THIS ONE TIME, WHEN I WENT TO SHAMAN SCHOOL…

Tamara, a.k.a. Wolf Sister, shares how she followed her heart from hairdressing to healing…via a visit to shaman school. Images: Burn It All by Karolina Daria Flora.

I would describe myself as empathic and creative, so in a lot of ways it was natural for me to fall into hairdressing when I was 16. It was never my first choice – I had aspirations of being a fashion journalist – but choosing to pursue it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Fourteen years later, this seemingly humble path has enabled me to fulfil some of my biggest dreams, mainly because one of the beautiful things about hairdressing is that it’s a portable trade. I can cut hair anywhere in the world, meaning I’ve been able to earn a living in the unlikeliest of places.

The last six years in particular, I have truly followed my wanderlust. Like many on a similar path, I travelled to ‘find’ myself, having experienced a strong disconnection with life in my hometown. Despite having a large group of friends, I’d never really felt as if I fully fit in or belonged, as if I was always holding part of myself back. So I went to work in Ibiza for the summer, in search of adventure and hoping to break free from the things I thought were holding me back. I then bought a round the world ticket to the Southern Hemisphere for a winter in Asia and Australia, bringing me back to Ibiza, and chasing the dream of a never-ending summer.

On my travels I met many kindred spirits, and collected experiences and memories like treasure. Island hopping and hitchhiking around Hawaii, sleeping under the stars in Australia, and making friends with liberated souls as we took sanctuary from the dust storms on the Playa at Burning Man. Living like this, I could be who I wanted without any attachment to my past. I was free from old thought processes that had held me back, and I found friends who seemed to be on a similar path, all in search of ‘something more’. My loved ones back home all seemed to want different things in life to me, and I think a lot of my anxieties came from trying to fit in.

But beyond the hedonism, I never felt any closer to finding myself. No matter how far I travelled or how long I stayed away, my shadow self was never far behind, and I realised I was trying to run away from rather than towards my true self. My epiphany came when I was recovering from a break up that had seemed to consume me. The experience led me to turn inward, and I realised that I needed learn to be happy in myself, wherever I was in the world. Home or away.

People would describe me as bubbly and outgoing, but I have actually suffered from anxiety and depression most of my adult life. Until I connected with my spiritual path, that is. When I went to see my doctor about my epiphany (a.k.a break down) it was recommended I go on antidepressants. Of course, this didn’t resonate with me, and so began my mission to heal myself holistically. It began with yoga, and practising meditation regularly, finding tiny glimpses of inner peace that over time became a lasting sense of calm and clarity.

In my meditations, animals kept showing up for me, regularly enough that I began looking up the meanings of these beasts. A Wolf appeared most frequently in my visions, the message being that I was in the process of spiritual development, and developing my self-esteem and inner knowing. The Wolf was there (and still is today) to remind me that I was being protected. I discovered that the animals were my spirit guides, and their messages were so relevant that I couldn’t ignore their calling. So I began using these messages to guide me on my healing path – my first indication that I had an affinity with Shamanism.

The deeper into my spiritual journey I went, I experienced a conflict between my work commitments and my spiritual life. I was eager to learn more about healing, which manifested in a desire to help others with what I was learning, but I also needed to support myself financially. In the end, I decided to take the plunge and booked a two-month sabbatical from the salon I was working in at the time and travel to Bali. Being half Indonesian, it was one pilgrimage that I had always wanted to take. Now it was really happening, and for the right reasons.

I began to research my trip, my main priority to find a way to fully immerse myself in my spiritual development. I looked up retreats, workshops, yoga centres and healers, and emailed different leads to find out what my options were. A few websites caught my eye, but after quite a few unanswered enquiries, the search engines kept drawing me back to a Shaman called White Star. I took this as another sign, and connected with her on email – which resulted in her offering me a place on her apprenticeship programme. I was going to be a Shaman’s apprentice!

I arrived in Bali two months later, and noticed that my energy instantly felt lighter, as if some kind of a shift had already occurred in me. I spent my first few days exploring my new surroundings, acquainting myself with the local customs, and trying to prepare myself for my first meeting with White Star. But how do you prepare to meet a Shaman? And one who is going to teach you her secrets?

When we finally did meet, I was full of excitement and anticipation. I had a preconceived idea that my new teacher would have an air of authority about her but when I met White Star, I was in awe. With all of her power and wisdom she is a humble woman with an unassuming presence. But it was also as if she had an ethereal radiance about her. I remember thinking she was at least 10 years younger than what she said she was – apparently there’s a healer in Bali who specialises in ‘spiritual Botox’, but I also think she’s living proof that living magically keeps you younger.

I had booked 40 hours of one-to-one lessons with White Star that were stretched out over 4 weeks, and I felt so blessed to have the time to immerse myself so deeply in my new education. I had expected to pay up front, but she was trusting and happy for me to pay cash as we went along. Our lessons took place at her home in the jungle, and were filled with practical experiences of Shamanic healing techniques, spiritual development exercises, meditations, wisdom and musings. White Star also taught me how to expand my consciousness using Shamanic journeying to tune into the spirit realms and earth elements.

Most magically of all, the more time I spent with White Star, I found that not only was I learning how to heal others, I was healing myself. I gained new insights into my past, which helped me make sense of what I always thought had been holding me back. I believe you need to learn how to understand your past and its purpose so that you can fully release it, allow you to move forward and heal. I gained a new sense of confidence and purpose, and felt myself surrendered to being my authentic self, releasing my attachment to needing to fit in.

Every day, I would walk past waterfalls on my way to my meetings with White Star, feeling that I needed to pinch myself, to check it wasn’t all a dream. It was as if my soul had found its home, and that all the life choices I’d made (including the ones I thought I regretted) had brought me here. This was real.

In my Bali bubble, it felt so natural be fully conscious in the present moment. All my anxieties dissipated, as I learned to simply go with the flow. Time expanded as I took each moment as it came, learning to really trust my intuition. Synchronicities were a regular occurrence in my Bali life, because I took time to notice them. I felt I was constantly surrounded by magic.

Shamanism teaches us that there is a spiritual component in everything; that everything around us has a spirit, and that everything is connected. Flowers, trees, water, stones, animals, and humans. A Shaman walks the path between the seen and the unseen worlds, using altered states of consciousness to connect to what can’t be seen in our ordinary reality.

When we are disconnected from spirit, we fall out of alignment with our highest good. We experience states of negativity which can lead to anxiety, depression and other emotional and physical symptoms of imbalance. With Spiritual healing and Shamanic medicine, we are able to reconnect with our highest self, or soul, bringing us back into balance. Feeling calmer and happier, life becomes easy again. When we are spiritually aligned, we feel are able live from the heart; detaching from our ego, we are confident to follow our life’s purpose. Feeling empowered, there is no room for fear.

I returned from my Bali trip a little over a year ago, with none of the same ‘homecoming anxieties’ I used to feel, because I brought my Bali bubble home with me. Since then, my Shamanic alter ego Wolf Sister has been born, and I have been building my own healing practice, alongside working as a hairdresser. And the two actually go hand-in-hand.

When I am working with my hairdressing clients, I enable them to feel better about themselves on an external level. I still enjoy my work at the salon, but my true passion is to help people heal on a Soul level, helping them empower themselves. I feel that I’m able to do this more effectively through Spiritual healing than I am by styling hair, but still I infuse my Shamanic teachings into every moment of my ‘everyday’ life. Knowing always that my Bali bubble is there to be tuned into when I need it.

Where has your healing journey taken you? Connect with us and share your story on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Tamara is an Intuitive healer, Supernatural Potion Maker, Crystal enthusiast and Tarot reader. Find out more at Wolfsister.com

FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE: WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY?

Love chocolate? Well chocolate loves YOU! We discover how in ceremonial doses, raw cacao is a powerful heart opener that paves the way to transformation through self-love…

Heart Beats Raw Cacao and Dance Ceremonies founder Guinevere Short

A while back, we had an intern working at The Numinous who celebrated turning 21 at a raw cacao ceremony. “Most of my friends would have been downing shots of tequila…but I was getting high on chocolate!” she joked. But it turns out raw, ceremonial grade cacao has been used for centuries to unlock euphoric states, release negative emotions, and connect to pure heart energy.

Chocolate + ecstatic healing and transformation. Seriously, is anybody NOT down for some of that?

Guinevere Short has been working with cacao in ceremony since she founded Heart Beats Raw Cacao and Dance Ceremonies in 2013. We got her to give us the lowdown on why chocolate is essentially a catalyst to radical self-love…

WHERE AND WHEN DID CACAO CEREMONIES ORIGINATE?
It’s thought cacao was first used as a health elixir and ceremonial medicine as far back as 1900 BC by the ancestors of Central America, the Olmec people, before becoming a ritualistic medicine used by the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Signifying both life and fertility, it was ingested by Royalty in ceremonial God worship and in sacrificial ritual.

CACAO IS ASSOCIATED WITH UNIVERSAL LOVE – WHY IS THIS? IS THIS WHY WE GIFT CHOCOLATE TO OUR LOVERS?
Due to certain active ingredients that help release ‘feel good’ emotions, cacao is considered a heart opener. Creating feelings of emotional intimacy and pleasure, it has long been considered a luxurious delicacy, especially with the addition of sugar and spices to suit modern palates. Without realizing, we still get to enjoy a small fraction of it’s potential when we eat cacao in a regular chocolate bar. And yes, this is why it has become associated with romantic gestures and pleasurable indulgence!

Guinevere with her shamanic drum photographed in Thailand, 2014

WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY, AND WHEN DO PEOPLE SEEK THIS MEDICINE OUT? 
A cacao ceremony is an opportunity to connect to yourself and open your heart. Because of cacao’s ability to increase your connection to your inner self and your heart chakra, it aids in any transformational shift you are working towards, whether you are looking to deepen your understanding of who you are, release old patterns and traumas, or move into a more self-confident space. Whatever your path, the intention is yours to set, and the cacao allows you to the insight and awareness to move towards that goal.

HOW DOES A CEREMONY GO – WHAT’S THE RUN OF PLAY?
I have attended many different ceremonies, and they vary in their approach. I was introduced to cacao initially by my mentor, Daisy Kaye, who brings in a powerful five elements dance journey, and I have also worked with a shaman in Guatemala who honors the cacao with meditation and inner reflection. In the ceremonies that I hold space for, we begin by sitting in sacred circle, honoring the cacao spirit with shamanic prayer, and humbly asking for our intentions to be heard. We serve the cacao in liquid form, and drink together.

Depending on what’s being called for, I intuitively offer sound healing or meditation. We then enter into a sharing with each other, of what we want to let go of and what we are calling in, which creates an intention for our journey. This is a very safe and intimate space, and the people that attend always surprise themselves at how they are able to open up to strangers, especially when they start to realize they we are all a mirror for each other, all just human beings with the same fears and sufferings, the same hopes and dreams. We end with dance, during which the cacao activates within the body and the heart, allowing a truly transformative and ecstatic process to unfold.

Ceremonial cacao is taken in liquid form. Image: Julie Gibbons

HOW IS THE CACAO SOURCED AND PREPARED? WHAT IS A CEREMONIAL DOSE?
I have used cacao from Bali, Equador and Mexico, but I discovered a ceremonial grade cacao sourced in Guatemala by a man now internationally known as the Cacao Shaman, who has been working with the medicine and connecting it to the Western world for many years. Keith and his Guatemalan compadre Tat Isaias (Tat meaning Shaman) work alongside the local indigenous community to provide the highest grade cacao possible, grown in the purest conditions and harvested and prepared with love. A ceremonial dose is around 1 – 2 oz of cacao, mixed with water into a drink. Traditionally cacao was served with chilli and honey, but I have sometimes combined it with other herbs or super foods to assist a particular journey.

WHAT IS THE IMMEDIATE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT?
One of the main active ingredients that we experience in our physiology during ceremony is Theobromine. Theo-broma literally translates as God-Food, and potentiates the release of dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ hormone. This, alongside phenethylamine, which is known to help relieve stress and depression and which is released in the body during emotional euphoria, create heightened sensation and empathy. Alongside these, the high amount of nutrients in the cacao support and nourish the body, whilst also inducing a detoxifying effect on the liver and kidneys.

AND THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT?
Due to the euphoria inducing ingredients, the emotional impact can be profound. Everything feels heightened within the physical and emotional body, including your awareness to your deepest sense of self and to your heart. The experience of love and empathy, particularly for yourself, can literally feel as if your heart is opening like a flower. With this, the body can become flooded with the many emotions stored in the heart, some of which can be painful. It is not always an easy experience, and I have seen many tears shed as people peel away old layers of hurt. But as the cacao facilitates a deep sense of self-love, tears are always followed by smiles of deep gratitude. In other moments, the sheer ecstasy felt from the cacao can be described as nothing other than a divine experience.

Shiny, happy people: Sophie Teakle of The Numinous following a cacao ceremony with Guinevere in Guatemala

WHY IS THIS SUCH A PERSONAL PASSION OF YOURS?
Because I believe in love! In the heart. In opening wide to our potential to follow that heart and be guided into the most alive and joyous expression of our selves possible. Acting on the momentum this creates, people can transform their lives to be living in their highest potential, creating positive experiences for themselves and everyone around them. This for me is a story of evolution; the more that people connect to self-love and awareness of themselves and their behaviors, the more that they can make loving and conscious choices for the greater good of all.

My personal story is that cacao has been part of a journey to heal myself from a chronic illness that left me bed ridden for most of a year. I had lost any sense of who I was or why I was here. Cacao came into my life at a time of transformation, and revealed insights to me that I had waited years for. It was a big part of restoring me to feeling fully alive in myself, totally connected, and fully empowered. Now I am truly blessed to be able to share that medicine with others.

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN PEOPLE’S LIVES CHANGE AS A RESULT OF WORKING WITH CACAO?
I am continually amazed by the transformational aspect of working with cacao, and there have been many emails and phone calls to tell me that since the cacao ceremony, ‘everything has changed’. I think cacao gives you the space to enter into a place of deep reflection and self communion. It allows you access to the subconscious to reveal and heal the deepest aspects of yourself. Especially when used in a ceremonial and intentional way, cacao gives you an opportunity to move towards the fullest expression of who you truly are…and this can be catalytic in removing barriers in all areas of your life; relationships, career, personal growth, creativity, or wherever your focus is. Ultimately, cacao can help deepen your connection to your heart, and expand your capacity to love and be loved. In a world where we’re realizing that everything is love, that’s a pretty potent medicine. And everyone deserves a taste.

Find out more about Guinevere Short and what is a cacao ceremony at Heartbeatscacao.com, and connect with her on Facebook.