"In the Tree of Dreams there is a song," Face in the Water said to me as we sat together in ceremony in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. "Like any other living thing, it has a song to be sung. The Tree of Dreams is you and me. We are all a Tree of Dreams, filled with yearning, joy and love, filled with the teachings we have received and the experiences we have had. The song in the Tree of Dreams is something to be listened for very, very carefully. It teaches you that life is never ending. To lose your song is to lose your soul."
Face in the Water is a shaman woman, a native elder who has helped so many people with the goodness and wisdom of her soul. She is a member of the Sisterhood of the Shields, 44 native shaman women from indigenous cultures on five different continents who are guardians of an ancient wisdom born of the sacred feminine that has been preserved and handed down from mother to daughter, shaman to apprentice for many thousands of years, and I call her Grandmother.
I am a woman who has been greatly blessed with the opportunity to live many different lives in one. We hear so often how the pop singer Madonna has "reinvented" herself over and over again as she has moved through the various stages of her career and her life, changing her persona to meet new and often conflicting influences and demands, as well as her own changing perception of herself. In a very real sense, you and I and everyone we know has done exactly the same thing, although few people ever stop to marvel at how any of the rest of us keeps up, or at the wonderfully ingenious things we create to keep it all together!
I was raised in the Pacific Northwest. My fondest memories of childhood are of riding horses and climbing up in an old apple tree to eat apples and write. Trees got me closer to the sky, closer to the stars. I knew what it felt like to be a star, to follow slowly through the universe, shining down on the earth. My closest friend in grade school was a Native American girl, and she and I would ride our horses across the plains, pretending we were stars and chasing each other across the universe. My father was an impatient man who swung between bouts of manic depression and rage. My mother, as brilliant and magnificent as she was, was always reserved with me. And I wanted to get away from the hurt and the depression of my unsettled family. So I would go out of my body; in my imagination I would go to the heavens and become a star. I would become its light.
Apple trees got me closer to God. I never saw God in a form, but as an experience, as the essence of my soul. There was one tree in particular that I loved to climb, an old grandmother tree. I would climb up to a fork in her branches where I could lean back into the crook of her arms, and she would hold me. I could reach up and pick one of her apples to eat. When I was sad, which was most of the time, I would climb up in the grandmother tree and talk to her. Then I would talk to God.
I even asked if I could go to a Catholic school, because I knew that they had chapels where you could pray, so my father took me to Holy Names School in Spokane. There I learned to play the piano. I also stopped climbing in trees, because everybody thought it was extremely peculiar for this little girl in a uniform to be way up high in a tree. But I have always remembered the grandmother tree and the fruits that she gave me in so many ways.
When I was old enough to go out on my own, I had the wonderful good fortune to become a partner of R. Buckminster Fuller, developing an interactive play environment for children so that they could experience from a very young age their ability to interact with, and have an impact on, the world. I have been graced to study philosophy, art and literature all over the world and numbered among my friendships Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Laurence Duvall and Fritz Scholder. Over time, I was married to the vice president of a major motion picture studio. I became a collector and dealer of art living in Beverly Hills. And I was a founding member of the Santa Fe Writer’s Co-op, where we secured a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to bridge cross-cultural boundaries and bring books and their authors to the small towns of New Mexico that had no library or bookstore.
It was while I was an art dealer that I embarked upon a strange and magnificent journey of spirit which was to take me from my then home in Beverly Hills to Guatemala, then to the far north of Canada where I met my two dearest teachers, Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs. Agnes and Ruby are native shaman healers; they are also members of the Sisterhood of the Shields. Through them, I have had the privilege of studying and working with indigenous shaman women from the Mayan Yucatan to Panama, Guatemala, Nepal, Australia, Europe, Egypt and the American Southwest; they even smuggled me across the Red Chinese border into Tibet to attend a special gathering of the Sisterhood!
In the beginning, I was told that I must keep my studies and work with these women a secret. After a time, they urged me to write about our work together so that their ancient teachings about the ways that power and energy move throughout the universe, and how to choreograph that energy toward a higher good, could be brought to life in a modern world that teeters on the edge of crisis. Today, I hold my own gatherings to bring these teachings in depth to others and have been doing so for the last 20 years, and I have also created a school of shamanic studies. I am a mother of a very wonderful daughter! And I am the only non-native member of the Sisterhood of the Shields.
How many different people have you been in your life? How many different people do you have to be just during the course of one given day? Have you ever stopped to gaze upon the amazing landscape that is your life and your accomplishments? Do it now.
The other women in the Sisterhood of the Shields often say to me that people are living with greater stress and confusion now than at any other time in human history, that human beings were never intended to live with the amount of chaos and pressure that we face in today’s world. Yet here we are, and what a remarkable achievement it is to be a vibrant, functioning member of our world.
It is time to stop ogling at the accomplishments of others and celebrate your own wonderful, divine self! Your life has meaning. Your life is special. Your life is like no other. So celebrate your power. Celebrate the integrity of your very special personality.
One of the great teachings of this particular time in history is to learn how to live your life with the stress of three or four lives all at once and still maintain your center and your ease and your joy. This is a very difficult thing to do, but it can be done. It is like a problem in logic, like a mathematical equation using trade beads: The right symbolism has to be learned, the right thoughts must be written for the outcome to be beautiful.
It is time to write your own song, the song of your Tree of Dreams, and sing it in your heart every moment of your life. Do you know what your life’s song is? Life is precious; you are precious.
Imagine yourself as a wise elder who is looking back on your life, reflecting on your legacy. If you were to write your legacy, what would you say? What would your song be? What would you like those who come after you to know of your experience? What is your Tree of Dreams? There has never been another person like you in this world. You are beautiful, and it is time, now, for you to bloom.