“Reminder to everyone that ‘your best’ doesn’t mean pushing yourself to your breaking point. ‘Your best’ means the best you can do while being the best you. Get enough sleep, give yourself breaks, listen to your limits. ‘Your best is better when you’re happy and healthy.”
In the last article for Pagan Pages Magazine, I wrote about the Maya Prophecy of the Fifth World and the new spiritual energy we have been living in since 2012 “where we are being asked to raise our consciousness and step into a new kind of balance with the cosmos and the Earth.” (Engrácio, Pagan Pages, May 2019) Recently, I’ve noticed a fairly radical shift in my own spiritual journey that’s impacting the way I live my life more positively. I’ve been practicing slowing down to turtle pace and using this powerful prehistoric totem to guide me.
In my life, my body has been one of the greatest teachers for how to live in balance. Recently, it has been forcing me to pace myself after a two-year period of autoimmune illness where I really didn’t have extra energy to burn. This meant that I had to become really aware of how much energy I had at any given moment and choose wisely how I spent that energy–if at all. This had its challenges, however, I realized that for the first time in my life, I understood what was driving the autoimmune illnesses in my life. Author Oriah House (Mountain Dreamer) summarizes the belief system that I discovered feeds into autoimmune illness: “I was taught to ‘go at’ things. Studying, working, writing, organizing, yard work, house cleaning, sewing, reading, praying, fasting: You name it, in my childhood anything worth doing was worth doing fast and going at it hard.” In shamanic medicine sickness, illness and disease are present first in the spiritual realm before manifesting in the physical body. So this means that the longer the imbalanced patterns are played out in the physical, more likelihood that the body will begin to show signs of wear and tear until a more serious ailment takes hold. Thankfully, I listened to this last big “knock” and so my body didn’t have to keep screaming at me in order for me to institute changes. The last two years, autoimmune illness gave me a gift of helping me to see everything I was missing by racing through life in order to accomplish goals and make my life count: I was losing quality of life, which cannot be found in pushing quantity.
One of the spirit animals I’ve worked with for about a decade now is a sea turtle. This wise ancient animal made it possible for me to keep up my physical exercise the last two years by shifting me into the element of water. Every time I tried to work out on land, I was exhausted for days and spent hours sleeping to recover my energy. I noticed that this didn’t happen during my early morning swims. In fact, I gained energy and had no body pain after my aquatic sessions. Every morning, I put my fins on and shapeshifted into a dolphin, a whale, or a turtle with a prayer they would show me how to heal my body; this strategy worked. I noticed how effortless, dreamy, fluid, and meditative my workouts became. Most of all, I was further honing the law of putting in minimum effort to gain maximum efficiency; I was learning to conserve energy by just putting the right amount into completing a task. Sometimes this called for creative solutions so I could maintain integrity with what my body was telling me. For example, if someone came into my swimming lane that swam faster than me, I didn’t increase my speed to “keep up,” but rather doubled back so I could keep swimming at my own pace while staying out of the faster swimmers’ way. I imagined the pain, tension, and illness in my body being transmuted by the salt water and asked my spirit guides to cleanse those waters of anything that could harm others.
When I reflected back at how I was in my naturalness in my early childhood, BEing was a state that I was in all the time. I knew this state intimately. In fact, I sought out wholeness by going into nature for extended periods of time: watching ants march back and forth to their nests, timing how long it took a slug to make it from one end of my garden to another, and watching tall cedars sway in the wind for hours. When I entered school, I started to feel like I was losing control of my life and was often scolded for dreaming instead of DOing something productive. I started to conform and forget about that BEing state that got me into so much trouble–even though I knew intuitively how important it was to my feeling of well-being. I became so stressed out that by the time I was in grade four, I started losing my hair and was diagnosed with alopecia (an autoimmune illness). At that young age, I had already developed the pattern of just “going at” things hard until I crashed physically.
As an educator for twenty years, I love the message in the article “Let’s Stop Stealing Time from Our Children” and have found it to be really wise advice that goes a long way towards valuing how children develop and what they need to be healthy: mind, body, heart, and spirit. We don’t have to worry that children won’t learn, we just have to create conditions where they keep learning in healthy ways. Creating emotionally safe, developmentally appropriate environments where children have time to explore their inner worlds in natural spaces is essential if we are going to turn back the tide on this frantic pace of living we’ve created in our society. I’ve watched a worrying trend in education since I began teaching that puts a lot more pressure on young children to perform academically in ways that they simply are not developmentally and neurologically designed to achieve at those ages. For example, neuroscientists know that the human brain is not ready to engage in reading until around the ages of seven to ten years old. And yet, we have been creating curriculum goals forcing teachers to ensure that preschoolers and primary aged children know how to read before they hit this neurological age bracket. Not surprisingly it’s the kindergarten teachers who have pushed back hardest against this policy: “[T]hey were unanimous and unwavering [in advocating for] play time and rest.” I’ve seen more depressed and stressed primary aged children in recent years than I used to see as a beginning teacher and that worries me. As I advocate for the rights of children, I also find myself parenting my own inner child in gentler, kinder and more loving ways.
As an adult seeing these harmful patterns in a different light, I started to apply these turtle lessons in the pool to my land-based life. I scrutinized everything I was putting my energy into and consulted with my High Self in ceremony to see what was essential and what was not. I took action by cutting way back on volunteer projects, disengaging from relational conflicts that could not be resolved at present, and anything that didn’t feed by passions. I started to bring into my world things I enjoyed doing that served no purpose except to bring me pleasure (i.e. knitting, sitting in my garden with a cup of coffee watching the birds, playing ukulele, watching films). I discovered that what Prentis Hemphill says is really true and kind: “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” Saying no to some things allowed me to say yes to myself and to my health. Although some folks might have been disappointed with some of my decisions to remove my energy from certain situations, the higher perspective I received from Spirit assured me that life will go on with or without my presence and this was a freeing thought. I hope I am becoming a role model by making the shift inside myself that children can see and emulate.
I don’t know where this journey will lead me, but I do know that I can no longer go back to measuring my success by how much I get done or produce. I am feeling so much better today after all the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical healing work I’ve done. And I have to say that I didn’t do this alone; I enrolled the help of friends with a healing background to support me, I hired help to clean my house when I needed that, and I worked with medical professionals who have respect for spiritual practices. I am so grateful for the whole journey and I am looking forward to the adventure my turtle is leading me on step by slow step. If you are feeling burnt out, I encourage you to begin looking inside to see the patterns that need to change in your life. What will you give your energy to? What will you stop giving your energy to? Who can you enroll to support the changes you need to make to come back to a state of internal balance?
article: Living in the Fifth World Prophecy
“Leap of Faith” art by Lucy Campbell
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”
For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com