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If you are just joining me in these posts you can catch up on the chapter-by-chapter book review of Awakening to the spirit world through these posts:

Chapter 9: Death as a Rite of Passage

Be welcome to what most feel is an unwelcome topic of conversation: Death. There are obvious reasons for the discomfort, namely that the majority of people fear death!

Awakening to Shamanism, the Path of Direct Revelation continues to surprise me with each chapter. There is an intent to shift the vibration upward but the author and joined voices of Modern Shamanism do not spare us the darkness in the retelling of their practice. I think that needs some explanation but Alberto Villoldo illustrates this “darkness” it well in the first few pages,

“In the West, we no longer remember how to die with grace and dignity. We shuttle the dying off to hospitals where death is considered a disease and extraordinary measures are taken to prolong life at all costs. Families do not know how to come to closure with the passing of a loved one. Many people die in fear, with unresolved issues, not having said the “I love you’s and “I forgive you”s that would be so healing for them and their families. We have tried to make death invisible; we think that if we ignore it long enough, it will go away.”

Sandra Ingerman writes,

“When someone starts to speak about impending death, the usual social response is, “Don’t talk like that, you are going to get well and you will be back on our feet before you know it.” Yet we are all going to go through the death experience sooner or later.

Denial that a big change is coming, and that this change is inevitable, blocks understanding. It also blocks true loving and supportive communication on all sides. As a result, many people die in a state of acute fear and anxiety, while their families and doctors try to hold them here for as long as possible.”

~Pgs. 180-181, Awakening to Shamansim

We have a wealth of spiritual and cultural traditions all over the world who speak of an afterlife among spirits of friends, family, and even deities. There are stories throughout time of near death experiences, visitations by those who have passed and encounters with other  entities from places beyond our sight. It’s strange to me that we have built a culture of horror around the passage from this life into the other world(s).

Personally I have had more encounters than I can count in a moment. I would have to take my time perusing journals and memories to pull every thread together, weaving for you the blanket of my, and my families, experiences with “the dead”.  A few come to mind…

I have written about my great Aunt Joyce a few times, she had a great and lasting impression on my life, shaping much of my childhood as the one constant figure who was there for me. I love my mother, she was there, sometimes she wasn’t, but our Aunt Joyce would always step in and take care of us.

When Aunt Joyce passed the family collapsed.

Days leading up to her funeral turned to the moment when friends and family gathered at the Chapel near the foot of the Mission Hills. We came together in solemn and then teary remembrance, and with the Priest in charge of ceremonies we laughed, we cried, and then as entertaining priest began the Rosary a funny thing happened.

A light appeared behind the priest in the shape of a robed woman, crown ablaze with rings of light, hands folded in another nimbus of prayer. As I stared at her, this luminous being behind the prayers, feeling like a grain of sand to the sea, I heard my sister ask, “Who is that lady?”

When my sister spoke between my mother and me, we both turned from looking at the vision to stare at my sister, we had all seen her!

Our family has many such stories, I think coming from the South, my mother’s family had a way with connections, ours I think is spirits in one degree or another. I don’t claim to be a “Ghost Whisperer” but I have had my moments and time to think about a lot of these things, namely my own fear of death.

For a few years my thought was, if I am having this experience that tells me that we continue on after this life as we know it, why do I fear it? Really, it’s kind of silly.

I find that in the last year my perspective is changing. I’m in no hurry to leave / die, in fact I’d like to live a long and healthy life and end up on the Today’s Show, Smucker Jar as a Centennial. Here’s hopes for being upwardly mobile until my twilight years!

The rest of this chapter focuses on the aspects of transition, Death as a Rite of Passage:

  • The Life and Death Cycle
  • Stages of the Death Experience
  • The Bardos: The After-Death Realms in The Middle Worlds of Spirit
  • Maps to the Landscape Beyond Death
  • Psychopomp Work (this is an illustration, there is no way (stated) that the reader should attempt this work without advanced work).

The next chapter focuses more on this subject and I look forward to reading it. This is a singular issue that we will all face in various forms, from the passing of loved ones and eventually our own journey into otherness. It is vital that we learn to understand our relationships in life, and just as vital that we learn to accept with grace our eventual portal into the afterlife.

– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith

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If you are just joining me in these posts you can catch up on the chapter-by-chapter book review of Awakening to the spirit world through these posts:

Chapter 8: Working with Sound and Light

Welcome back. First I want to say that I did finish the project from Chapter 6, Dreaming: The Dream Circle. It is a painting, created to safely access the World of Dream. It was a work in progress and I will post a few photos this weekend so that you can get a better look at it. The Dream Circle will be part of the evolving body of work that I had planned for the collaborative show in August… which is “evolving” on its own and becoming a bit more than I had anticipated. Anyway, as I said, details are to come.

This chapter is about Sound and Light. I assumed that sound would come along eventually as sound, ceremony, and ritual are generally brought together for altering our state of consciousness, bringing people together into a group mind or energy field, and to call in the helping forces and spirits that one wold need. These are a few of the ways in which sound compliments healing or magickal work.

The chapter begins with historical and cultural stories of first sounds and sound healing deities and then moves into topics like:

  • Drumming and Healing
  • Gods of the Harp
  • Power Songs, and finding your power song
  • Singing and Healing Patterns

Tom Cowan, in the Gods of the Harp part, writes:

“This is keeping with other cultures that we see the universe as something vibrational or something created by a voice, song or sacred word.

In an old Irish myth, the goddess Boann (later her name become Boyne, on of Ireland’s sacred rivers) gives birth to three sons who become harpers. As each son is born, Boann’s husband, Uainthe, plays music on his harp to accompany her experience. The first birth is difficult, so he plays a lament or song of sorrow; the second birth is joyful because she realizes she is having another child, so he plays a happy tune; and she falls asleep during the third delivery because she is tired, so he plays a lullaby. When the boys become harpers, each specializes in the type of music he heard when he came into the world. I think of them as the gods of the harp.

(Later) …A simple way to  use this matrix for healing is to hum these three strains of music for someone as a kind of prayer. Visualize the person in distress or pain and hum a low tone, then watch the person’s face begin to smile as youmove up a couple of notes on the scale, then see the person in total peace as you move the hum up a coupel more notes (C, E, and G work well). This can be done in one slow breath as you exhale. Then keep repeating this as a kind of breathing-humming meditaiton for several minutes in which ou send out healing with your breaths and intentions. Not surprisingly, you’ll find that this brings you too into a wonderful state of peace”

~Tom Cowan, Awakening to Shamanism, Pgs 162-163

Although I personally find the harp relaxing, I find the toning to be an interesting of simple sound therapy. I don’t know much about toning or sound therapy as a medium for healing, I have benefited from experience.

My friend Jamie Bechtold is a great Sound Therapist and recently performed at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, during the Autumn, Spring, and Summer Equinox’s. Three powerful planetary gongs accompanied by four crystal singing bowls, and two sound healers. Phenomenal!

I attended the Spring Equinox Sound Bath among revelers, and friends old and new. Initially the sound was overwhelming. I don’t to say it was scary or distracting but the power of the gongs and bowls are overwhelming. It is a “bath” of sound. The beat, pulse, and vibration took me deep, and then into a state of release, before brining me back to (that moments’) present. The only other time I can think that I have experienced something like this was with drumming.

Back in 199*mumble* I attended a small circle in San Francisco. We all had various instruments and I, a small hand held drum. I was nervous about the chanting and drumming because I am a perfectionist about certain things and I didn’t feel that my voice was very harmonious… and I think the last time I had played on a drum, I was five. Irregardless I joined along with the drumming, and kept my chanting to myself. Somewhere in the rhythm we were generating, us four, I got lost. I’m not sure where but I had one of these fall into the ecstatic states. I can recall plains tribes, being an old woman with a long life and a deep sorrow, singing a song for those who had passed.

No wait, I did sing it. I not only sang it but I took the lead in the circle and sort of dominated it with this painful song. I was a little embarrassed but the people I was drumming with, after a moment of shock (which makes me laugh at this point) were pretty supportive.

Sound has a profound and amazing effect on many things, not just me. 🙂

This section continues into something entirely interesting, which I want to call weaving tapestries of sound and light, but it isn’t really an exercise. There are exercises in the chapter to explore the world of sound in making song and working with the “song” of things. One exercise helps us to find the song of a plant. Jose Stevens worked with the Shipibo and their use of healing through song. This is where I draw the feeling of tapestries of sound and light.

“According to the Shipibo, everyone has a song, everyone can sing, and Spirit gives  everyone song upon request. All that matters is that you are willing to sing.”

~Page 166

You’ll need to pick up a copy for his full telling of the Shipibo’s use of song in mystical work, it’s fascinating stuff!

Though you may  not sing or use song in your work, you can use music to find altered states, to accompany your journey. There are albums created for healing, dream, and shamanic work (and more) that you can find to work with. These may or may not be healing songs, but they can provide stepping stones into the world of sound and singing.

(Dead Can Dance is one group of artists that can quickly take me into altered states and I often use them for meditation, sessions, and magickal work).

Personally I recommend finding a rattle, drum, or other hand held instrument that you can use at home. Try some rhythms, find what feels right. It shouldn’t be complex. State your intent and begin to make music with the intent as the meaning of the sound. When you are comfortable with that level of work, trying sining along. It may or may not have words that make sense, it doesn’t need to vocally make “sense”. In moments I’ve found that just singing the language that comes to me can be a powerful thing in cleansing the house, calling in helpful spirits, or vibrating the energy that we wish to bring into the space we are working in.

The later part of the chapter begins to focus on light. Not the light of the Sun, or color therapy, but the light of spirit, the white light, and the light of our spirits.

  • Working With Stones of Light
  • Working With Light
  • Exercise: Transfiguration
  • The Human Spirit
  • Maintaining A Spiritual State
  • A Journey To A Descendant

If you are reading along and you have or are working with the “Transfiguration” exercise I would love to hear about your experience(s). This process involves using the Light to shift, or transform parts of self, illness, or thoughts (for example) into lighter forms of being. Imagine shifting a stagnant form that you find within your journey work that is stuck in pain, in the past, or in the type of darkness that does not serve us.

We’re coming into the three final chapters of Awakening to the Spirit World, The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation. As I wind down I’m going to begin to incorporate more of the experiences and lessons from The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft, Christopher Penczak, to continue the work.  I hope that you will join me.

Until then, enjoy the Journey.

– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith

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Well I did it. Didn’t I? I made my own deadline and for that I give myself a pat on the back. Here’s my diddy. FYI there is a bit of what the chapter is about and a lot of my opinion here. So…

I read through the introduction and the first chapter of Awakening to the Spirit World: What is Shamanism?

After some discussion on earlier entries here at Lifencompass, I found that much of the tit-for-tat on defining a shaman in earlier posts, addressed in the first chapter of the book, namely the origin of the Shaman, the comparable practice of native/cultural “Shamans”, and the modern amalgamation of earth based practices from tribal cultures; where those who have gone before and the authors derive the Modern Shamanic Movement.

“The word ‘Shaman’ comes from the language of the Evenki peoples, a Tungusic tribe in Siberia. This is a word whose meaning has to do with esoteric knowledge and extraordinary spiritual abilities and as such a Shaman is often defined as an intermediary between the human and the spirit worlds. In shamanic cultures,* the word ‘Shaman’ has come to mean ‘the one who sees in the dark’ or ‘the one who knows.”

The research from the various voices of the book comes from “fieldwork done among tribal peoples of Siberia, Asia, Africa, Australia, Greenland, from North, Central, and South America.” The authors draw commonalities in the practices of people who work with spirits. That said, the book is not a how to become a Shaman book, as Sandra Ingerman writes, the Shaman is chosen. It is however a guide to integrating the common practices into your (the readers) life. Sandra Ingerman along with Hank Wesselman, weave together practices and voices from various contributors including: Tom CowanCarol Proudfoot -EdgarJose Luis Stevens, PhD, and Alberto Villoldo, PhD.

In addition to a discussion on visionaries, and the Shadow Side of Shamanism where we read about the uncommon values of practicing native medicine peoples. Those that seek power over others, those that seek gain, and finally those that serve the people. A guideposts of sorts directing the reader towards a self-less path of service versus monetary gain or dominion. Expanded states of awareness, the “technology” of the mystical path and where the tools are derived from lead us to the chapter’s end: Gratitude, Seeing, and Blessing.

I know a few  traditional teachers of Native Ancestry. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and listening to Kachinas Kutenia on several occasions, through Maria Yraceburu, a wonderful friend, spiritual functionary, and teacher. One of the things that Kachinas Kutenia said stuck with me and set me on a path of discovery, “before you learn my native ancestry, you should learn your own” and I, being a mutt in many senses I couldn’t pick a path based on that guidance chose many.

I’ve got a point. You know I do.

So I’m Italian, French, English, Haudenosaunee (Iriquios), possibly Irish and potentially Austrian, or more Italian, depending on who you ask. I’m half a mind to send in some of me and do the genetic tracing to see what exactly our ethnicity is, where we came from ultimately but that’s another story… If I were to pick a culture I’d have to say European with some First Peoples of North America. “European” as a descriptive is kind of generalized, there are many diverse people, and a lot of culture packed in there… history, and many tribal cultures with shared and  diverse practices.  For me to “learn my ancestry” in a tribal sense I have to go way back: pre-war, pre-church, back to Picts, and Gaul, Celtic, and possibly Scandinavian roots. And I suspect my family has been “mixed” for a long time, like many of us with European ancestry.

So what is my tribal culture? Who were my Shamans?

Eventually I turned to Witchcraft as a practice and Wicca when I was younger. I then read Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism. I followed a path into meditation, mixed and match various dogmatic and mystical approaches, and at some point I just said to myself, the real way is within. I have no one single tribe. I don’t know that I actually have any tribe to be honest. I’m “eclectic”, meaning I’ve found threads of what works and used them, combining my experience into what I do versus identifying with one way. Maybe I’m part of the Universal Tribe. 🙂

The conundrum at the time became owning my tribal culture because I’d have to smack myself if Capitalism and a two-party  government was my tribal identity!

No I didn’t really root in “gay” culture, or “alternative” culture, or even “drug” culture. It’s not that I haven’t had my connections to them but again, they weren’t me. They were phases of discovery, where I found more roots that lead deeper into me. In short, I couldn’t find my ancestral / tribal culture unless I went way back to early peoples. From this vantage point and moving forward I could, like these authors here in Awakening to the Spirit World, begin to thread together links, bridges, similarities.I get that this is my journey, my way of resetting myself and I’m grateful that I had so many diverse elders with me as I learned, grew and found parts of my long lost self.

Remembering me, this then is who I am, a threaded being. I who is woven of many practices, loomed together into a clashing tapestry of me.

In many sense that is what appeals to me about Awakening to the Spirit World. It isn’t one culture. It isn’t one practice from one specific peoples, to be done is such a way, at a certain time, when the stars are aligned just so. Pan-primeval spiritual practices brought forward with a message for those, I think, that need it the most: Fast food spiritual peoples, aka those that need to find a way within themselves. It’s not a judgement. I mean, if we need to be more aware of the planet and our place on it environmentally, psychologically, emotionally, and maybe even “spiritually” we need to turn to our earth based ways, but if we don’t have one. If we are tribe-less, or even, native confused, where do we go? Like me, we ask ourselves the question, who do we turn to?

The answer should be, someone who turns me inward towards myself, and through learning myself what the world is and all things that populate it, but that isn’t always the case now is it?

And why do we need to be so earthy-connected? I believe it is because we are natural beings. Whether you want to think we came from space or another dimension, I’m not contesting anything but the fact that we are here now on this planet and to it we should be connected. We live here. We love here. We war, have sex, eat, give birth, and die here (not necessarily in that order but note that the death is our shared exit and one way or another you pass through that doorway).

I believe that through our actions, what we eat, where we get our food from, what we buy, who we buy it from, how we interact with each other and the planet are all telling signs of the vast disconnect that our species is suffering from. Not a disconnect from God in some bearded Yahweh, or any other deity, but from Gods, the enriching flavors of life only found with connection, naturally, to the world and all things of it.

An animistic invocation of the spirit of life, of all things, is necessary for our own self. I’m not saying in any specific way except finding life in your own life and connecting to it. Your plants, what you purchase, what you eat, you who love, and the complete strangers in your life; finding the bonding, intimate, flow of life that we modern people just tend to dismiss. Or when we do listen there is the dread that we will be dammed, or condemned… fearing that we can’t be our truly magickal selves because of who we love, or fear, or respect, and what they might think.

But if they love us, and we love them, then shouldn’t there be acceptance?

What happens if we get over griping about how ridiculous someone is about their choice to be conscious beings every day and instead spent that wasted energy on undermining a friends growth, we tried to be just as conscious in our little every day lives? When we clean, cook, talk, have sex, watch television, play games or just veg?

What Scott? What are you saying?!

We have a relationship with everything we interact with and a responsibility to be mindful of it.

Which brings me to the first three practices of the book, and why they are so important: Gratitude. Seeing. Blessing.

The Path of Shamanism Today

“At one time, the way of the Shaman was practiced exclusively by hunters and gatherers in order to find food and other resources for their tribal bands. They accomplished this by achieving an expanded state of awareness in which they could connect with the spirits of the animals that they needed to kill for meat and hides. Connecting with the spirits was about correct protocol – about getting permission to – and this always fell within the realm of the Shaman. In traditional cultures, they were often just a few people in the community who were able to step into the role of the Shaman to ask the transpersonal forces with whom they were in relationship for sustenance, support, guidance, and healing on behalf of others.”

The authors then speak of the Tools of the Visionary.


Coming from a place of thanks giving can be a glass-half-full mindset, but I think it works. We pave our path. If we come from a place of hunger, fear, and pain, we are hungry, fearful, and pained. When we practice gratitude we are correcting our point of view, getting in line with our inter-connectedness to all things. Opening our hearts.

The heart is the seat of alchemy, where we take in and give out through voice and touch along the avenue of our throat and our arms and hands. This then is the doing place because what we speak and hear and what we take in and then send out is corrective to our living environments.

It takes practice, I know, I need to practice as well, but practice isn’t not-doing. Practice is a meditation in doing where we are no longer rigid, we enter a posture of active participation. We never stop practicing because it isn’t trying it is a continual movement and if our hearts are in the right place the practicing becomes the method.


My friend Astrid once said, “The Seer is not afraid to see”. She was also found of the Blessing Way, healing, creation, harmony, and peace.

To practice gratitude we must be able to see who and what we are interacting with, without letting our psyche in the way. Rather we are directing our mind to perform in the  most compassionate way by interacting in a flexible approach. Leading our minds instead of our minds leading us. If we reject what we see because we fear, hate, disagree with it, we are no longer the seer. I’m not saying you can’t disagree, I am suggesting that you should learn to see the world regardless of your opinion.

When we observe from our opinion, rather then through our opinion we color the experience. We are no longer actively interacting with life. I believe we are then interacting with ourselves. This is not compassionate action. In order to give blessing, the next “tool”, we first must be able to set aside our opinion in order to serve in the correct way. A hallmark of the modern mystic, to give without taking. This is the way I believe the highest natural human calling is accomplished.

It’s the place where I feel the best when I do what I do. 🙂


To bless we need no more than our own divinity, which is our grateful spirit. We do not need gods or beings, which are avatars of greater values, movements, luminous aspects of universal powers, mythical power brought to life within us. We can call up on that connection to facilitate the blessing state but it isn’t necessary.

And blessings, what sort of blessings are we passing into the skin, the food, the family?

Within the realm of all that’s been said, I think what we are blessing with is the spirit of Life. The Life Force Energy. An uplifting of the living spirit shared with all things. The power that connects us in love, at supper, over wine. When we bless with this grace, a sentiment of gratitude, we are empowering the spirit that infuses all things.

Being grateful, seeing and so interacting with all our connections, and completing the circle of these living tools by providing a heart-felt thank you. This provides the blessing that is needed each day.


I’ve spent the longer parts of the last two days attempting to finish this post. In that time I have been “interrupted” many times over. In those breaks I found the demonstration of the above listed “tools”.

To be present, to show my thanks, and to give back by letting go of my drive to press all this to the Journey, and write a post.

I’m moving on to chapter two, The Shamanic Journey, which will be posted next Tuesday. I hope you will continue along with me in  my chapter-by-chapter review of Awakening to the Spirit World, the Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation.

I hope this finds you well.

– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith

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