They’re sisters of soul, these two. Colleen Buckman — mystic, massage therapist, healing touch practitioner and intuitive healer, writer, songwriter, singer — and Susan Shehata — feng shui practitioner, Reiki practitioner, rebirther/breathworker and healer of space, people and animals — come together every Sunday afternoon to present consciousness-raising radio, sharing their connected vision of peace, love and understanding.
Colleen and Susan (from left to right in photo) host “Raising the Consciousness” [on from 1-2 p.m. Sundays on AM 950 in the Twin Cities], a program that provides simple solutions for conscious living. Both are deeply committed to the cause of inspiring global change through individual action, and what they do in their daily lives, when they’re not in front of the microphone, demonstrates more than what they could ever hope to convey in a single interview. Yet, they sat down with The Edge prior to a Sunday broadcast, at the KTNF studio in Eden Prairie, and while answering questions about their on-air collaboration they revealed much more about their passion for life and their friendship with each other.
Colleen and Susan met in college, studying theater at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and it was as if long-lost friends were reunited. They stayed in touch after graduation, and both were pleasantly surprised to learn that the paths they had chosen for themselves were parallel paths on a sacred journey.
Colleen is the founder and artistic director of Fair Trade Om, a philanthropic production company that connects socially conscious businesses with artists to produce music, festivals and film. These projects raise funds for various charitable organizations throughout the world, including ARC, and Power to the Peaceful. She is a community organizer and activist, a holistic healer, a hospice worker, a doula, a yogi and a profound musician. Music is at the center of her message of peace. She weaves potent lyrics together with the heart of a mystic. Buckman’s debut album, Sometimes in the Sun, was released in the fall of 2007. Her mission is to empower people to be whole, healed and free.
Susan is a speaker and teacher of the Healing Arts. She holds a B.F.A. in Performance and Theatrical Design. She and her partner, Keith Helke, own the Sacred Rearrangements Shop and Healing Center in Uptown Minneapolis. The center’s intention is to harmonize the home, body and spirit through conscious merchandise, a full-service interior design studio featuring feng shui and handyman services, and a healing center that offers services, workshops and yoga classes. As a performer, Susan has shared the stage and screen with personalities ranging from Sally Struthers to Jesse Ventura, and her credits include: Brave New Workshop, Mystery CafÃ©, National Theatre for Children, Camp Snoopy, Best Buy, Verizon Wireless, Gateway Computers and Sprint.
Susan also uses her background as a classically trained singer to lead Kirtan groups (sacred yogic chanting). “Raising the Consciousness” is co-producing the first Twin Cities Annual Kirtan Festival on February 6 at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, and it is bringing Dave Stringer, a nationally known kirtan singer, to the Twin Cities on April 24. Susanâ€™s column, â€œSpace Guru,â€ will debut in The Edge next month.
What common intentions do you share that ultimately inspired you to create Raising the Consciousness.
Susan: One of the primary goals that Colleen and I both share is the desire to bridge the gap for people and make healing and spirituality more accessible across the board.
Colleen: Bridging the gap is an important thing to address. Susan means that you want to make sure that spiritual thoughts, philosophies, ideas and healing modalities are grounded in some sort of tangible form. For a lot of people, it’s like, “Well, that’s fine that this energy drink is supposed to heal me, but what does it do scientifically? What does it do to my liver?” And the same for energy healing do? What is energy? We like to make things very accessible and scientific as often as we can.
Susan: A lot of this information is out there, but it is not necessarily understood by mainstream America and it’s not explained in a way that is grounded. Our job isn’t necessarily that we are trying to make it super obvious, as much as we’re just breaking it down for people.
Colleen: A basic tenet of our personal spiritual practice is truth, simplicity and love, and we’re also about grounding energy to the planet. That’s valuable to us as individuals, because it’s all about Heaven being brought to Earth. If we are going to be spiritual beings living on planet Earth, we must be grounded and connected to all of the things that are going on in this third dimension, including war and all of the chaos and destruction that happens. The more we are aware of the level of consciousness that most of humanity is at, the more likely we are to be able to influence that.
It’s very important for people to be seeking Truth, which ultimately ends up being love or consciousness. And we promote living simply. That doesn’t mean not having abundance. It means making sure that your life is not more complicated — or ahead of your consciousness. The goal is to be aware of what we’re doing in our homes, in our day-to-day living situations, in our relationships, and then move from a compassionate heart through life. Those are some basic principles that we live in our day-to-day lives, and that we definitely are committed to with “Raising the Consciousness.”
On your first episode of “Raising the Consciousness,” Colleen, you emphasized the importance of karma yoga, or service back to humanity. To what extent do we, as a community, focus on giving back to humanity? And do you sense that this is the next step for our collective evolution?
Colleen: Yes. Most definitely I believe it is the next step. You inherently cannot be authentically in service and be inside of your ego at the exact same moment. Being in service to others takes people out of their personal story, which often is layered with a lot of drama, and into the commitment to be connected to humanity. Karma yoga, and the process of living simply, can be the simplest thing in the world. It can literally mean being attentive to your partner that you live with, showing up at work and being present. Service to humanity can be broken down into the smallest components, and then, as you expand it out into the world, it can look like Mother Teresa or Gandhi and other more grand, sweeping gestures of service.
But it can be very small. It does not have to mean changing your entire life or working at soup kitchens on Christmas. It can just be, “Oh, you’re trying to lift that box, let me help you.” It’s about moving outside of ourselves enough to recognize that we are connected all the time to a greater community — and that community might need something from you. We have followed some very serious belief systems about that process, about chanting “Om Namah Shivaya,” which means, “I surrender to God.” So while you are in service to people, you have this mantra going on in your head clearing your consciousness.
Susan: I believe that so much of what we do for other people is still rooted in what are we going to get out of it, or what benefit does this have to me? The whole idea with karma yoga is service to humanity without the attachment of anything else. That’s the part that maybe some of us haven’t quite integrated, the part where we are not just doing it to look good. Maybe it comes out of that old adage, “Johnny, you got to volunteer so you can put it on your resumÃ© for college!” Doing something so other people will love us or accept us. Ideally, that’s not the primary motivation for why you are in service.
Colleen: Look at it as Christ consciousness, a Jesus consciousness particularly, because I think that He did a very good job of being in service and recognizing that the only way to be inside the mind of God is to be in service. That’s it. That’s what we’re all here to do, actually.
I asked you that question because I get a sense that we’re not all there yet. One issue that The Edge magazine is taking a closer look at and promoting is the idea of being present. That’s why we are supporting an international teacher of presence, Leonard Jacobson, who is moving to the Twin Cities. Isn’t being present a step toward that direction?
Colleen: Yes, and I think that karma yoga comes inherently out of the presence. Presence always comes first. It’s being, then doing. The way that we recognize when there is a need for service is by being in presence. Particularly for people who are in the healing arts and who are on the path of service, it’s important to make sure that the oxygen mask goes on yourself first — and that’s part of being. Sit with yourself in your personal emotions and you take care of that first, and then extending your heart in service to humanity becomes effortless, because you’re handled. Everything you need is taken care of. You’ve just taken care of it by being in presence, and then everything else falls into place as you start to move into service.
Susan: I think some people have been doing this for a while, others are in the process and some are just discovering it. It’s a practice like anything else, and the more you start doing it, the more you continue to do it and recognize its beneficial effects. As you said, Colleen, it’s very difficult to both be serving other people and be in your own drama at the same time. Our nature is maybe to be like, “Oh, I can’t do that,” or “That’s not really who I am,” but that’s true with any spiritual evolution. It’s a practice. It takes some time to fully become it.
Both of you are multi-faceted in terms of what you do. You work in healing, in the arts and in spirituality. You go within and then give back. What advice do you have for those who want to do more, but they feel at a loss to understand what they can do?
Susan: My first reaction to that is to just do something. So many people get held up with wanting to know what’s the right thing to do or what’s the right first step.
Many people are seeking their purpose before they start doing anything.
Susan: I would say that’s exactly it. Their energy is more focused on the seeking. If we are being in the moment and you just start doing the things that the moment leads you to do, you will be on your path because the presence is your path. So many of us are distracted and we expend more energy on the searching and that takes us away from the being.
Colleen: An important piece for me, personally — and I feel like it translates well to other people — is to sit in prayer or meditation, whatever that silent space is for you. I listen for what I am called to do. Everybody has that ability and capacity, but this is where discipline comes in. You must make the time and create that space to allow room so that you can hear what your heart is calling you to do. Sometimes it’s the tiniest steps that move us in the direction.
Both Susan and I are artists, and as an artist there are a lot of times where you’re like, “I don’t know…am I going to record that, should I write a book?” When you are an artist spirit, you often have a lot of different interests and a lot of creative avenues. It’s imperative for healers, and artists particularly, to create that space around them so that they can hear, “Don’t write the book right now, go do this other thing, and be with people, and go to a play.” We have so many energies helping us on this planet. If we allow the space for them to enter in and that wisdom to come through, we are inherently guided.
Susan: Something we talk about on the show is to turn off the television and the external noise and focus inward. Ours is a culture of distraction. If it’s not television or radio, it’s talking on the phone to a friend or to a family member. It’s the drama of, “What’s going on with the neighbors?” These are all distractions from keeping us in tune with what our goals are and that listening piece. It’s very important to honor the silence.
Colleen: I just read something the other day that was so disturbing to me, in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. For the average American, by the end of our life we will have spent 15 years watching TV. If you take those 15 years and you replace television with service, imagine what exponentially could occur on the planet if that time and energy were just redirected even a little, like maybe just five years of that.
When I hear your program, I’m moved to a deeper place than I would expect to be in listening to a radio interview. Speak to your personal desires to explore the things that you talk about on your show, not in sound bites, but in something more substantial. Because I get the sense that’s what you want to do on your show.
Colleen: I will say, although I don’t want to get all teary-eyed and shloppy on you, the inherent foundation of “Raising the Consciousness” is that Susan and I are best friends and, spiritually, we’re moving along these very deep parallel paths. So we are in constant wonder and curiosity. And our friendship keeps unfolding in relationship to spirituality. Often our ideas and our guests and all of these things come from conversations we have had in a certain week, from passions that come forward and inspirations that we have. All of it is definitely tied to our personal relationship, which — as we were joking about earlier, not really joking — goes over many, many lifetimes, and we have known each other a long time in this lifetime.
Susan: We definitely have a passion for the subject matter. These are subjects that are very close to our hearts. Colleen said it well, that they come out of our own spiritual journey with each other and separately. Really, there is no separation, though we try. When Colleen was recording her album and I was knee deep with Sacred Rearrangement stuff, some of the challenges that would come up would be so parallel, and maybe we are just this little microcosm for the macrocosm that’s happening anyway, and so we are bringing that forward with the show.
So I go, “Oh, I just had this experience and that makes me think we should talk about the ego.”
“Yes! The ego!”
Both of us just love to share information with people. We are both teachers of many different things, and that passion that all teachers have in our culture to share and bring forth that information drives much of this.
Colleen: And I think that it comes down to, “Whenever two or more are gathered in His/Her name.” If you have two people whose focus is to witness spirit, and you put that into the dynamic of a radio show, it inherently will have depth, even if we’re not trying to do that, because that’s the depth of what is actually going on on this planet…
Susan: And we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Colleen: Not most days.
Susan: I have a propensity to do that way more than Colleen.
Susan: I’m the formal one.
Colleen: We have a little Felix and Oscar kind of relationship.
Susan: Absolutely. (They giggle and giggle.) What I mean by not taking ourselves too seriously is that we know we’re not the experts on any of these subjects and we don’t pretend to be. We are the messengers of many things, and that’s really about it.
What do you remember about when you two first met?
Colleen: Very perfectly, I remember it. There we were. In the lobby of Marshall Performing Arts Center at UMD. There were auditions for a musical, it must have been “The Baker’s Wives,” and Susan was wearing a red, long, down-to-the-floor dress that was a little busty and showy, and she was talking about how she had gotten it at some great deal.
Susan: Of course, always a great deal.
Colleen: Yes (laughing), which is hilarious because now she owns a shop where she does things like this. I just remember being stricken by her vivaciousness, passion, and then I immediately started to sing weird, dirty songs to her (laughing). I mean, it did not take but a moment. It’s amazing what rhymes with Shehata — “Hakuna Matata” does, and I wrote a little song, which I cannot repeat, for Susan to that tune. Always back to Disney! (They laugh riotously!)
Susan: Yes, that’s the story I remember, as well. And, what’s interesting about our friendship is that it’s just continued to blossom. Some people meet and right away they’re like best of friends. We were friends. We didn’t necessarily hang out together a lot through college. It wasn’t until maybe about 10 years ago now that we started to get just a little bit closer, and then again our paths just started becoming so obviously clear that we were parallel as we were digging our life trenches. It just became clear that more and more of our goals were overlapping.
We talk a lot about being two pillars, where sometimes we have to separate and go out into the world and do something, and then we bring it all together. This radio show is a perfect example of that. My partner, Keith, and I go off and start Sacred Rearrangements, our shop and healing center, and Colleen goes off and starts Fair Trade Om — and they’ve come together now with “Raising the Consciousness.”
And we continue to do that, like, “Go Team! All Right! Out in the world!” and then we’re back. That has been the nature of our friendship, as well. We keep turning things we love into our career paths. We always joke about, “Oh, remember a few years back when we used to sip coffee and talk about this time period and now we’re in it?”
Colleen: Yes, it was a little more relaxing to sit back and sip coffee and talk about it.
As the voices of “Raising the Consciousness,” you are in a much different space as you were as performers. Your stage is this small, closed room with microphones where you sit and look at each other. What is the experience like for you and how do you relate to your audience during your show? And who is the audience of “Raising the Consciousness”?
Colleen: The audience is naturally the listeners of AM 950, so that includes liberal, progressive people. And we have a storehouse of friends and clients, and a greater spiritual community, who have definitely taken to the show. At times, we’re thinking that there are four people who listen to our radio show, including our parents, and then when we’re at an expo or event, a lot of people come up and say, “Oh, yeah, I listen to your show.”
First of all, it’s a total humbling honor for us, because we’re just doing what we’re called to do. The fact that there are people out there who are resonating with it means that we are really doing what we mean to do.
How that translates as performers, it definitely was very different in the beginning. It’s a different medium completely than being on stage. You have no idea what the reaction of anyone is or who is listening. We got over it relatively quickly, but it takes probably two to three months to just surrender to the fact that you have no idea whether anyone is listening. The dude you have a crush on could very well be listening to your radio show right now, and you can’t really be thinking of that.
When it comes to us with headphones on during our Sunday afternoon time together, it basically boils down to Susan and I and whoever our guest might be — and that’s how we deal with it. We do a lot of bantering and goofing around and making faces at each other, but still we’re passionate about what we’re doing.
Listen to archives of past episodes of “Raising the Consciousness” radio at www.raisingtheconsciousness.com.