-- PERSONAL PATH --
I have always known that there is more to life than what we are told. Because of my experiences in Viet Nam in the sixties, I felt that people in non-western cultures still knew something which we in the West had forgotten. I found it, amazingly, six years later while sitting in a university library as an anthropology graduate student: the world is alive. For the next ten years I continued to read about shamanism, searching and researching, and experimenting with the things I read. I had many powerful experiences, but I didn’t know what to do with them. I had no teacher to help me to understand.
In the early 80’s I reconnected with my friend Michael Harner who had just written The Way of the Shaman. During a long weekend course with him I learned to shift my consciousness and enter the World of the Spirits. All the deep experiences of the past ten years fell into place, and I felt myself walking on my path. In 1984 Michael asked me to teach with him and in 1986 I taught my first solo workshop. In the same year I founded the Scandinavian Center for Shamanic Studies with Annette Høst. I have never stopped teaching shamanism since then.
Although Michael showed me the trail, after six years it seemed to me that his main interest was in developing a shamanic college, with a set curriculum teaching shamanic techniques. My Spirits were taking me in a different direction, showing me how to help people find their own path of power and learn what they need to learn from their Spirit Teachers – not from me. Since then, I have focused on encouraging people to live a full life, a life of empowerment for themselves and the rest of the world.
The path toward becoming a shaman means to become an apprentice to the Spirits, and this changes one’s experience of life. Accepting these changes is perhaps the greatest challenge. In the beginning, many people find it hard to understand what the Spirits are saying to them. As a teacher, I feel my role is to help people to find the road to the spirit world, encourage them to accept the power offered, and learn how to bring that power back to the physical world and use it. I know that everyone has guides and teachers in the Spirit World, but not everyone knows how to hear them, talk with them, and learn from them. I also know that the more people who learn to do this, the more we will respect the world around us, and the less we will wound it – and the healthier and more vibrant the Earth will become.
I have been teaching shamanism for more than thirty-five years, not only in Scandinavia and the UK, but also Hungary, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Scotland, Ireland and even the USA. Even though I am considered by some to be an elder in the ever-growing shamanic community, I still see myself as an apprentice to the Spirits. Being able to work this way is a great gift as I am constantly put into new, multi-faceted situations which deepen my experience, understanding, and, most importantly, my relationship to my Spirit Teachers. As my own Spirit Teacher said: “The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility.” Part of this responsibility I feel is encouraging people to act on their connection to the world we live in. Because of the way western culture has developed, many people feel cut off – not only from the rest of the world, but also from themselves. Stepping into power heals our relationships, opening channels of connection – first to our immediate surroundings and eventually spreading further out. In this way we become more aware of the bigger ecosystems we are always a part of.
In 2008 I invited those I had worked together with through the years to form an international shamanic community (ISC) with people from all around the world. Since then we have been exploring the power of working together in Circle – together with each other and together with the Spirits - to learn more about what happens when we support, nourish and inspire each other's practice.
A big change came in my life in 2006 when I was brought to Åsbacka, a group of small houses deep in the woods of southern Sweden, where I now live and practice with my partner, Zara Waldebäck. Since coming here, we have invited smaller groups to do trainings and retreats, individual mentoring and healing. My path to get here has taken many years, and I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t met everyone I’ve met on the way, and been to all the places I’ve been, from my native Pennsylvania to Viet Nam to Europe, Denmark and Sweden, to Greenland to Lapland - and to the world of the Spirits. Walking with the Spirits has brought me home.
While I am inspired by the shamans of other cultures, I do not use rituals belonging to them, nor do I work with psychotropic plants, hallucinogenic drugs or dogmatic systems. I have experimented with hallucinogens, natural and synthetic, and learned a lot – among other things, that this was not my way.
The shaman works by asking for help, and by doing this I am given rituals by the Spirits for bringing Power and Healing - for "making whole". The Spirits are my teachers, and I contact them with song, drums, rattles, dancing, and silence. Although I work with many beautiful rattles and drums, for me shamanism is not essentially about power objects and exotic equipment. Nor is shamanism about building personal power. Shamanism is about dancing with the power of the Universe. Shamanism is about life. Life is change. Shamanism is change with power. Here we are.