We belong to each other

I’ve been thinking of my dad a lot recently. His birthday is coming up on April 29. It’s a little over two years since he died. The sharp pain of grief has faded with time, and what’s left is a tender ache – along with the love and good memories.
I reflect again on all the kindnesses that were shown at the time of his death. Many people reached out in thoughtful ways… A friend who tuned in and witnessed his crossing and shared a message with us. The friends who sat with me and witnessed my grief. The friends who participated in a very personal memorial service. Several friends who brought food. A friend who painted a picture with an inspirational saying. A friend who sang my dad on his way and then later recorded a CD of the three songs from the funeral for my mom.
If you are struggling right now, please reach out to your friends and let them support you. People care. You are not alone.
If you have a friend who is struggling, reach out to them. Even if you don’t know what to say, let them know you care. Your presence matters.
Love, kindness and compassion matter. You matter.

Our opportunity to heal our nation’s shadow

From a shamanic perspective, it has become clear what the next four years and beyond will be about.

Working through our collective shadow as a nation.

Trump has brought our nation’s bigotry, greed and hatred further out into the light. Issues don’t get healed in the dark. They have to be brought out into the light for all to see. Here’s our opportunity to work with what is being illuminated.

Now is the time to do our work as individuals and as a country and look at why we accept racism, sexism, and corporate greed at the expense of the poor, the disenfranchised and the environment. All of us are being called on to lead the way in going within and doing our inner work. Where do still act in privileged, entitled, racist, homophobic, sexist, greedy ways? True change comes from within. By all of us doing our work, we can hold space for the collective consciousness to be raised.

We’ve got hard work ahead of us. Shadow work is uncomfortable. Our ego keeps our shadow hidden from us, and like a feral cat, it comes out hissing and scratching when it begins to be revealed. This is where we’re at right now in our country. The dwellers on the threshold have come to challenge us.

This next stage of evolution requires us to hold our seat and persist – even when it’s hard, even when it’s terrifying – in shining a light into the darkness. Our higher self with its energies of love, connection and compassion will help us.

It may not seem like it at the moment, but humanity is undergoing an awakening, a turning toward higher consciousness and greater unity.

Obama was a change agent, bringing hope for a different experience where all are treated with equality and respect. The bigotry and fear that was already in our country’s shadow started to come out into the light.

Trump is a change agent as well, giving us the gift of continuing to bring our societal shadow even further out into the light. We may not like this change agent, but it is part of the process. We must first see and identify our hatred and greed in order for it to heal.

Think back to a time when you struggled with making a big decision in your life. You probably felt anxiety, doubt, even trepidation. You may have argued with yourself, “Is this really what I want?” During this in-between time, you felt deeply unsettled, and in your pain you may have acted out in ways that resulted in self-sabotage. Thoughts of wanting things to stay the way they were likely arose. You may have agonized over your choices, going back and forth in your mind several times before making your decision, all the while being fearful of the unknown that lay ahead.

This is where we are at right now as a country. We’re in that place of indecision. We experimented with making a change over the last eight years, but then it got uncomfortable, so we pulled back. We aren’t yet sure how to move forward as a nation, and as a result, we feel deeply unsettled. This back and forth may continue for a while. It’s a natural part of the process. Eventually, the desire for change, forward movement and growth will outweigh the fear of the unknown.

It may appear like our world turned upside overnight. It didn’t. The bigotry was there all along. Greater and greater numbers of people are now seeing it. This is what it takes to heal it.

So, as part of the lightworkers ushering in the awakening, how do we make it through the chaotic times ahead?

– Hold your seat. Choose to source from a place of love, compassion and connection (the higher self) rather than from a place of fear, hatred and separation (the ego).

– Take the time to grieve and to be present with your needs. Reach out for support if you need it. Then when you’re ready, get involved.

– Get involved in a social action organization and do something. Volunteer in your community. Join a peace organization which promotes non-violence such as One Heart.

– Engage in intentional acts of kindness. Hold doors for strangers, smile at people in line with you at the grocery store and post office.

– Extend friendship and support to those around you of other races, religions and sexual orientation who are now fearful for their safety. Let them know you care. If you observe someone being harassed, move to sit or stand next to them and begin a conversation so they know they’re not alone – and so the bully gets the message their behavior is not okay.

– And lastly, take care of yourself. Exercise exquisite self care. We cannot advocate from an empty vessel. This unsettled place of change may take years (longer than four or even eight) to work through. We may be holding space for awhile. Each one of us is needed.

Please take good self care today and in the coming times. Continue to love yourself and love each other. Hold the faith. Love prevails.

A message from spirit guides

In my work as a shamanic healer and teacher, I connect to the wisdom of spirit teachers and power animals. These compassionate beings often share healing and guidance. One of the most frequent messages to come through is that they could be doing MUCH MORE to help us than we allow.

We humans are sometimes rather silly. We get the idea that we have to do it ourselves – that it’s somehow “cheating” to ask for help from Spirit. Or that a divine being like Archangel Michael must have more important things to do, so we don’t want to disturb them. So we struggle and toil. If instead we opened and allowed, our path would flow so much more smoothly. Challenges and growth opportunities would still arise, but we’d have the sense of being supported and held rather than feeling alone and isolated.

The spirit guides are delighted when we ask for assistance. Because we have free will, they need to be asked. Remember that old saying, “There is no such thing as a stupid question”? The same is true in this situation. There is no such thing as a stupid request. We can ask them for help with anything – from the most mundane to the most broad.

Where in your life right now are you struggling? What would you like to ask for assistance, clarity or healing for? How can you shift your perspective to allow your helping spirits to support you?

“Don’t believe everything you think”

I was walking one morning recently, and I caught myself thinking, “I’m lonely.”

It seemed like an odd thought to me, so I took a closer look:

“I am lonely.”

“Really?!?” I asked myself. “Am I really lonely? Who is lonely?”

My soul is not lonely. Souls are not lonely. Souls are connected and free and expansive. My ego may be lonely. My inner child may be lonely. My soul is certainly not lonely.

It would be more accurate to say that, “I am feeling lonely” or that “I am having the experience of loneliness in this moment.”

Because I was reminded that we are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings.

You know what else we’re not? We are not our experiences. We are not our illnesses. We are not our beliefs. We are not the roles we play.

So if we are not all those things we normally identify with, what are we?

We are a soul residing in a physical body. We are a center of consciousness.

This higher consciousness is sometimes referred to as the witness/observer. This is the aspect of our being that witnesses the events of our lives as though we were an actor on a stage.

When we are connected to this witness/observer, we can step back and see the fear, the drama, the events of our life playing out before us. And we realize that this situation was created by us for our highest growth and learning as a soul.

Our soul agreed to have this experience.

The witness/observer helps us see the bigger picture and trust the inter-connectedness of all. It helps us remember exactly why we chose this body, this family, this set of experiences in this lifetime.

We create suffering for ourselves when we forget about our higher consciousness and identify too closely with our fear, our pain, our illnesses, our beliefs, our feelings and our stories. All of these are part of our ego. The ego wants to keep us safe (and often very limited) at the expense of our soul.

In my story from earlier, my initial thought, “I am lonely” was created by my ego. There’s a saying: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” If I had identified too closely with my feeling of loneliness, it would have lead to suffering.

But when I shifted perspective to say, “I am experiencing loneliness in this moment,” that helped me connect with my higher consciousness and its energy of connectedness to all.

The question to reflect on is this. Who do you want steering your life? Do you want your ego (with its energies of fear, doubt and separation) guiding you? Or do you want your higher consciousness and its expansive energies of connection, love and freedom guiding you?

What our ego and feral cats have in common

A friend from my days in the corporate world lived in Mineral Point, WI. She and her backdoor neighbor took care of a feral cat colony – feeding and occasionally rehoming a friendly cat, but mostly trapping, neutering and releasing. They jokingly called themselves the Iowa County Feral Cat Society. She chuckled about the fact that feral cats think everything is going to kill them. “Ahh, a person, I’m going to die!” “Ahh, a bowl, I’m going to die!” “Ahh, a cage, I’m going to die!”


Our egos are like feral cats.


Our egos instinctively react like anything new or unusual is trying to kill them. Our ego can be thought of as our false self. Our false self has built an elaborate construction of roles, protection mechanisms, limiting agreements and coping devices to keep it functioning.


On our healing journey as we begin to shift some of these beliefs, our ego thinks it’s being murdered. As we shed the layers of our false self, it can begin to feel unsettling. This is the ego stirring, worried that it’s going to be eradicated. But with each piece of our ego released, more of our True Self is able to shine through – loving, wise and centered.


When the ego begins to get riled up, we can take a holy pause, inhale deeply and trust that we are indeed where we are meant to be. This much discomfort wouldn’t be arising if it wasn’t something worthwhile ready to shift. This healing journey is not easy, but for those who choose this path, it is so worth it to have our soul steering our life and making decision’s based on our inner knowing and connection to source.


In the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”


The Story of My Father’s Passing

January 24, 2015

The call came while in class. I normally keep my phone powered off when teaching, and this particular Saturday, I almost didn’t check it during our lunch break. But Spirit nudged me. There were numerous messages from my sister-in-law and mother, telling me that Dad was in the hospital in Phoenix where my parents wintered as snowbirds. My heart started pounding, and I took several deep breaths to ground and center before calling my mom.

“What’s going on?”

“Dad went to the ER this morning. He’s got some kind of infection in his blood. That’s all they know yet.”

More deep breathing on my end. This sounded serious. I started doing tonglen meditation for my parents. Breathing in fear, breathing out peace and calm.

“Do you want me to come?”

“No, stay where you are. We don’t know much yet.”

“Okay, keep me posted. I love you. I’ll pray.”

I checked in with my spirit guides and felt their warm, comforting presence. They brought a clear message: “Everything is going to be okay.” I felt reassured. Some of the tension in my chest and belly began to relax.

I returned to class, and we sent prayers for my family.

Dad remained in the hospital throughout the weekend. The medical team got his blood pressure stabilized, and at times he was lucid. Because lab work indicated a systemic infection, they began massive doses of IV antibiotics. Cultures would later determine a staph infection had traveled throughout his blood. My normally strong, active father was brought to his knees by an invisible bacteria.

Sunday night about 11 pm, my mom called again. I could hear the panic in her voice: “He was struggling to breathe, so they put him on a ventilator.”

In that instant, it became very real. Dad was fighting for his life.

I did what I always do when faced with a challenge that leaves me feeling powerless. I turned to Spirit. Once again, my guides brought the message that everything was going to be okay. I trust my guides, so I breathed deep and relaxed.

I knew this message didn’t necessarily mean Dad was going to live, just that I would be okay. I would make it through this and continue on. From the perspective of the divine compassionate ones, with their higher consciousness and connection to larger meaning, it meant that dying here and now could be part of Dad’s soul purpose. Whether that would happen was still a mystery.

I flashed back to a message I had received at Christmas time. While driving to Iowa to visit friends over the holidays, I was curious about what 2015 had in store for me, so I opened and asked my guides. The message came loudly and clearly, “The next year is going to be a very good year for you personally. And it’s going to be a year of loss and a year of grief.” This message took me by surprise. I tuned in and asked who. My father’s face came into my awareness, and I immediately dismissed my intuition, comforted by the fact he was strong and in good health apart from the normal aches and pains of aging. His family has the gift of longevity – his father lived to be 83, and two of his brothers died in their early 80s. So I breathed a sigh of relief. We probably had a few more years with my 77-year-old father.

With Dad’s condition worsening, I went to bed and prayed for Spirit to hold him in the light of his highest healing, whatever that might be. I prayed for Spirit to hold all of us who loved him. I eventually fell asleep feeling the warm embrace of the divine compassionate ones.

That Monday morning, my father roused himself up out of the sedation and pulled out his vent. I joked to my mom, “If they put him back on the vent, they’re going to need to give him stubborn farmer levels of sedation.” We both laughed, “He’s a stubborn Swede and his Christeson genes are showing.” We all took this to be a positive sign that he was fighting. After twelve hours on the ventilator, he had enough of a rest that he was able to breathe on his own, so they left him off the vent with just a nose cannula for breathing support.

My brother flew down to Arizona on Monday to be with Mom. My mom continued to counsel me to stay in Wisconsin for now. My guides were in agreement. It wasn’t time for me to go yet. I was meant to hold my seat and hold space for my family from home.

For the last ten years, I’ve had an agreement with Spirit. When I receive information from Spirit – whether it be from my spirit guides or from my own higher self – I listen. This is an important part of my arrangement with the divine that allows me to be a shamanic healer and to continue moving forward on my own personal healing path. Over the years, this agreement has led to some very joyous places which initially seemed a bit frightening.

When Spirit suggested that buying a house would help me be more grounded, I did, even though I had a panic attack the day before making an offer. I love my home and have been happy here in Baraboo for nine years. When Spirit told me it was time to let go of my comfortable, secure job in the corporate world, I did, even through a monthlong meltdown of fear, doubt and anxiety. As my shamanic practice has grown, my personal healing has blossomed, and I have no regrets about leaving behind a regular paycheck. I now experience deep satisfaction from serving my purpose in the world.

Heeding this message to hold my seat and stay in Wisconsin was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It would have been far easier to fly to Phoenix and be with my family. A very large part of me wanted to sit at Dad’s bedside and be there for Mom. But my agreement with Spirit isn’t around listening only when it’s easy or only when it suits me. Sometimes it’s damn hard. This was one of those times. So I comforted the part of me that wanted to be with Dad, and I held my seat.

I prayed. I called to the healing spirits. I sent love and light.

For the next few days, there were small positive signs of improvement. But for each step forward, Dad took another two back. His medical team grew to include a hospitalist (the team leader), infectious disease specialist, cardiologist, renal doctor, neurologist and many others.

My brother was relaying all the latest information from the doctors. A recovery time of 4-5 weeks was mentioned.

During a meditation, I heard the wisdom of my higher self that would guide me through the next few months. The realization came that no matter what happened – either way, if Dad lived or died – there was going to be pain. There would be no escaping it. I made the decision to stop avoiding and stop denying. Throughout whatever unfolded, I would face my pain head on. It was going to hurt, but I didn’t have to suffer with it.

My heart ached. I cried. I comforted myself. I comforted my mom. I talked to Dad on the phone and told him I loved him.

A well-timed midwinter warm spell brought temperatures to the high 20s and lower 30s. I bundled up and took several long walks in nature. The beauty and solace of the Merrimac Preserve brought me peace. With the loving nature spirits surrounding me, I could again feel the warm comfort of the divine compassionate ones holding me. I continued to hold my seat.

On Thursday, the call I was both dreading and welcoming came from my brother, “Debra, it’s time for you to come. You need to get here today.”

The hospitalist had been direct with Mom and Dan that morning. Dad was worsening, and he probably wouldn’t make it through. The doctor asked them to sign a DNR agreement. Three little letters that made us face reality – Do Not Resuscitate. Mom and Dan asked me how I felt about this. I agreed with them that we did not want to unnecessarily prolong Dad’s life. He wouldn’t have wanted that. But I also wanted to see him. I wanted to hold his hand and kiss him and let him know I loved him before he passed.

So I told my brother: “Go ahead and sign the DNR. But I very much want to see him and be with him when he dies. We’ll leave it in God’s hands.”

I took a deep breath as the recognition of what this meant settled in. “Okay. I’m on my way. I’ll call you when I have a ticket.”

Spirit was with me in my travels. A delay at the Madison airport meant I would miss my connection in Denver. I called Delta immediately and got the last seat on the final flight of the day from Denver to Phoenix. I would make it to the hospital that evening, but well after midnight. I had been fortunate to get a ticket at all. This was Super Bowl weekend in Phoenix.

I was blessed with a smooth trip the rest of the way. My heart was heavy, and with each leg of my journey, time moved slower and slower. I found myself not wanting to arrive. I checked in with my brother at every opportunity. Dad was fading. They didn’t know how much longer he was going to last.

“When will you get here? Dad keeps asking for you.”

“Tell him I’m on my way. Tell him to wait for me. Let him know I love him.”

Mom and Dan didn’t want me to arrive any more than I did, because of what it would mean. When I got there, he would be free to go. We all thought I would walk into his room, we would have our goodbye, and he would pass within an hour.

The flight from Denver to Phoenix went quickly. Now I was in a hurry to get to the hospital before he died. At the airport, my luggage was the last bag on to the carousel. I almost didn’t wait for it. But I took a deep breath and once again held my seat.

The other passenger on the shuttle from the airport was in town for the Super Bowl. When I shared with him that my family was waiting for me at the hospital, he requested that the driver drop me off first, even though it meant a delay for him. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.

My brother met me in the parking lot at the hospital. He gave me a hug with tears in his eyes. We transferred my luggage to the car and went in. I was crying freely now. We walked very quickly up to Dad’s room. I paused outside before going in and gathered myself. I went right to Dad. He lifted his arms to hug me. I hugged him back. I sobbed and said, “I love you.” He said “I love you” back. It was a shock to see him so faded and so diminished.

Then I hugged Mom and held her, both giving and receiving comfort. Mom and I sat on each side of him for awhile, holding his hands.

I asked him, “Are you afraid?” And he said no. His eyes were clear. He had a breathing tube in his nose and his voice was raspy from being on the ventilator. Some of the things he said didn’t make sense. He wanted to get up out of bed and walk around even though his legs wouldn’t support him. He saw butterflies and lights in the room. He was angry with Mom because she wouldn’t take him home.

But the important things came out clearly. He loved us. He wasn’t afraid. He intended to die the same way he lived life – on his terms.

We sat vigil at his bedside. He made it through the night and even seemed to show small signs of improvement the next day. He was more at peace having his wife and both his children there at his side. We took turns sitting with him. Mom and I left the hospital for lunch to get some fresh air. We talked more. I shared with her, “You know that no matter what happens, we’re all going to be okay, right?” She silently nodded yes.

I reassured her that she wasn’t alone in this. No matter what happened throughout the next few weeks, Dan and I would be there for her and Dad. The same way that we had been there for them during her cancer treatments and heart block. Some families split apart during times of stress. Cracks develop and the dysfunction comes out. Not for us. We come together in love, we support each other, and we are present. Even in the pain, I was grateful to Spirit for mirroring this.

That day, the hospitalist shared more news. While they knew he had a massive staph infection throughout his whole body, they hadn’t been clear where it had originated. Dad wasn’t strong enough to withstand the test to know for sure, but they suspected he had a colony of staph growing on the back of his heart. If he were to recover, it would be 8-9 weeks of IV antibiotics to wipe out the bacteria in his blood. During this time hopefully he would regain enough of his strength in order to make it through open heart surgery to remove the original source of the infection. At his age, this was highly unlikely. But one of my Facebook friends was currently going through this with her elderly father, so I knew there was a chance.

That second night, Mom, Dan and I went back to the RV park and slept at the trailer. We got up the next morning in time to meet the doctors on their rounds and hear the latest update.

I was the first through the door of the hospital room that morning, and the truth smacked me in the face. Overnight there had been a shift in his energy. Where the day before he had been fighting to live, now it had changed. He was ready to go. I greeted him and hugged him and told him again that I loved him. Then I went over to sit in the cushion in the window. After greeting him, my mom and brother came over to comfort me. “He’s ready to go,” I sobbed out. Then I moved back to my dad and held his hand and said, “I love you. I see that you’re ready to go. I’m crying because I’m sad for me and Mom and Dan. We’re going to miss you. But we’re ready to let you go.” He wasn’t able to say much at this point. He just nodded and smiled.

We sat with him and talked and held his hands. I urged him to let go of the pain around his heart. A fellow shamanic practitioner had journeyed on his behalf and saw he carried much pain and grief from losing three siblings in the previous two years. He also felt guilty and regretted that he had been unable to do more to help his family and bring them together. This guilt had become toxic and settled in around his heart, gradually poisoning him.

I knew that his pain could hold him back from crossing to the light, so I urged him to let go of his guilt and regrets and free his heart. I felt the tendrils of dark energy release. Through tears, I gathered the courage to say what needed to be said, “Do what’s right for you, Dad. I’m sad to see you leave, but it’s your time.”

I knew he was concerned about leaving Mom. We had all thought that with her health issues, she would be the first to go. It was not playing out that way.

“Don’t worry about Mom. Dan and I will take care of her. We’ll be okay.”

It was important that he hear from all of us, so Mom and Dan said their goodbyes and freed him to leave as well.

When the hospitalist made rounds later that morning, we asked her what we could do to make his end peaceful. She agreed that he was near his final time and laid out the options. All lifesaving measures and aggressive treatment could be discontinued. If so, only comfort care – nasal oxygen and medications for anxiety if it arose – would remain. I asked him, “Dad, you need to let the doctor know what you want. Do you want to stay and fight, or do you want to let go?” He made it clear through his nod that he was ready to pass, so we made the decision to withdraw treatment.

His nurse that day was an angel. She slowed the orders for a move to hospice, so he received comfort care in the hospital bed where he had been for the previous week. His IVs were removed. The machines were taken out of the room. His meds were discontinued. Nursing staff no longer came into the room every fifteen minutes to check his vitals. He was left in peace.

For the rest of the day, all three of us sat around him and held his hand. He was awake and aware for most of the morning but unable to talk.

The scene I will most remember: Mom sitting and holding his hand. Dad looking at her and mouthing to her, “I love you,” with such love in his eyes and his heart that it spilled over out into the room. I will carry this memory with me for the rest of my life, and it will guide me as I open to a love of my own.

I let him know the angels and other divine compassionate ones would assist him, helping to release his ties to being here on the earthly plane. I urged him to let go, and when the time was right to take their hands and allow them to lift him up and out of his body to the light. His already departed beloved family members would be there waiting to greet him. He nodded.

Dad was at peace. He knew he was loved, and each of us felt his love. But I still hurt. My heart still ached. Dad was leaving us. I broke down in tears throughout the day. Each time, I made the conscious choice to be present with his passing. Several times I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “It doesn’t have to be a struggle. It can be peaceful. You can just quietly slip away.”

His last hours were blessed. During the afternoon, he faded in and out of consciousness. He stopped moving and became still. His extremities got cold. His breathing grew more and more shallow.

In his last hour, all three us sat around his bed, touching him. We reminisced, we looked at pictures and told stories. We remembered the qualities that made him Dad and honored his life. This was our final gift to him, to bless him, release him and send him on his way peacefully. His final gift to us was letting us know how deeply he loved us.

That evening, Saturday, January 31, 2015, at 7:27 pm MST, he took his last breath. All of us saw it. He shuddered and let one long final breath out. And that was it. The essence that made him Dad was no longer in his body. His soul hovered in the room for a minute, assuring each of us of his love. I felt a warm embrace, then he left with the angels. The room shone with the clarity of grace and beauty.

I let out a big sob. So did Mom and Dan. We stayed there in the room for a while, holding and comforting each other. Mourning together. In our individual way, we each prayed, asking that his crossing to the light be smooth and complete.

His body remained, but it was now just a shell. We honored him one more time. Dad had been present when both Dan and I were born. He lovingly welcomed us as we entered this world. He fed us, changed our diapers and rocked us to sleep. It felt right and fitting that we would do the same for him in death. And so we tended to him. I washed him and put lotion on his body. Dan combed his hair and shaved him. Mom witnessed from a chair at the foot of the bed. And then all of us together lifted him into the body bag.

Before we left the room, I checked my email. A message had come through from a friend who is a medium. She had been checking in energetically at the exact time of his death and witnessed his crossing. She saw him standing in a field of wheat holding a small navy book. From there, he turned and went into the light. Mom identified the navy book as his much treasured Masonic text. He was a farmer, so it was particularly appropriate he would be standing in a field.

I left the hospital room tired and sad but in a place of peace. All of us received great comfort in knowing that his last day had been so beautiful. He died surrounded by the three people he loved most in this world, and he died exactly as he lived – on his terms. He would have hated lying in bed during months of recovery, and he would hated a long, lingering death. He died exactly as he wanted, and all of us were strong enough to grant his wish and do our part to ensure a peaceful passing.

I fell asleep that night without regrets.

* * * * * * * * *

I know this to be true because I’ve lived it firsthand:

The only three things we need to do to heal are to show up, to say yes to what is and to keep opening our heart.

Debra Morrill
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Baraboo, Wisconsin