Life After Death

Guru Meher in Takoma Park winter, 2010

It has been a year since my youngest son decided his time here on Earth was truly done.

How can a son tell his parents and family he is leaving??? How could he possibly know how to share that he was only incarnated here to teach us about love?

And he chose me to be his Mom. I guess he knew I would support him at his birth (where he almost died) and his death.

And now, I understand and have so much love, respect and gratitude for who he was and what he shared with all of us.
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The Chod Practice

pilgrimagesThe Tibetan people have thousands of years of spiritual knowledge that is available for the opportunity to awaken.

I was blessed in my Tibetan shamanic studies to have learned the ancient practice of chod.

There was a holy woman named Machig Lopdron who lived in Tibet. In her deepest meditative  initiation she encountered facing a part of her mind that held fear. This was manifested as a Naga ( snake spirit). In her awakend state she “fed” the snake demon her body as food, so the suffering spirit could be satisfied. In so doing, she allowed the Naga to gain merit and lessened the karma or pain of the spirit.
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The Vision Quest in Ireland

Rose at the clootie tree

Rose at the clootie tree

For most people, there comes a time in their life when deep transitions are happening, uncertainty is around the corner and times when nothing makes sense.

Nowadays, most folks choose Prozac, weed, sex or some other exciting thing that can distract them from what is really going on inside.

Fifteen years ago when the life I knew was dissolving before me I was praying non-stop for guidance and support of where to go and what to do.

I went to see an old man who was a healer. He knew nothing about me. He looked at my palms and said, “You are a shaman.  In a past life, you were an oak tree . Then I started crying as my body trembled,  feeling the words were so true but I did not understand how or why. He said, “Trees are unconditional love . Find your forest.”

Then I moved to Takoma Park where it is also called, “Tree City.” It is here that I have planted my roots for my healing center, and a home  for my family.

After turning fifty I decided to go back to the land of my ancestors, Ireland. It was on that Emerald Isle that I found my true ancestors, the oak trees, during my Vision Quest. I would like to share what happened there.

My brother, Andrew, lead a small group of pilgrims to Ireland in 2007. That year had been a tough one for me. My youngest struggling with alcoholism and I was ending a long relationship that had taken the life out of me, so to speak.

I had done Vision Quests before but never one on land that was so alive and full of the energy of the Goddess.

I am sighing right now as I am writing this, remembering how raw I was once I got there. It all settled in my womb, where I started bleeding, after almost a year of not. It felt like my womb was crying, shedding her deepest sorrows. I felt I was circling downward into Her womb of dark, wet wisdom.

I had never experienced that power of connecting to my ancestors like this. I brought my pain of the struggle with my son to the land and She understood. I brought my heart filled with scars of disappointment and shame and She opened me up ever so gently and simply said in Her sweetest whisper…” You are worthy of so much more.”

Never before had I felt so at home. The green of the trees and the sound of the wind brought me to a place of peace I had longed for my whole life.

Wicklow mountains are the home for Glendalough, a spiritual sanctuary where St. Kevin lived among all the animals and nature spirits. It was on this land where Andrew prayed us out for a day of silence and healing. A gentle Vision Quest.

It was early and there was a gentle rain upon me as I walked to the west. My whole being was seeking comfort and shelter. I was drawn up the mountain and the voice of the Grandfather Oak offered His shelter to me. It was here that I made my sacred circle and settled in for the day.

I slept, prayed, and slept some more. When sleeping I had many dreams and visitations from the spirits on the land. I offered tobacco, lavender and prayed with my sacred Ireland Pipe.

As I continued to be in the deep silence, with the Trees and all the loving energy of the land I had a simple vision. As I looked up, there kept being this circle of light that was being help by the leaves of the trees. As the wind gently blew, this circle pulsated and was totally alive with healing energy.

As I allowed myself to merge  with this circle, I could feel a knowing flowing into me. A knowing that I was part of a greater whole. I realized the circle is life, is myself, is love and all there is.

The rest of my time there continued to unfold with magic, grace and wonderment.

After my experience on this Quest, I have had the freedom from loneliness and despair.

And I also know that a Vision Quest does not need to be about suffering. It is about getting quiet enough with all the distraction of life to be able to listen with my eye, ears and heart.

For the land and all Her glory, and Grandfather Oak.

I am forever grateful.

The Sacred Sundance

Eleven years ago I was blasted out of Virginia with the split up of a 25 years old marriage and landed in sweet Takoma Park Md. My life was out of control, shredded and I felt I was hanging on by a thin thread.

I never thought I would be a single Mom again ( first son and now the third), but there I was. In my new found spiritual path of Earth spirituality, I was part of a Lodge community and the water pourer was a Sundancer on Rosebud, SD. I found myself going there to support her and she never made it. But I was there with a small group of friends, including my middle son, Parmatma, who was one of the main fire tenders. I ended up massaging one of the elders and when she heard my story she said I HAD to go to the Chief and ask to dance. I really did not think this was possible, but when he heard my husband had left me he knew I needed spiritual help, and said I could dance. I did dance, one day.

That year I began to learn the power of the Pipe, and forgiveness. On the end of that day I felt so much anger releasing from my heart. All the pain I had carried about my husband not loving me and wanting to be with other women. The tears, prayers and support from the holy circle gave me an opportunity for deep, deep healing of my wounded heart.

To Sundance you make a commitment for four years and then you have to show up and be willing to sacrifice and pray for the people. I had been on the dharma path for most of my life but I was not ready for the intensity of this experience.

For the first four days you prepare by doing Lodges and getting your spiritual things ready for the dance. You also help with setting up the camp and whatever else is needed to serve. The day before the dance you go and get the tree. The tree is sacred in the Ceremony as it represents the Tree of Life and is a portal for the spirits to move up from the earth to the heavens. It is the focal point of the dance and we see it as a symbol of the Creator. It is brought into the Sundance grounds with so much respect and love. Then, all the people place their prayer ties on the tree. The sweet smell of tobacco is so powerful!

Then the dancers begin their fasting, as soon as the tree is up. We do not drink or touch water for four days and fast from food ( unless you need to eat something light at night for your health). It is always a personal choice, but whatever you make a commitment to do, you walk it. For all four days we rise at 4am to Lodge and get ready to enter the arbor as the sun rises from the East Gate. This is the Guardian of re-birth. There are so many helpers too. The fire tenders are the bomb!!They are working so hard to keep the fire going all four days, with lots of lodges and smudging.

Then there are the drummers and singers. They keep us dancing and singing. The songs are all prayers and so beautiful. I loved feeling my feet touch the earth and the energy that would come into my being. The songs….it’s hard to describe. They are pure spirit and to this day, pierce my heart.

The Sacred Drum

The first year I was kind of in shock by it all and I have to say, it got me through the year. As the years went by my relationship with my Pipe became so beautiful. All I can say is the dance humbled me. I would be so thirsty, tired and when I would pray for my children or someone back home who were sick I would get the energy to dance.

Every year by the fourth day I would be in such an altered state I felt God’s presence with me every moment. The pipe was always in my left hand feeding my heart. And the tree was there as a reminder of all that is sacred and good. Of all the love that is always available if I only open to it. A few times at the end I had an experience of feeling the oneness of us all. That I was part of a bigger whole. That we are truly all related. I would be smiling through my tears as I sang with the drummers to Tunkashila.

And for some who may not understand this, sometimes I pierced for my relatives. I never thought I would do this but when I was there the spirits told me to. I did it as a spiritual give-away. I felt my prayers were being heard and it made me feel like it would help me get through the year back home and give me strength as a single Mom. It did and more.

At the end of the dance there would always be a big give-away and feast. This was a time of celebration and gratitude. The Lakota people have taught me so much about myself. In the mist of the dance I made two 4 year commitment, fell in love with the only African who danced there ( Tieku, known as Fred), and got adopted by Jean Last Horse. She gave me the name, Tanampe Wakan Wi which means Sacred Hand Woman, for my healing abilities.

After the last dance I knew it was over as I was moving on a different path with my studies with Rinpoche and a reconnection to yoga and meditation. The Pipe and Ceremony continues to be a spiritual way for me. I offer Pipe Ceremonies here as a service to the community and will always teach the ways of the Pipe to anyone who comes with a good heart. The Sundance is a ceremony that occurs in the summer all over the world, but mostly in the US and Canada with the Native tribes.

As a white girl with Irish heritage, I somehow was blessed enough to find a Sundance community that was open to all nations. My gratitude to  the  Sundance ( I am honoring their privacy by not mentioning their names),  for all their give-away and supporting me those eight years. With deepest gratitude, All My Relations

The Lake of Forgiveness

 My First Trip To Ireland

When I turned 50 all I knew is that I was walking towards something that was new, fresh and exciting. I had always wanted to go to Ireland and was just waiting for the perfect time, place and folks to go with.

Then, in a Celtic shamanism training I met Andrew. We became friends, ended up teaching together, and was taking a small group on a pilgrimage to the land of my ancestors. I was so excited!!

I have two dear friends who also teach polarity therapy who live in Cork. I wanted to go a week early, visit them and get to see Cork, since this was where my ancestor, John O’Leonard, sailed to American and settled in Easton, Md., during the potato famine.

A few days before I left I had just ended a long love relationship and was really arriving with much pain, and sorrow in my heart.
Interesting, that the day I arrived I started bleeding. It had been the first time in a year. Needless to say, I did not expect this and it was almost like my womb was letting go…was dying.

The last day I was in Cork my friends took me on a lovely ride trough the hills with all the lavender. OMG!! What beauty!I could almost see my ancestors walking the hills.

We came across a grotto of Mary and there was a sign for this special lake below us.

Many years ago a woman had been drowned in the lake. The story went, that she was thought to have been a witch, so they drowned her.
We both knew that at that time, many who were in the healing arts ( herbalist, midwives, etc), where treated this way.For me, being a healer, it felt like we had been guided to this place.

So, we walked down the winding path, between the lavender and the incredibly green of the hills and came upon the most amazing glazier lake.
It was totally still. Deep, with a crystal clear reflection of the sky.

I sat for a long time, thinking of the woman whose life ended here, wondering all the questions about what really happened and what she must have felt like. The betrayal, the terror and the final moment, the last breath.

Then, I started to feel the presence of her.

I stood up, and made an offering of tobacco and lavender. In my silence I simply listened to what she could offer me at the place I was.
She whispered to me….” Rose, this is the Lake of Forgiveness.”

I will never forget her.

I am enclosing some picture of this magical place.

From my heart to yours.

The Lake of Forgiveness

The Pipe Ceremony

Many years ago I was gifted a Sacred Pipe (Chanupa) for helping to build a Sweat Lodge for a community in Virginia. I knew this was a very sacred act of honoring someone and to be quite honest, I had no idea at the time what to do with it.

So, I wrapped it up and it sat in my closet for quite a few years until my first Medicine teacher came to town to teach a weekend on The Medicine Wheel. The brother who had gifted me with the pipe said, hey Rose, you need to get this “awakened.” So I did.

Little did I know that she would use this opportunity to teach me and the entire group about the Pipe.

In the Medicine Wheel, which is one of the most ancient forms of divination and healing, the North is the direction of Transformation  ( I will write a whole piece on the Medicine Wheel later). In the North is where we connect to Spirit and Wisdom.  It is here, the earth element, where we find our deep roots to our ansestors. It is here in this place that we remember to pray.

Many years ago when the people where suffering ( like NOW), two men were out hunting. They saw a woman dressed all in white approaching them. She asked these warriors to go back to the people and prepare the tribe, for she had a gift to share. These men knew she was sacred ( wakan) and someone of power.

When she came, she  shared with the people the sacred Pipe. She said that if the people prayed and used the Pipe for healing, the people would heal and live.

When you open the bundle, there is a stem and a bowl. The stem represents the male energy of the Creator and the bowl is the sacred feminine. When they come together, they create the energy of the Universe and Sacred Union.

When she left, leaving the bundle with the people, she walked to the North and before their eyes, she changed into a White Buffalo and then a White Buffalo Calf, thus giving her the name, ” The White Buffalo Calf Woman.”

So, back to my story.

So after the workshop, my life continues to shift and change as my 25 yr. marraige ended and suddenly, I was a single Mom, heartbroken and broke.

I ended up moving from Virginia to Maryland , so my private practice slowly ended.

I found myself meeting the dark night of the soul. And, I heard a voice that said, ” Take out the Pipe.”

For months I sat with it, prayed and kept the bundle next to me as I slept, esp. the nights I cried myself to sleep with heartache, worry and grief.

The Pipe brought me solice. I could feel healing around me.

I was being guided by the spirit of the Pipe.

The main message I kept getting was….forgive.

Then, that summer, I went out to South Dakota to support a friend who was Sundancing and the elders asked me to dance for my life and my son.

THAT was when I REALLY started to understand the spiritual power of the Pipe ( chanupa).

That first year I Sundanced I had a breakthrough. I started to see with my whole being, that if I surrendered and truely opened my heart and prayed for others, that I learned so much about myself. That most of my suffering was a perception of my own issues. The more I let go and forgave myself and others, the closer I came to my own happiness.

I ended up Sundancing for eight years. And then I knew it was over.

I will tell my entire Sundance story later.

The Pipe has become a close allie to me and I have shared and taught it’s wisdom for many years.

After 9/11 I had a Pipe Ceremnoy here every Monday night for 2 years as a service to the community.

Then, after Katrina, I started them again once a month and we continue to have them here upon request and also for special occations.

I would like to thank Grandmother Lillian Pitawaniquat from the Ojibwa nation, for her teachings on the Pipe. She helped me to see on a deeper level the divine feminine and the energy of the Mother in the Ceremony itself. To see the Pipe an an inclusive energy , for all our relations.

My deepest gratitude for the Lakota people, and all those who perform and are part of the sacred ceremonys in the Native American traditions.

All My Relations!

( which means, we are all connected!!!)

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