Teaching from the Ashes

Its official: as of Sunday afternoon I’m faculty for the Foundation for Shamanic Studies ( FSS – shamanism.org ). Web bio as evidence of said position found here. The business cards arrived on Saturday, I’ll be marketing t-shirts sometime next week for the movie I hope to release this Christmas (just kidding.)

I never expected to find myself here – teaching. My brother is a teacher, my sister was, as were my father and his father. The serious people in my family, the ones who lead rational lives and collect Phd’s are the teachers, not the ones like me and my Mom, who spent more time taking dance classes than doing homework.IMG_7105
At my Dad’s memorial service a little over a year ago, I learned that his father found his true calling as a high school shop teacher after having graduated with a degree in mathematics during the Great Depression. Then, even before the Depression, it would have been hard for the son of Irish immigrants to find a job teaching in higher education. Misfortune was his stepping stone to success. He loved teaching high school students, it ignited a passion in him.
I thought the deadline to teach for the FSS had already passed when I submitted my request. I was excited when I first heard about their new push for more teachers but I thought – “there are so many great practitioners in my area, why teach?” That was before I heard a remarkable woman speak while my wife and I were training to become foster parents.
She had lost her own children to Child Protective Services (CPS). Whenever the court takes children from parents they provide a clear set of steps the parents need to go through to get their children back. Those steps are designed to require the parents to confront and change the behavior that endangered the child to begin with. Many people don’t even try to climb that mountain of recovery and transformation, this woman climbed it and returned to share her hard won knowledge with others.
Her children are now grown, facing their own challenges, and thriving in their own ways. She heads up several organizations that help parents, especially Mothers, become the parents they need to be. Now when a Mother in Monterey County loses a child to CPS, this woman, or another woman who works for her, is waiting at the court house. These women will not have to climb alone. Thats important because really, its all about the climb.
She taught out of her own difficult experiences. Sharing with others brought her into deeper awareness of the essential part of herself that carried her to the top of her mountain. She taught from the ashes of her own transformative fire. When I heard her speak I thought to myself – thats a reason to teach: to help others to heal and grow, to help others save lives, starting with their own.
There are many critiques of shamanism floating around ranging from skeptics, to cultural emperors, to competing spiritual franchises. Some would have us believe shamanism is all in our heads, others that it only belongs to a few, still others that it should be off limits to us because we’re not indigenous enough to this planet we all share. I’m teaching because I’ve been shown things that save lives, grow families, and help us become more rooted in the earth. I’m teaching because this work gave me the life I have today.
The speaker that night has not stopped climbing mountains, she continues to heal and grow. All the best teachers are like that, they never stop learning. If they arrive somewhere they use it as a jumping off point into a deeper exploration of what they’re passionate about. We are shop teachers, imperfect Mothers, college professors, dancers, explorers. We teach from the ashes of yesterdays suffering.
I’ll be offering my first class – the FSS Basic Workshop, The Way of the Shaman – January 21st & 22nd in North Monterey County. Click the workshop tab if you’re interested in coming. Good luck in your climb.

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