Find the Right Timing for Healing

Is time linear, circular or parallel? Depending on our perspective, we may be influencing our own healing.

Chronos: Linear Time

Regardless of the spelling, the name Chronus/Cronus/Khornos/Chronos, is associated with linear time and the early origins of the Earth. In some myths Khronos is a serpent with the heads of a man, a bull and a lion. He paired with the serpent goddess Ananke. They coiled around the primal egg and split it open to create the earth. In other myths, Cronus is the Greek Titan who castrated his own father and ate his own children to gain the former’s power and to prevent the latter from coming into power.

Serpents are often depicted as coiling back on themselves. The head eats the tail, devouring itself. This can be seen as a construct of time. Events repeat. One can read history and, in understanding the nature of things, reliably predict the future. Time is in limited supply in the form we know. We are not the same person today we were yesterday. Identity is shed like the skin of a snake and the process happens with time. We can’t go back to the old way of being and at the same time, the way of being comes back to us.

This linear yet repetitious nature shows up in the story of the titan Cronus. What he does to his father is done to him. His son Zeus eventually captures his father’s throne. We could look at this and say it is the folly of men, but a male figure simply dominates the teaching that history is fated to repeat itself. If the Gods can’t escape the effects, surely us women grapple with the same principle.

Is it our view of time that is the trap or time itself? Or is the trap an illusion too?

Replacing a chronos perspective with a kairos one offers a mind-expanding, albeit mind-bending, alternative.

Kairos: Right Timing

Kairos is an ancient Greek word describing the propitious, advantageous or opportune moment. We are falling in love with the idea of the “supreme moment,” also called “right timing”. When something works out we say it was the “right time,” that it was supposed to happen or meant to be. We are talking of kairos.

Kairos can also signify a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. Mystics who approach enlightenment teach us that everything is happening at once. All we have is the present moment. The right timing is any time. This gives kairos thinking a qualitative and permanent nature in contrast to the quantitative and ephemeral nature of chronos thought.

Kairos is also the Greek word for weather, which is brilliant really. We all know of the “perfect storm” and also understand that the weather is beyond the dominion of man. We can put all the stones in place and utilize our gift of strategy to build a future, but without the unique, unpredictable nature of kairos on our side we can never force it to be so.

Call it luck, fortune or destiny, we are never where we’re not meant to be.

Time and the Nature of Healing

When exploring how we heal, a linear, chronos view can get in the way. We become determined to pinpoint a specific event at a given time that precipitated the wounding. Sometimes we find one, but that event is in the past, out of our reach. We can never travel back and change the event. We can change our memory of the event, but this may simply be the serpent eating her own tail.

There isn’t always a way to find the initial event that caused wounding and even knowing the event can lend little solace. Sometimes there is no rational explanation for the magnitude of feelings of fear, suffering or loss. They all blend together in our increasingly non-linear understanding of time. One wounding is mended only to find two more to pop up just like the frustrating regeneration of the beast Hydra’s heads.

I unwrapped the moment and found a great gift, the present.

It is time to stop looking for the root and cease hacking at the monster’s many necks. Some things never have “right timing”. The loss of a loved one never comes at a good time. A debilitating illness is never welcome in our homes. Healing doesn’t come when we need it most. When we think of the supreme moment we tend to think of it simply as that, a moment. This is because we equate supreme with good. Good is a momentary, subjective matter. Good comes and goes. Life is woven throughout.

To exist constantly in the right timing of kairos time, we must hold the entire spectrum of experience in our hearts. We must pray for the grace to manage that overwhelming swell of joy and sorrow. In the torturous moments we must learn to access hope. In the joyous times we must learn to remember the suffering of others. This creates a whole person, and healing means to make whole.

Questions for Right Timing:

Here are some questions to ponder when considering a relationship to chronos and kairos perspectives.:

How is this chronos or linear perspective serving me? What am I getting out of seeing the experience as already finished and out of my reach?

How can I move into the rhythm of the moment (Kairos) and harvest the benefits?

What opportunities right now am I missing in these kinds of situations?

What fears or beliefs do I need help transmuting so that I can move towards a Kairos consciousness?

Originally posted on the SageWoman blog at: on April 3, 2015.

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

fire prayer

Kneeling at the Hearth

First thing every morning throughout five or six months of the year, I build and light a fire in my fireplace. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to stay in bed past my husband so that he can warm the house before I crawl out from underneath my cozy flannel sheets and down comforter, but most mornings my duty is the fire.

When the routine starts in November, I do it begrudgingly. I dislike getting up and fumbling in the dark for my fleece sweatshirt and thermal socks only to walk out into the arctic living room and kneel on the frigid tile in front of the fireplace. This winter I got clever and talked my husband into bringing wood in for the morning before he goes to bed each night. At least now I don’t have to go out in sub-zero temperatures in my pajamas anymore. That seemed really insane.

Over the course of this winter something started to shift. The burden has become routine and I do it without thinking. I have the number of sheets of newspaper perfectly decided as well as the exact right amount of kindling figured. I automatically check the inside and outside temperatures so I know just how long I need to tend the fire. The colder the temperature the longer I sit with it, adding wood as the fire indicates to me it is ready to go to the next level of feeding.

A few months ago I noticed something peculiar on my knees. For those of you that live in the mountains, or at least in snowy places, you’ll know how rare it is that you actually look at your legs for more than a passing glance during the winter. I don’t know why it seems a little embarrassing to mention this, but it’s true none-the-less. Anyways, I noticed callouses on my knees. This has never happened to me in the sum of my life. What changed?

It took me the whole of a day before I made the connection. My morning time on my knees before the fire was leaving a mark on my skin. It was hard to believe that ten or fifteen minutes made the difference. I recalled the meaning of kneeling and the associations with humility and subservience.

For most of my life I’ve shunned prayer and shied away from kneeling, not liking the self-deprecation of putting myself below some man in the sky like they teach in church. With the prompting of a few great teachers and mystical teachings, my stance has changed. I’ve come to embrace the power of prayer in the last few years. I was awkward at it at first, really not finding much to say because petition and gratitude prayers were the only prayers I knew as well as the only prayers I knew I didn’t want to say. I instead read other prayers in books; sometimes memorizing them and sometimes watching them pass before my eyes in a flash of understanding.

Then my repetition or reading turned to spontaneous prayer in the middle of meditation. I kept the prayers short not wanting to spoil them with reasoning and doubt. They were sweet little kernels I cradled in my contemplation. My time for silence comes right after the fire is launched and burning on its own. When I can leave it to its own devises.

I used to resent making the fire because it had to be done. I just wanted to get to my journal and my reading, my silent time of the day, but without the warmth of the fire I was imprisoned in layers of blankets I swaddled myself in to stay warm. The fire was a distraction for me, more time for my monkey mind to start sorting through worries of the day.

Finding those callouses on my knees changed my mindset. At first, the callouses were badges of honor that showed my dedication to prayer and I was inwardly proud, but then, they became a reminder that there is no task too small and I found more humility. As many monks have taught, meditate and then chop wood. Living the mystical in the midst of the mundane takes seeing every moment, especially those caught in chore, as an opportunity to be with the Divine.

I began my time kneeling at the hearth each day in silence watching the flames I was fostering. I wanted to fill the space with prayer or meaning, but I instead allowed the simplicity of the job to be as it was. I zoned out. My mind wandered. The intuitive art of fire building and watching came in. I soon found I was interrupting my fire time to get up and go sit with my beloved journal.

And now, as Imbolc is upon us, I have discovered the perfect prayer for my fire time, and the wisdom of those callouses on my knees is finally borne out in my practice. This is a traditional Celtic prayer from the lovely bookPrayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems, & Meditations from Around the World edited by Maggie Oman. I read it every morning as the flames begin to overtake the wood. Pieces of it and memories of the flames come back to me throughout my days. I hope someday with this practice that the entire prayer will reside in my heart.

This morning, as I kindle the fire upon my hearth, I pray that the flame of the God’s love may burn in my heart, and the hearts of all I meet today.

I pray that no envy and malice, no hatred or fear, may smother the flame.

I pray that indifference and apathy, contempt and pride, may not pour like cold water on the fire.

Instead, may the spark of the God’s love light the love in my heart, that it may burn brightly through the day.

And may I warm those that are lonely, whose hearts are cold and lifeless, so that all may know the comfort of the God’s love.

Note: The printed prayer speaks of “God’s” love, but you may change the wording to fit your beliefs. Goddess, Spirit, Beloved, any honorific for the One that moves through all things can be used.

Originally posted on the SageWoman blog at: on January 29, 2015

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

duckling rescue

A Duckling Rescue Story

I had a thought provoking comment on my blog about Dove Spirit Animal today from a fellow who was moving across the country and took a wild mourning dove with him. After three days in the car together, the man released the dove in a completely new habitat. You’ll have to read his story as well as my response to see what path that leads down. Through his question another thread spoke to me in the form of a memory I try not to recall very often.

This stirred up, unsettling memory is from a time when I found a helpless wild duckling along the side of a road.

A Trying Duckling Rescue

My father and I were at the start of a three day road trip to my mom’s house in central Washington from our home in Colorado. We were headed up Clear Creek Canyon with my young yellow labrador retriever in tow. I think this may have been his first road trip. There were numerous gravel shoulders along the road, one of which we choose to stop in to let the dog out.

Our dog Buckwheat was famous for being run by his sense of smell. On this day, he jumped right out of the back of my dad’s white Blazer and went straight into the brush, nose first. Out came waddling and peeping a small, downy, yellow duckling. My first thought, was “Oh! How cute!” and my second thought was “Oh great. What now?”

I knew this was not right to find a duckling wandering about along a busy highway with a large river right by. The duckling should have been out on the water with its mother. My concern was immediate as was my sense of being stuck with no options. I knew that we were too far along in our drive to turn home and search out an appropriate wildlife rescue center for the duckling. I felt that I couldn’t just leave him there especially now that his hiding place had been unveiled by my curious lab. Heaven forbid that the duckling amble out in front of a car or paddle aimlessly down the river wearing himself out. Already my heart was splitting in two. And he was so stinking cute.

After searching for the mother duck without success, it was clear that I was now on a duckling rescue mission. I lovingly collected the duckling up in a towel and returned to the passenger seat. My dad knew it was hopeless to tell me to do nothing. He could hear the distress in my voice and I’m sure was pained to see me so unhappy.

With my dad’s help, we decided the best thing to do was to take the duckling to a forest station that was 30-45 minutes up the road. I was sure those stewards of the wilderness would know what to do. I was young still – 15 years old or so – and my naivety was fresh. I idolized people who worked as naturalists. They were superheroes to me.

I had everything I could do while my dad drove the windy canyon road to keep patient with Buckwheat. He tried over and over again to climb into my seat and be on top of the duckling and I. I don’t know how many times “get back!” came out of my mouth. Buckers was bubbling over with excitement over our new peeping passenger. I shared his enthusiasm. The tiny bundle of yellow nestled into my lap had captured my heart. To this day, I have an overwhelming mothering instinct when it comes to baby animals.

Searching for Help

We pulled off the highway, drove into a small mountain town and went in to the ranger station that was along our route. I diligently carried the duckling inside, my dad holding the door while leading the way in. The man behind the counter turned us away almost before I could tell the story. I can’t remember another conversation so brief. He just shook his head. I think he did say he was sorry for all that helped my situation.

I didn’t have the heart to try and convince my dad to turn back and go to the original spot where we found the duckling. It didn’t seem like it would make any difference at the time and I wasn’t prone to causing too much trouble. All I could do by then was follow my dad’s idea to release the duckling in the river behind the forest service office. It was quieter there and there was more vegetative cover, but the duckling was definitely all alone. It was the same river we’d found him along, but it was many miles away. I hoped beyond hope that his mother might find him. I felt awful driving away.

To this day wish I could have done something more for the duckling. I still wonder now if I was any help at all.

My Call to Be a Wildlife Rehabilitator

This experience and regret that stemmed from it fueled my decision to work at a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation organization. My encounter with that one duckling led me to help hundreds of other wild creatures in need.

Has it been amazing to hold so many beautiful wild animals in my hands? Of course. Was this some of the toughest work I’ve ever done? Yes.

We released many animals and many more didn’t make it. Being a part of an organization that specialized in the care and rehabilitation of wild animals was satisfying in that we had the tools and knowledge to do the most we could to help injured and orphaned wildlife. So often we knew what to do and found success. At times, we were clueless and met failure. Such is the nature of life and death. That duckling wasn’t my first broken heart.

The encounter with that one duckling was the start of my efforts to help raise awareness about the plight of wild animals who find themselves all too often in conflict with human civilization. I never would have guessed it would have brought me here to this work as a shamanic practitioner and to writing this story to you today.

How You Can Help with Wildlife Rescue

For you, I recommend finding where your closest wildlife rehabilitation center is because you never know when you might need their help. Please don’t try to rehabilitate a wild animal on your own or keep them in your home. Besides being ill-advised it is illegal. Every animal needs a specific diet and a quiet, uninterrupted natural enclosure to recover. A wildlife rescue center can provide exactly what the animal needs along with important medical care. These centers also have the mandatory federal permits that allow them to have the animals in their custody.

Rather than have the weird hope of finding an injured or orphaned animal someday so that you can be a part of a story like this, please get to work now by donating or volunteering at your local wildlife rehabilitation center.


About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

being compassionate

Are You Good at Being Compassionate?

Discovering Your Capacity for Being Compassionate

About two years ago I added two questions to my intake form for new clients. I put the questions on my intake forms to learn more about each individual client and how she sees herself. The plan was to garner information from how these questions were scored and use it to tailor the content of conversations to best help each person. Here are the questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how compassionate are you with others?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how compassionate are you with yourself?

You may want to take a minute to answer these questions yourself. For reference, 10 is the most compassionate and 1 is the least. Do you answer these questions quickly using a gut reaction or do you deliberate over them, concerned about what someone else might think if they saw your scores?

What is Compassion?

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary compassion is “a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it” and a “feeling of wanting to help someone”.  It means to suffer together. I often see the word simply as “with passion” or being “with feeling”.

Compassion is something intangible that is hard to measure like love or kindness and it is relative to each person, but it is worth considering your own capacity for being compassionate. Do you simply tolerate other people’s pain or are you the kind of person that falls into it with them? Are you able to sit with another person who’s in distress and be a companion for them offering comfort in a way that helps? Spending time describing your capacity for compassion is a good exercise to do on occasion. It is worth noting the times you are compassionate and the times you aren’t.

Compassion for yourself is called “self-compassion” and it means a willingness to be with your own suffering and to want to alleviate your own pain. Dr. Kristin Neff has done a fabulous job of mapping out the intricacies of self-compassion on her website

Compassion leads to connection and gives substance to our lives. Many people include compassion as one of their values and they strive to learn more about being compassionate.

What Happened with These Questions?

What I ended up discovering is that the answers to these questions were incredibly tough to predict and even harder to understand. As an outsider looking in, I was continually baffled by the answers. The responses were not what I would have guessed even after getting to know the clients.

A little kept secret of mine, is that for each individual session, these answers are have little, if no, bearing on how I guide the process. Yet for some reason I left the questions on my forms even after numerous revisions sensing that there was something there I had yet to discover.

I’d like to say thank you to all the clients who have taken a moment or two to consider these questions. You may not have liked answering them or thought they were kind of frivolous. I think now is when you have the opportunity to benefit from that time you took.

My Survey Results

Over time, I’ve noticed a consistent trend among the scores that clients sent me. The scores for compassion for others was nearly always higher than the scores for self-compassion. Just this week, I decided to tally up the data I have to date and see what else I could learn from this impromptu survey. Here’s what I found:

  • 87% of clients who answered the questions had more compassion for others than themselves
  • 13% of clients had the same amount for others and themselves
  • ZERO clients had more compassion for themselves than others
  • The average self-compassion score was 5.5 compared to the average compassion for others score of 8.0

Here is a graph of the relative results to give you a visual. You can see that overall people felt they were better at being compassionate towards others.

being compassionate self compassionate

Cultivating Self-Compassion

Far from a rigorous scientific study, my simple, small survey will not win any notice among psychologists I’m sure, but that’s not the point. The point is there is an obvious trend here that many people can learn from.

From my outside perspective, my clients are some of the most self-compassionate people I know. They are not only aware of their suffering, they are willing to be vulnerable in sharing about it. They are so committed to alleviating their own suffering that they are willing to dedicate generous amounts of time and energy to getting better. But, since they are on the inside looking out they can’t see the heroism of their own efforts. Taking a moment to step outside yourself to look in will help you see how much you’re really doing.

Do you know the saying that we are our own worst critic? It may be that many people have bought into this mythology, and although it may be true it doesn’t help us work towards alleviating our own suffering. Next time you catch yourself thinking or saying that, go ahead and replace it with a compassionate statement such as, “I’m my own best companion.”

To have more self-compassion, we need to apply the compassion we give to others to ourselves. Clearly with an average score of 8 when it comes to being compassionate with others, we know about being compassionate. Learning how to befriend yourself can help you up your self-compassion score.

If you are a person that feels you are better at being with the distress of others than your own pain, this data should help. Dr. Kristin Neff says that a component of self-compassion is “common humanity” and knowing you are not the only person struggling. It is quite a layered thing to realize that you are not alone in feeling of you have a deficit of self-compassion and that this will help your sense of self-compassion.

Take some time each day to acknowledge all that you do to take care of yourself. You may do twice as much to beat yourself up as you do to help yourself out, but beating yourself up over that isn’t going to help. Focus on the ways you do know how to love yourself and do one new thing, no matter how small, to nurture you.


About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

understanding solitude

The Seriousness of Solitude

I was brought to tears this morning by the most surprising of lines in a book:

I see more and more that solitude is not something to play with. It is deadly serious. And much as I have wanted it, I have not been serious enough. It is not enough to ‘like solitude,’ or love it even. Even if you ‘like’ it, it can wreck you, I believe, if you desire it for your own sake.” – Thomas Merton in A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

This is one truth I have endeavored to express in any myriad of ways, but Merton’s gravity does it more eloquently than I ever will. Solitude can wreck us and that is precisely why we should come to be with and know it, seriously.

What We Don’t Understand About Our Need for Solitude

Solitude is not simply taking time out for ourselves. Here is how we get solitude wrong: We think it simply has to do with being alone and not talking to anyone. To many, solitude means unplugging from email, social media, internet searches, television, texting, and phone calls. Others go further and believe that true solitude means turning the lights off, putting away all literature, leaving home, going outdoors, refraining from elaborate meals or fasting altogether.

When we think we are going towards solitude we are really looking to be left alone. This is what Merton means when he says, “desire it for your own sake”.

By looking at what we do when seeking solitude, we can easily see that the root of our need for solitude is one typically born of our need to escape, to get away from it all. Overwhelm is likely the most common excuse for a flight into solitude, but so is frustration. How many times do we say, “I just need to get away and clear my head?” But, how many times are we secretly hoping to regain control?

Solitude has a way of stripping us clean this is true, but we have no say in what is left over after it sweeps through. Solitude is not about being in control, precisely the opposite in fact. The process is anything but obedient.

What About Not Liking Solitude?

While living on an island by myself which I wrote about in my memoir Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks, I met the perils of solitude. I hadn’t gone to the island to be alone. I was not one of those people that Merton says “likes” solitude. Albeit, at times I had wished I could escape the shackles of societal pressure and expectations – why else would I be out in the wilderness? – but I preferred to be with both a crew of researchers and the sea.

In regards to alone time, I had nameless hours alone during my childhood as a latchkey kid. That was enough for me, thank you. I was afraid to be alone on that island because, like many others, I associated being in solitude with feelings of emptiness, abandonment, and depression.

So many of us are afraid of what we will find in ourselves when left to our own devises. What if we encounter that deep pit of sadness/hopelessness/pain/apathy? How will we ever come out? The question, “What is wrong with me?” often looms in the quiet of time alone along with “What am I doing with my life?” and “What’s the point?”

The Grace in Solitude

Yet no matter, there is great beauty and peace in this life of silence and emptiness. But to fool around brings awful desolation. When one is trifling, even the beauty of the solitary life becomes implacable. Solitude is a stern mother who brooks no nonsense.” – Thomas Merton

And, thank God she does brook no nonsense. What I found in living alone for such an extended period of time in such a harsh environment, was that solitude was stern. I was forced to stay in a solitude (my only way off the island was a private plane that came once per week), which took charge and ferried me past the anguish and tears.

I found an inner space so quiet and clear that I truly felt the sacred for the first time in my life. This was no fooling around. For those of us who currently reside in a fear of solitude, this is the gift of staying in solitude beyond the point of discomfort. Solitude surprises us with meaning and soul.

For those of us that wish, at present, to get away from it all, the craving is eventually destroyed by our own self-involvement. Our need to escape overwhelm and frustration follows us into the wilderness and we find that to know peace we must let go of ourselves. It is this surrender of control that can be messy, fitful and tumultuous.

If we stay in solitude long enough, we have the opportunity to glimpse the true grace of solitude that changes the life we no longer want to live. Solitude allows the sacred to infuse our being. Clarity becomes ours.

Understanding the Joys of Solitude

Sometimes life comes through and brings us into solitude without our planning or choosing so. This can be the unexpected job loss or the debilitating illness. One of my teachers called this “cocoon time” and it is known by mystics as a sacred gift along the road of transformation. If we can take these unplanned way stations without resistance or resentment, the benefits of going with the flow of divine timing are numerous.

What we usually forget about solitude is that the decision to retreat into solitude can beget from gratitude, joy and love. Simply taking the time to give thanks and reflect on this beautiful life we have is reason enough to seek solitude.

The magic of an honest experience of solitude is that what we once thought was important falls away. We are given the chance to touch something greater both inside and outside of ourselves. Pain and anguish melt away. We become centered and generous and good once again.

Not all of the time we spend alone is time spent in solitude. The grace of an experience of solitude is too strong to maintain for prolonged lengths of time. So we simply set the stage however we know how and wait for solitude to come to us.



About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

spiritual companion

How To: Finding Soul Friendship

In my article on red-tailed hawk spirit animal I encourage people to identify and connect with their tribe and for good reason.

You may be surprised to learn that many people I encounter feel disconnected from a sense of tribe. They feel alone. So many people long for companionship. Often each person thinks, interestingly, that they are the only one that feels this way. There is a huge chunk of who they are that they both fear and yearn to share.

There are a fair share of acquaintances and ordinary friends and family that we get together to discuss work, children, and the woes of the world with. There are friends that we gather with to watch sporting events, movies, or concerts. There are friends that we bike, horseback ride, play sports, or walk with. There are family members that we work together with to accomplish tasks and collaborate with to caretake children or elderly relatives.

Why are We Lonely?

A few of the people that reach out with their story of loneliness truly don’t have any friends or family, but many more lonely people are surrounded by a host of friends and family. This is a paradox. To be surrounded by family and friends, but feel alone. Why is this?

The missing piece is open engagement on matters of the soul.

I am going to admit something that may make a few of you uncomfortable, but is necessary to understanding why we are so lonely. Churches play a valuable role in fostering spiritual community and friendships. Many of us no longer go to church. In spending Sundays at home, we lose the framework that nurtures conversations of the soul.

Not that I am saying you must go to church. I am simply pointing out that in not going, we lose the roadmap to developing soul friendships.

What are Soul Friendships?

Soul friendships are relationships where we have the opportunity to share those things of a spiritual or metaphysical nature that we are afraid to tell another person. Spontaneous spiritual visions, wild dreams, humbling revelations, ridiculous mean moments, and mind-blowing epiphanies are all a part of conversations with soul friends. A soul friend will hear how a polar bear stood by your bed last night, and you’ll listen to how an angel gave her advice this morning.

In a soul friendship the following components must exist:
Trust, Honesty, Listening, Compassion, Non-judgement, and Letting Go of Being the Expert.

Getting Started

Listening, non-judgement, compassion, and letting go of being the expert are all qualities you can cultivate in any of your relationships. You can practice that right now.

Trust and honesty are a different story. They take time. So often when we have gone too long without the spiritual nourishment of a soul friend, we want to rush into finding someone.

We get frustrated when a friendship doesn’t work out. We overshare. We wish we could open up more. We find out our friend is too pessimistic for us to endure. We realize all we want to do is have someone to complain to. We discover the friend’s beliefs are too different than our own and we can’t meet each other. You may try to turn an ordinary friend or family member into a soul friend and fail miserably.

This will happen. It might not look pretty. You may be plagued with self-doubt. But, keep the faith and remember that the person(s) you think should be your soul friend(s) are the most likely not to be. This is not an ego friendship meant to increase your social status. You’ll be presented with people you’d maybe rather not befriend. Allow the Divine to place the candidates before you and remember to replace disapproving first impressions with inquiry and acceptance.


6 Tips for Finding Soul Friendship

1. Don’t expect those closest to you to meet you where you are.

Often we want our spouse or partner to be our soul friend, but they may not be able to fill that hole for you. It can be too much to expect one person in your life to provide everything you need. Give them a break and find the courage to branch out.

2. Ask new friends interesting questions.

Ask if they practice yoga, if they know about meditation, how they feel about mindfulness or if they know about chakras. These are “safe” mainstream questions that will reveal their relationship to a spiritual life.

3. Look for friends that have a regular spiritual practice

Be it writing in a journal, watching their dreams, meditating, or reading spiritual texts. It is easier to stay committed to your own spiritual practice when you are around others who are also learning to be disciplined.

4. Ask your current friends new questions.

See if they’ve heard of a mainstream spiritual text or author that you enjoy, or ask if they watch Super Soul Sunday. So many times I’ve discovered sacred friendships with old friends I had framed as averse to being “woo-woo” by simply asking them new questions.

5. Search for local groups

that gather around a spiritual practice you appreciate. Meditation circles, drumming circles, and spiritual book clubs are everywhere. First see if one of your current soul friends are a part of a group like this and ask if you could go with them to the next meeting. If you’re starting from scratch and going it alone, focus on finding the courage to attend.

6. Be patient

This takes time and is best accomplished over a number of years. If you have the ability to put roots down in one location this will help your efforts. If you have to move often or live in a remote location, try joining an online community and finding long distant soul friends.


I trust that you will find exactly who you need when you need them. Know that the process you are going through is a process of transformation and food for your soul. Have faith.


Learn More About Spiritual Direction with Stacey Couch
Email Stacey at

problem solving for the soul

Problem Solving for the Soul

We adore logic. For many of us, we enter our spiritual practice with the fervor of a crime investigator trying to solve the mysteries of our lives, especially our past and wounds. This may be the default setting for most people in their spiritual practice. Many become brilliant scholars of the spiritual path and make fantastic inroads to enlightenment through the faculties of the mind.

However, the great masters teach that reason and analysis are the enemies of a deep spiritual practice. Reason limits us from seeing possibilities, grasping cosmic paradox and understanding mystical truth. At some point along the way each of us realizes that just because our mind can’t make sense of something, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. In fact, if we can’t grasp it with our mind, it probably is true. We are lead to explore the idea of surrendering the mind through meditation and prayer. We let go altogether. We get lost. At the very least, we lose touch with mundane reality.

As with all things, going to one extreme or another can causes an imbalance.

I suggest that it is important for you to weigh and understand the benefits and detriments of employing problem solving in your spiritual practice. This way, you’ll be able to notice your preference, or default setting, and be sure not to overextend yourself in one direction. A good majority of the self-help and self-empowerment books and systems available today very much emphasize the benefits of being “in control” of any number of things. These systems can steer us towards mastering our thoughts to better work with the law of attraction or unveiling our shadow so we stop sabotaging ourselves. You are likely very familiar with these benefits, so I am just going to touch on them briefly as a reminder.

Benefits to Problem Solving

  • Brings the Shadow Into the Light: Using analysis in our spiritual practice helps bring awareness of how we self-sabotage. Analytical thinking is empowering because it helps us realize the role we play in our suffering and take ownership of it. We stop playing the victim.
  • Offers Hope: We can avoid the frustration of not “understanding” something when we employ rational thinking to find an answer. Problem solving invites in hope that there is a process and that we are going to come through the other side. It gives us a sense of purpose.
  • Fosters Creativity: With logical thinking we can creatively find alternatives to the way we do things and have a chance to choose to do things differently. Logic helps reveal to you things you may not have noticed because you look at the situation from all angles.

Really, we’ve made brilliant strides in the consciousness movement through applying our mind to our spiritual practice. It is no mistake that this field has ballooned into a huge industry. However, as many people are discovering, the mind can only bring us so far into matters of spirit. There is so much that we cannot attain through normal thought.

Problems of Approaching Spirituality with the Mind

Thomas Moore understands the calamity of inviting the mind into our contemplative practices and he shares about this in his book, Care of the Soul:

If we deprive sacred stories of their mystery, we are left with the brittle shell of fact, the literalism of a single meaning. But when we allow a story its soul, we can discover our own depths through it… The intellect wants a summary meaning – all well and good for the purposeful nature of the mind. But the soul craves depth of reflection, many layers of meaning, nuances without end, references and allusions and prefigurations. All these enrich the texture of an image or story and please the soul by giving it much food for rumination… The soul is more interested in particulars than in generalities.

When we work with our mind in matters of the soul, we tend to seek a single meaning. This reduces the situation or problem to a generality and de-animates it, the particulars are missing. Logic can suck the air from the room of the soul. Leaving us feeling lifeless. This may feel good at first to be free of the charge and apparently relieved of the pain and suffering the problem has caused us, but soon we begin to miss a sense of meaning in our lives and in ourselves. We become married to the single meaning which leads to fundamentalism and closed-mindedness.

We may think we have the answer and stop too soon. How many times have you thought to yourself, “haven’t I been through this already?” It is probably because you solved the situation with your reasoning ability and “found” the answer way before your soul was complete with the process. You were premature in believing you had found the solution.

With problem solving, we can torture ourselves looking for reasons and get caught up in drama, stories and judgement. So rather than exiting the situation, we become mired deeper into it. The way out becomes obscured. Just as creative thinking can help us out of a problem, it can block other sources of creative inspiration. The soul speaks to us through many channels including our bodies, our friends, our daily encounters, our dreams, and more. When we rely solely on the creative capacity of our mind, we are handicapped and we can find ourselves in a perpetual loop of restating the problem.

So many times the way out of suffering is not logical. If we are overdependent on our mind, we won’t trust guidance that doesn’t make sense.

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with employing rational thinking in a spiritual practice is the habit of seeing problems everywhere. If problem solving becomes our spiritual practice, then we are not practicing unless we have problems.

What happens on the day when you wake up and are done with the problems? You’ve had enough. You realize that the problems are between you and living a sacred life. No problem is worth that. You would like the problems out of the way. This is when your spiritual life starts to be about your relationship with the Divine and stops being about your problems.

Do you prefer to use analysis in your spiritual practice or do you shun it? When encountering a mystery within yourself how do you approach it? What is a mystery within you that you are sitting with right now?

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

The Pope and Our Sister, Mother Earth

Pope Francis is making news by acknowledging that climate change is an urgent situation we must all face. The bigger breakthrough that news stations and bloggers are missing altogether is the way the encyclical, and thus the Pope, personifies the Earth. The Earth is called “Mother Earth,” “sister”, and “she”. I don’t know enough about the Catholic church to know if it is standard procedure to speak of the Earth in this way at the highest levels in a worldwide edict (please use the comments below to fill me in if it is), but, regardless of precedence, I am awestruck to hear of “her”, our planet, spoken of as a living, breathing being by arguably one of the biggest patriarchies in the world.

To understand the gravity of this announcement for those of us in love with the divine feminine and speaking out on her behalf, here is a quote from the first line of the encyclical:

Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth’… We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

I sometimes wonder if my voice speaking this simple truth is lost in the crowd. I sometimes wish I could have a flashier message. Doing what I can to speak on behalf of the spirit in animals and nature has humbled me tremendously. So often the response I receive is that the marriage of spirituality and ecology is a sweet fantasy. Many seem to see it as quaint, like the whims of a flower child born of the hippie movement despite the fact this passion in me was born of my independent research started in the 1980’s on the destruction of our environment .

Many of us have endeavored for years now to express how critical this remarriage of the soul and nature is to the health of humanity. It is the centerpiece of my life’s work and I am making great sacrifices to further this message in the world. So, please forgive me if in this moment all I can do is reveal in an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I know the evils of the Catholic church. I understand that Pope Francis has opinions on other matters that rival my own, but in this moment all of that falls away.

This is how the love of the Mother works. It takes precedence over everything else and Pope Francis gets this. He also clearly comprehends the enormity of the suffering we have caused.

He writes, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will… This is why the earth herself… is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.

Just reading that line, “the earth herself is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor,” breaks my heart open again. It breaks my heart open and simultaneously  I can know at the core of my being that she is powerful beyond all measure. As it is with many mystical truths, these two faces of the Mother reside side by side. They call this divine paradox.

Then, finally the words to explain why I left the scientific field and life as an animal rescuer to adopt the mantle of shamanic practitioner comes from the most unexpected of places, the Catholic church.

Pope Francis says of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, that, “‘He would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’’. Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.

The “naive romanticism” is exactly the projection I have been challenged with and been humbled by. As I appear on dozens of radio shows, presentations and book signings I have to remain with my simple message and stay passionate about it no matter how much my ego calls for something that will dazzle the audience. It is such a simple truth, that all beings are our brothers and sisters and the Earth is our Mother. They are, as many Native American tribes say, “All our relations”.

This simple truth can be easily glossed over and not allowed to affect our choices and determine our behavior. This is the case when the truth is taken literally rather than symbolically. That is what makes our environmental crisis a spiritual crisis. We’ve forgotten that our connection to all that is is a spiritual connection. It is sometimes the simplest truth taken into our soul that moves mountains. This is a mountain moving.

Pope Francis dedicates the third section of the first chapter of the encyclical entirely to the “Loss of Biodiversity”. This has been THE main suffering of the world in my heart since childhood and is the reason why I initially worked hands-on to help save endangered species, but even the pope understands that this direct intervention is not enough.

We must direct our faith to matters of ecology.

We have to open our hearts to our brothers and sisters. It is time we wake up to the spiritual path and realize we are not on it alone, our brother the wind and sister the Earth walk it too. The fate of our brother the bluebird and sister the robin is intertwined with our own. It is not an easy path to walk awake. It is painful and disheartening at times. It can feel utterly hopeless, but that is precisely why the marriage of heaven and earth must be fostered within us all.

And from the encyclical, a prayer in aid of the marriage:

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.”

To read the entire, official English translation of the Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home encyclical from Pope Francis go here:


About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

Dreaming the Law of Attraction

With the enormous surge of study into the law of attraction lately, so many people are learning how the act of dreaming can attract what they desire. Some teachers and coaches focus their entire practice on teaching this one mystical law. It’s effects are that fascinating and mind boggling. Anyone who’s wished for something big and had it come to pass knows what I’m talking about. Understanding this one law of the universe does help us get closer to co-creating our reality, but some things don’t always work out according to the law of attraction. I myself know countless empowered, conscious people that still aren’t living the lives they dream of.

Does this Law Fail?

A universal law is just that, universal. It does not fail to operate. This law works so well in fact that it operates all of the time on many levels. The law of attraction works to bring us small material things like our favorite lunch and esoteric big things that serve the evolution of our soul. On a moment to moment basis we are drawing experiences, people and things to ourselves on hundreds, thousands, millions of levels. This law works without a need for us to “think” about it or “decide” what we’d like to have in our lives. It just operates whether we decide to engage it or not.

We do not have the brain capacity to understand all of what we are drawing in. [ct_message type=”info”]At any given time we have 11,000,000 bits of information a second coming in through our senses. Studies have shown that our brains process only 50 bits of information per second. How we choose only 50 bits out of 11 million is unknown, but suffice it to say that we are privy to only a small amount of what is going on around us.[/ct_message]The law of attraction does not fail. We fail to understand all of the ways it is at work in our lives. We try to simplify it down to one thing we’d like to have happen and then wish like crazy that we’ll be able to control the workings of the cosmos. This can create a good deal of madness.

The Pursuit of Perfection

One of the dangerous traps of law of attraction theory is that we are lead to believe that if it’s not working it’s because we have done something wrong or that we are broken. We’re told it’s simple. We hear of people that work with it successfully to get what they want. When what we desire does not come to pass we strive and suffer for perfection.

Here are just some of the thoughts that can plague us:
“Maybe I don’t believe I’m worth what I desire.”
“I must have not worded my dream correctly.”
“Maybe I didn’t dream it hard enough or often enough.”
“What if I have the wrong dream?”
“There must be some fear I still haven’t overcome.”

There are no guarantees that solving any of these problems will get us what we yearn for because there are just too many factors at play. There are other cosmic laws that help determine what comes into our lives. There is the law of the Tao that says we are destined to experience opposites. A person that has a good cry will later find laughter. What goes up must come down and from the bottom there’s no where to go but up. There is the law of cause and effect that states that every action has an opposite and equal reaction.

It is good to be empowered, believe in ourselves, dream with intention and overcome fears, but when these are viewed as the key to unlocking the treasure box of fantasies we can become disenchanted on the path. Expecting the external world to verify our inner progress is futile.

Craving & The First Three Chakras

The law of attraction speaks to and works through our lower three chakras. How can I say this is true? Because this is the domain of craving. When you have a dream come true, how long to you wait to dream another dream? A day? A week? Two years? Our dreams are projections ahead, a wish for something. Even if that something is transcendental, it is still a wish for something other than what is.

[ct_focus color=”light” background=”lightgrey” gradient=”none” style=”normal”]Our first chakra is concerned with security. How often do your dreams include thoughts of safety? “If I only had this, then I could rest assured that all will be well.” The first chakra wants to be successful. Dreams include visions of recognition and even a dose of fame. The nightmares we try to vanquish are of failure and humiliation.

The second chakra is concerned with money and power. How often do your dreams include, even if as a side note, a comfortable living? “If I made six figures that would be good.” How about status? “If I was able to lead this non-profit in a positive direction that would be ideal.” These are the realm of the second chakra.

The third chakra is the seat of self-esteem and is the place where we strive to become empowered. Do your dreams include freedom? “If I worked for myself I could unleash my creativity.” “If I got my own property I could do whatever I wanted.” “Finding the right mate for me means finding someone who will love and accept me for who I am.“[/ct_focus]

The dreams we dare to dream in the name of the law of attraction are personal. They are about our lives. This is the realm of the lower three chakras.

What About the Heart and Mind?

We like to say our dreams are our “heart’s desires”, but the heart is in the moment sensing what it senses and loving who it loves. The heart only becomes attached to our fantasies as we entertain them. The heart will go on feeling and loving no matter how we make a living or who we’re with. She’ll be sad in the midst of a dream come true and happy when times are tough. That is her nature to feel regardless of the circumstance.

We like to believe that we fuel our dreams with our imagination and that our thoughts attract things to us but the sixth chakra (mind’s eye) is concerned with Truth. The mystical Truth has nothing to do with who we are going to be when we grow up. Mystical truths such as “love has no bounds” are impersonal and we know them through our sixth chakra.

Open Up to the Beyond

I mean to point out the shortsightedness of focusing all of your effort on mastering the workings of one mystical law. Sure, be a practitioner of attraction, but also be a wizard of love, a genius of seeking, a guru of graciousness. Open up beyond the world of “I”. Dream along with the world to find everything you need in the present moment. Learn to be satisfied with the grandeur of what is.

Find your mate in the seashore and your vocation in exchanging oxygen with the trees. Allow the grace of the One Who Moves Through All Things to move you. You do not need a dream to motivate you or fulfill you. That is the illusion you must cure. Your ailment is believing that anyone other than who you are right now has what you need. You are the one you’ve been waiting for.

[ct_focus color=”light” background=”lightgrey” gradient=”none” style=”normal”]”The stars, the rocks, the trees, the flowers, fish and birds – all are our brothers and sisters in this dance of life. We human beings tend to forget this, as we pursue our own private agendas and believe we must fight to get we need. But ultimately, our sense of separateness is just an illusion, manufactured by the narrow preoccupations of the mind. Now is the time to look at whether you are allowing yourself to receive the extraordinary gift of feeling ‘at home’ wherever you are.
– from Osho Zen Tarot.[/ct_focus]

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

Sacred Action

The power of action is an amazing thing, but we often see action solely as a consequence of our decisions. As beings birthed of the Age of Reason, we emphasize the decision and how we come to it, separating it from the action that follows. We set a course and then ride it out. We tip the first domino and wait for the rest of the line to fall.

I am coming to understand that in this mindset we lose so much. We zero in on how to get in touch with our intuition so we can choose the “right” answer that we hope will keep us safe, healthy, and loved. We make up our minds and then cross our fingers that our intuition was right and that our logic was sound.

What if we allowed our intuition, our soul’s guidance, to direct us through the entire course of the action? What if we noticed that the decision to start on a path was simply that and that every decision there after was just as critical to the realization of the outcome? How about turning your awareness to what happens after the decision and engaging with that? Here is what this looks like… It is simply a coming to every morning, every moment, every time you engage with the path – a coming to the conviction of your inner purpose. It is choosing to smile at a loved one when we would rather shut down. It is forging ahead through all of the doubt without being stubborn. It is being with raw humiliation or resentment and maintaining an open heart. 

In this is a willingness to let go of the original decision as well as an allowing of the decision to be your only guiding light. We may not always understand “why” we chose to go this direction and other times we may know why we are here beyond all doubt.

Why do we single out some decisions as more important than others? Why do we ride out some actions and deliberate others? Shouldn’t we be showing up for it all? Shouldn’t the line of communication to our soul always be open? Is this not the goal?

Action fueled by the soul’s guidance is incredibly healing, comforting, and enlightening. Action combined with a constant return to the moment is a sacred thing. We can be in the moment ready to receive what is offered, but without action we lose connection to our deepest, most divine selves. May you love on, move on, and stay connected.