“Love is the only emotion that expands intelligence.”
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.
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article: Mr. Roger’s Message of Love
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”
For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com