recommend this film for its good action scenes, dazzling special effects and costumes, and satisfying ending.

No spoilers!

I will say, though, leave it to Hollywood to keep the theme of the especially heroic good guy who is beyond perfect, who has to break all the rules to save the world.

Don’t expect accuracy in portraying what witches of today do. This is unapologetic fiction, not meant to be educational in any way. Use of sacred symbols such as the pentacle, runes, and discussion of the four elements, herbalism, and psychic gifts are nowhere near the real thing, but make for juicy good fiction.

Wood seems to have a knack for playing innocent faced characters with a trick up their sleeves, as he has in most films I’ve seen him in. As Gollum would have said “He’s tricksy!”

Caine is well…Michael fucking Caine, and is, as always a smooth, refined film god.

Vin Diesel stays mostly clothed throughout the film for a change. Sorry ladies, but as usual, he is cast as the romantic lead, with precious few intimacy scenes.

Although this is a fun movie as opposed to one offering pointers for social change, there are some lessons we can gather from it.

  1. Magic can be used for good or evil, depending on the magical practitioner.
  2. Intention is everything.
  3. You cannot run from what you are. Accept your gifts, and be thankful for them, because one day, they will save you.
  4. A witch is born, not made.
  5. People can be very good at illusions, lies, and betrayal can be absolutely anywhere.
  6. Similarly, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised about who you CAN trust after all.
  7. Not all witches or people in general are good, and not all are bad. Pay attention and learn before deciding to trust or not.
  8. The dead watch over the living. Always.
  9. In your weakest moment, the people who truly care about you can help you find the last reserve of strength you had no idea you had.
  10. Where there is life, there is hope. Never give up for as long as you are alive.

 

I recommend the film for good, fun, supernatural fiction. I’m sure there are those who would be upset fiction portrays witches inaccurately, but truthfully, anybody who believes witches can live forever, can set fire to things with our minds, and are out to destroy the world are not going to listen to the truth anyways.

So, grab the popcorn, and enjoy The Last Witch Hunter.

Blessed be.

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Series ‘Project Afterlife’ Premieres This Month

August, 2015

Premiering this month on the Destination America channel is Project Afterlife, exploring Near Death Experiences and resurrection. It follows many of the conventions of the genre, like portraying the hosts as members of a team and the cinematic reenactments of the interviewee’s experiences. Project Afterlife does throw in some surprises though. For one thing, both the victims as well as the doctor or other witnesses are interviewed. They are given an almost equal amount of time in fact. It was also interesting to see a variety of NDEs: there is the classic white light experience, but also an encounter with a dead friend, a frightening experience, and a religious encounter.

“Do you believe in resurrection?”

If the signature question of the filmmaker seems strange to you, it might help to know his previous project, Deadraiser, a documentary exploring resurrection through prayer. I wondered at this question through the pilot. I also wondered at the disparate makeup of the team of presenters. What brings a paramedic, a retired state trooper, a minister, and a filmmaker together? At the end of the episode it is clear: a prayer circle and belief in resurrection.

If you are a fan of the phenomena of NDEs like I am, the show is worth watching, though it might need some parsing. It is clear that the show comes from a particular religious view of resurrection, which might put some people off. However, the glimpse it provides into this area of religious experience is fascinating in its own right, I feel, especially to one unfamiliar to it.

 

projectafterlife2

 

Six-Part Original Series Premieres Sunday, August 9 at 10/9c Only on Destination America 

 

 

…from their press release:

Each episode follows the team as they investigate two stories of the most fascinating contemporary cases of resurrection across America. Survivors were in the prime of their lives when an accident or sudden illness led to their untimely deaths, only to inexplicably return to life. Through cinematic recreations and first-person interviews with survivors, PROJECT AFTERLIFE explores the mystery of resurrection while bringing viewers up close and personal to the experience. Hear directly from survivors about the moment they realized they were dead, what – and who – awaited them on the other side, what it felt like to die and come back, and how it changed their lives afterward.

 

In PROJECT AFTERLIFE, the investigation team pours through case files, examines medical records, and visits key locations in each case to better understand these documented experiences by survivors. Interviews with doctors and family who kept vigil bring investigators one step closer to understanding resurrection by revealing key patterns in the surrounding circumstances, such as loved ones always holding the victim’s left hand during prayer.

 

… and if you think this is the first time you’re hearing about the channel:

Destination America is the only network to celebrate the people, places, and stories of the United States. The inclusive network targeting Adults 25-54 is available in nearly 60 million homes, emblazoning television screens with the grit and tenacity, honesty and work ethic, humor and adventurousness that characterize our nation. Destination America features travel, food, adventure, home, and natural history, with original series like BBQ Pitmasters; A Haunting; Mountain Monsters; Buying Alaska; Buying the Bayou; andRailroad Alaska. For more information, please visit DestinationAmerica.com, facebook.com/DestinationAmerica, or twitter.com/DestAmerica. Destination America is part of Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the world’s #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 2.7 billion cumulative subscribers in 220 countries and territories.

You can find out more about Destination America at @DestAmericaFacebook.com/DestinationAmerica, and DestinationAmerica.com

Across the Great Divide

June, 2010

divide

Debunking Paranormal TV Shows

Flip on your TV on any given day or time and there’s bound to be a paranormal reality show on.  They’re more common these days than the “evidence” they present.  The list of current shows include SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Ghost Hunters Academy, and Destination Truth; ABC Family’s Scariest Places on Earth (seriously? ABC FAMILY?  *ahem…); Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures; A&E’s Paranormal State; Discovery Channel’s Most Haunted, A Haunting, and Ghost Lab just to name a few!  So, really, how authentic are they?  TV is TV.  If it doesn’t get ratings it goes in the bin.

Television has a long history of playing in the shadows.  Remember In Search of…?  This was a series that explored the strange, weird, and unexplainable.  It not only did episodes on parapsychology, but UFOlogy, fringe science, and cryptozoology- which studies things such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.  It was a well-done show that at times seemed to be an odd mix of PBS’ Nova and the National Enquirer.  The show was hosted by Leonard Nimoy, but I suppose Spock had to do something during the 70’s.  In the mid 90’s we had Unsolved Mysteries hosted by the incomparable Robert Stack and Sightings hosted by Tim White.  Sightings was by far one of the best shows in television history which dealt with the paranormal.  Like In Search of… they did stories on parapsychology, cryptozoology, and the like lasting several seasons, in large part due to the hosting talents of Tim White and the producers who designed the show to be more like a news magazine in the vein of 20/20.  They took great lengths to line up authenticated experts in the subjects they covered with appearances by the likes of Loyd Auerbach and Raymond Moody.

I’m a paranormal investigator.  I can not and DO NOT claim to be a parapsychologist or hold any kind of clinical degree in parapsychology.  Dr. Phil pretends to be a doctor.  I don’t.  I have years of experience and training but my actual degree is in mainstream psychology.  Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of TAPS may be seasoned investigators who have decades of field experience but they are not formally educated in the theories and statistical analysis of the data they collect.  They simply go in, turn on their toys, and interpret the data according to their previous experiences.  I DO give kudos to them for periodically sending data to relevant experts such as film and special effects experts, forensic institutions, and so on.

I use my knowledge of the field and the sciences of psychology and parapsychology and my experience as an investigator to look at all of these subjects objectively.  Just because I come in and say a place is or is not haunted does not set it in stone.  Let other groups come in and replicate my findings.  I may even hold off for a few weeks or months and try again myself.

With that said, just because the folks at TAPS say it is so, doesn’t mean it is.  They spend several hours on location, gather their evidence, analyze it, and leave.  They make no attempt to repeat their “experiments”.  There is no methodology to their data collection or statistical analysis.  There is no empirical replication of phenomenon.  No control groups.  If they can’t duplicate an event over and over again it isn’t debunked.

When Ghost Hunters first came around I loved it.  There were many episodes where nothing happened (which is by far the truth of how it really goes), rarely would they say to a client that their home or business was truly haunted. They would suggest further study is needed to backup the “paranormal activity” they encountered.  Now every place they visit is haunted and there is no stutter in their voice when they make the claim.  I find most of the show now to be unrealistic and playing to the TV audience only.  The thing that’s really chapping my ass lately with the folks over at TAPS is the “flashlight test”.  This is where you take a flashlight with push-button activation and unscrew it just enough to keep the electrical contacts alive but allowing for it to go on or off with the slightest touch.  The thinking behind this is if the light can go on and off by command or respond in a logical pattern then it is evidence of paranormal activity.  Ok, good theory on paper, but seriously lacking in empirical data or methodology.  I’ve personally fallen prey to this “evidence” while investigating and even posted a short video clip.  Fortunately I did state that it’s not proof, just an anomalous clip.  My issues with this test are simple.  First of all there are way too many x-factors that raise questions.  No control group and no clearly defined style or size of flashlight.  Mini maglites are the most often used but pulling from personal experience even the mini ones have weight imperfections due to their metal casing.  What about the flooring?  These investigations are in old buildings and homes.  Maybe it’s off camera and I don’t see it, but I never recall any member of TAPS pulling out a level and making sure the surface is perfectly flat and free from drafts or environmental factors.   Furthermore, when it first occurred on GH Jason Hawes was quoted as saying he’d been attempting this for nearly 20 years and it finally happened.  Public comment was in a frenzy over the event and now this “reality” show has a bona fide flashlight communication every week.  Seems to me that the producers are having fun in the cutting room.  Jay and Grant have said numerous times in the past that they have no control over how the producers cut the final edit of each episode, thus washing their hands of any deception.  Fine, I can respect that- except for the fact that Jason Hawes is now listed as one of the executive producers of GH.  You can’t tell me that position does carry some weight in the decision process.

Then there’s the infamous Moss Beach Distillery episode.  The TAPS teams heads out to find evidence of the Blue Lady only to discover trick mirrors, recorded voices and other parlor tricks.  I agree that the owners and the chef who was to be the on-camera spokesman should have disclosed the special effects but I disagree that he is solely to blame.  Of COURSE Grant found speakers in the walls- it’s a restaurant folks!  They use the speakers as a PA and to play music in the dining room and other areas.  This location has been investigated several times by different teams and experts for decades since the 1930’s.  Loyd Auerbach himself has been investigating the distillery since the early 1990’s and many reports have been made since then that mention quite specifically the ‘effects’ in question.  The week before TAPS investigated, Auerbach was called by a producer of GH asking for witnesses’ names for the Presidio Officer’s Club in San Francisco as this was the show’s main focus this trip.  This producer, over the course of conversation, admitted that other points of interest were being considered including the Distillery.  Auerbach offered to provide case histories and witness accounts of the experiences there but was cut off; the producer indicated they “had what they needed”.  Auerbach asked if they were aware of the special effects and he point blank said THEY WERE.  TV at its finest- deceives its stars, deceives its audience.

Ghost Hunters International seems to approach things not so much on debunking things but instead concentrates on gathering evidence. The tech of the show is impressive.  Brain Harnois once disclosed that when SyFy approached them about the spin off they were promised anything they wanted.  They got it in spades with the full-spectrum cameras which have produced some very discussion-worthy results.  Their investigation style is much the same as their big papa TAPS, thus falling victim to the things I’ve already mentioned.  They do however seem to keep a level head when investigating some of the world’s most legendary places and I gained much respect for them when they walked away from the castles of Vlad Dracul and Frankenstein saying “Eh, great place. Not so much evidence.”  On a side note, I’ve got to wonder just how many damn languages Barry speaks.  Every country they visit he can hold an EVP session in the native tongue.

Paranormal State.  As objective as I try to be, I just can’t be on this one.  What can I possibly say other than this has got to be some of the worst ‘reality’ programming out there let alone a slap in the face of serious investigators and scholars of parapsychology.  However, I could be wrong.  This is at best Blair Witch without the hype and not nearly as entertaining to watch- if only just to cut the crew down at every turn.

I’ve only been able to sit still for three full episodes of the show, and who knows, it may have gotten better but I swear I saw fishing line moving an object in one case.  I’ve seen clips here and there, laughing out loud to YouTube, much to the utter confusion of fellow Panera Bread patrons.  Its crew is all about “feelings” and subjective experiences that can’t be seen on camera let alone quantified with scientific instruments.   The team is so wishy-washy that I wouldn’t count on them to battle a turtle let alone an Elemental.  Their ‘acting’ is monotone and boring.  A critic for the Boston Herald once wrote, “There hasn’t been a more suggestible crowd gathered since the last ‘Crossing Over’ taping with alleged psychic John Edward.” (Don’t even get me started on him)

The show has faced intense criticism both from the media and viewers who question whether the “activity” is real or faked.  The line nauseatingly staggers the line between documentary and dialogue so ridiculous it must be scripted entertainment.

Way over at the other end of the spectrum is Ghost Lab.  The level of scientific scrutiny is both respectful and refreshing.  This show has some of the most impressive technical equipment and knowledge of its application I have ever seen in paranormal reality television.  The team rolls on to location with a mobile analysis RV that would put any military recon mission to shame.  It’s akin to comparing Grant Wilson’s K-II meter to the Deflector Dish on the Enterprise.

What I find refreshing is that week after week you sit there excited to find absolutely zilch at the end of the episode most of the time.  A big criticism is that the show tries to be TAPS by going to all the places Jay and crew went before.  Again, that’s why I like it.  A fresh set of eyes with different equipment to duplicate, confirm, or debunk those who have come before.  A new perspective.

I wish these various paranormal teams would collaborate on a central show or other forum where all their evidence can be cross examined and cross referenced.  Perhaps then we might shed some light on the truth.  Honestly, if ALL groups (televised or not) would combine and share their data for the sake of science instead of their ego and fame it might serve the greater good.

Our television shows and the casts that populate them are like extended family.  Viewers have a strong kinship to people on a screen that they’ve never met, if ever.  We’re fans of one show or another because the people and places that we see each week are comfortable and engaging.  Whichever show you like, in the end it’s all entertainment.  That’s why it comes back season after season; if it stops being fun to watch it goes the way of Heroes.  If it inspires and motivates you to find the answers on your own, then great.  Don’t just take the word of the investigative team.  Look past the Hollywood hype and see the truth laying somewhere between the cracks.