The Art of Healing

…or: From Broken to Beautiful

This entry was sparked by a series of discussions I had recently about mastectomy recovery tattoos. (It might be useful at this point to note that breast cancer and mastectomy are not my direct experience, only observations. And I love tattoos.)

For women recovering from breast cancer treatments and surgery, it is an incredible step in their healing process to reclaim the territory. I know an amazing tattoo artist, Vyvyn Lazonga in Seattle, who does some of this work. Working over scar tissue presents a special set of difficulties for the artist, because it moves differently and takes ink differently, but she revels in the opportunity to do this work (and gives seminars to other tattoo artists who want to as well) because it has such a strong purpose and satisfaction for her to help women reclaim their bodies from the physical trauma and emotional impact of the events, and to help them heal and move through. I observe that even women who don’t choose to get a tattoo can be buoyed and supported by seeing that others can and do; watching others succeed is uplifting if we allow it to be.

The conversations that brought me to this topic were about the ability – and the disappointing lack of ability – to share photos of these tattoos via social media. I found myself in a position to maybe help that change a little, and efforts are ongoing. I have nothing else to say about that, except to note that it is simply amazing to notice the moment when questions and answers intersect and we find the connections between challenges and solutions. And I’m thankful for this moment!

A physical injury or illness can be dehumanizing with all the pragmatic talk of the body and its function, examinations and treatments, and conversations that take no notice of the person in there. Emotional trauma for some people leads to simply withdrawing the self, or part of the self, from the experience of living through it. Then it’s easy to become the Victim, and for physical and emotional wellness to be dependent on other people’s (doctors’, companions’) actions. “I’d be better if they got my medications right….” A big part of healing involves reclaiming the Self from the trauma, re-writing the character in the story from Victim to Champion, returning to a sense of ownership of one’s own body and spirit. Until that is achieved, we are tossed around by life like a rowboat in the ocean, victim to changes in wind and tide and caught in the storms of our own and other people’s drama.

The Results!
These tattoos are the work of Vyvyn Lazonga, and the photos are used in this blog entry with her kind permission.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

Although it’s important to allow the surgeon and the radiologist and the other doctors to feel some ownership and responsibility for the work in progress for best success, once that work is done, ownership must be reclaimed.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

It’s no longer the dehumanized subject of laboratory results and doctors’ reports; it’s an empowered vehicle for moving Spirit through this world, this embodied experience, this life.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

It’s not the territory of the cancer, or the doctors, the paperwork, the medical bills, the pain, a prosthetic, an implant; it’s a splash of color, a celebration of victory, a work of art, and a thing of beauty.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

All of these tattoos are the work of Vyvyn Lazonga, and the photos are used in this blog entry with her kind permission. Thank you, Vyvyn. You’re amazing.

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An Unexpected Outcome

Lassen Summit Sunrise

“Exaggerated independence is one of the attitudes that isolates us and makes us ill. Healing can be a celebration of our connectedness and interdependence.”
Elliot Cowan, Plant Spirit Medicine

The connection between spiritual healing and physical healing is well-known and oft talked about in shamanic circles. Physical symptoms and illness are long-recognized as connected to emotional and spiritual imbalance. Even in Western medicine, “stress” is correlated to worsening or accelerating the progress of many illnesses. Because of this, many clients of shamanic practitioners seek and find improvement of their physical symptoms through the spiritual and emotional work that’s accomplished. (Of course, shamanic healing is not a replacement for the work of a physician if that’s what you need!)

But something happened for me recently that I wasn’t expecting, and as a little time has passed on it, I’ve found some interesting messages on what it’s about.

Many years ago now, I had a horseback riding accident in which I nearly broke my neck, and I’ve had many different therapies over the years: physical therapy immediately afterward, long-acting anesthetic injections to the site, chiropractic, acupuncture, Rolfing, the list goes on…. But the pain and limitations on motion and position from it persisted through the years: at times a little less, at times a little more, but always present. Then, last fall I met a woman who is a craniosacral practitioner, body worker and energy healer. I started to work with her a couple of months ago.

I am closer now to healing that original injury than I’ve ever been. That part wasn’t the surprise though. It’s awesome and wonderful, but not surprising.

Here’s what surprised me: during my most recent session with her, I had a lost soul part return. Based upon what I saw during the soul retrieval, the loss of that soul part had occurred well before the horseback riding accident, so it was really surprising to me that this direct physical healing work would lead to spiritual healing. At a later point in the same session, I found my head and neck moving in the exact same way that the original injury occurred, which was a welcome sense of actually tapping into and healing the original injury.

But it puzzled me that direct physical healing work could lead to soul retrieval. For healing work focused on an immediate injury or trauma, it would be less surprising; for a soul part lost in the injury itself, I absolutely would have expected it. For instance, I’m trained to always offer soul retrieval to someone who has been in a car accident; the abrupt and unexpected nature of a car accident is especially prone to causing a bit of the self to flee in shock. During my own healing work for others, I work on the spiritual and energetic levels for the most part. (To clarify, it comes through me; it’s not my work, but the work of Spirit through me.) This work is what I would call energy healing; I work in journeys and trance state to bring healing to the soul and to the etheric body.

I’m still a little boggled by this event, but here’s what I’ve come up with: finding that lost soul part, finding forgiveness and healing for myself and for the situations that led to the soul loss was the key to finally moving towards healing the neck injury, because it was part of the cause of the injury. As with all symptoms, it persisted and would persist until the root cause was resolved and remedied, until the message was heard and the lesson had been learned.

One of the messages that I received with the return of the soul part had to do with the feeling of needing to be independent, to do it all for myself in a time where I felt very unsupported – this self-reliance has sometimes been carried to extremes, where in an unbalanced mind-set I’d decide on a course and not pay attention to indications that it maybe wasn’t the best idea. An unbalanced mind-set and the will to charge ahead without accepting external input are not the safest ways to go about riding horses!

The importance of a soul retrieval is not why the soul part left, but what is returned along with it when it comes back. The message and gift of this healing was this: maintaining awareness to all inputs in a situation and staying present in the moment strengthens my connection to Source, to the energy of working together and to my own power, and allows the best outcome to happen naturally. I don’t need to do it all myself.

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Intro Workshop: two new dates!

2013-03-03 08.47.10
Shamanism and The Journey

Two new dates are offered: Sunday 5/19 10-3, El Granada, –CLASS FULL–
-and- Sunday 6/9 11-4, San Francisco, special co-taught session, $75-100 sliding

Curious about shamanism and want to know more? This workshop is for discovering what shamanism is about, and for learning to journey. Journeying is an altered state, which can be accessed by listening to drumming or other rhythmic percussion. It gives us the ability to receive direct guidance and healing, find answers, and release limiting beliefs. No prior experience is necessary to take this workshop.

During the workshop, we’ll spend some time talking about what shamanism is, and how it fits into today’s world. Then, you’ll dive right in and learn to journey. We could talk for days, but that’s not half as much fun as experiencing it for yourself. You will first journey to meet your Power Animal, and we’ll do a second journey as well, to be determined depending on the group. Some of the questions you have now, you’ll see they answer themselves – you will know you’re not making it up, and you will be able to practice on your own afterwards, should you choose to.

Bring a bag lunch, notebook, eye pillow or bandanna and a rattle if you have one.

Email to sign up and receive location information.

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It’s the Equinox!

Or: Musings on IntentionHere comes the sun!

I could say that the Vernal Equinox is an auspicious time to set an intention – it’s planting time! The time has arrived for preparing our garden soil and choosing the seeds to become this year’s harvest.

I could say that the waxing moon is an auspicious time to set an intention – the moon sets the example for us as it approaches full one week from today, filling and  growing as we desire to grow our goals and plans.

These are both nice ways of thinking about it, but the truth is this: the best time to set an intention is NOW! When I am truly ready, when you are truly ready, when we are truly ready to make a change or start something new, now is the best and only time to do it. But it’s more than just intention that drives our change and progress. Walt Kelly, cartoonist of the comic strip Pogo, said “It is not good enough for things to be planned – they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation.”  What are you willing to give in service of your intention? Is it energy, time, or money? Is it the uncomfortable act of putting yourself out there by applying for a new job or scheduling a workshop that maybe no one will attend? Is it the real possibility of pain?

I have recently been privileged to witness the power of a strong intention for healing: a friend injured himself quite drastically and has astounded pretty much everyone except himself with the speed of his (ongoing) recovery. The doctors and surgeons first told him he wouldn’t walk for 6 months, then 6 weeks…and then they handed him crutches, because there was no way they were going to keep him down any longer. This recovery cannot have been painless for him; physical therapy is definitely not comfortable! But this was the price he was willing to pay: he has participated in his recovery with his whole being, while simultaneously ignoring every single thought anyone might have had about limitations on the speed of his physical healing. This amazing rate of progress is fuelled by his strong intention to move through this setback and get back out there, his energy in pursuing a return to health and fitness, and his complete refusal to give in to the Story of Being Injured.

What are your intentions for this Now? What do you intend for your own personal self? What are you going to put out into the world? And what’s the next actual thing you can do, what action can you take to promote those intentions into manifested reality?

Happy Intention Setting! Happy Equinox, happy Ostara, happy waxing Moon, and go joyously forward with action now and in the times to come!

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Upcoming Events!

cropped Lassen flower

I’m pleased to announce Compost Mentis’ upcoming schedule.

Intro to Shamanism and the Journey
Sunday March 17th, Ione 11-4 and Sunday April 7th, Half Moon Bay 10-3

Curious about shamanism and want to know more? Spend a day learning what shamanism is about, and learn to journey for yourself!

For a more detailed class description visit

Friday March 22nd, Ione 7pm – Equinox Ceremony
This event is held in honor of the Vernal Equinox, which occurs on March 20th this year. This is the time to prepare our gardens and plant seeds, not just in the earth outside, but within our own selves. This evening, we’ll look forward to our new endeavors, set and strengthen our intentions for what we are bringing in to our lives, and direct our energies for the upcoming season of growth and change. We’ll create a despacho (message-offering) and have a fire ceremony.

Schedule information can always be found at

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Peas for All

Peas on Earth

It’s mid-February. The gardening itch is a full-blown, mind-bending obsession right now. I’m in a seed swap that’s just ordered seeds – I’m getting mugwort and sweet-peas, and I don’t know what I’ll get for swaps…so exciting! I went to the hardware store and bought two bare-root raspberry starts, and a second blueberry to plant with the first. And these little beauties are awake and are taking off in the new portion of the garden. They’re sugar-snap peas. I put their fence-trellis up just yesterday.

I did this last year also, overwintered snap peas in the garden for the earliest possible start. I’m not convinced it’s actually better in terms of yield, but it sure does give me an outlet for my hands, and an excuse to get dirt under my fingernails at the earliest possible opportunity. There are already ladybugs waking up out there, so I can also tell myself I’m giving them a place to hang out and get an early start on the aphids I know will be coming soon. Plus, I found a praying mantis egg case (see this post) in an area I was clearing of dead squash vines and I feel just fine about locating it at the base of the pea vines until it hatches in probably late March/early April.

But I am an impatient early spring gardener as well, and as I alluded to earlier, willing to do some experiments. I want to know which will yield better, so I also did this today:

Peas just beginning

Yup, I’m ambitious. I want more peas, please! Last year, I only got about 7 a day during peak production, and I want to improve. So I got a mini-greenhouse-thing, and started more peas, same kind as the others outside (Cascadia Sugar Snap). I also have spinach seeds soaking in water (Bloomsdale) that I’ll start later today. I’m really curious if I’ll be able to notice a difference between the ground-started, frost-tested plants that are 2 months or more older, and these greenhouse-started, same-seed-packet sister plants.

Anyone want to register a prediction??

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Spring is Coming


Today represents the midpoint between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox, also called a cross-quarter day. As a holiday, it’s known as Imbolc or Imbolg.

This is the real beginning of spring. Winter’s grip is loosening once again: the days are noticeably longer and the sun gains strength. Our California hills are green and new. Lambing season has begun. There’s a stirring in the blood and sap, we’re starting to awaken after the winter’s slow darkness.

I and other gardeners I know are starting to plan and get itchy fingers; we want to plant, but it’s not time yet. Still, we feel it moving within us.

And the Year Wheel rolls on.

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