I slept around as a kid.  A lot.  And I really liked it.  I have no shame.  Napping on the grass.  Snoozing under a tree. Dozing on a sun-warmed rock.  Shut-eye in hollows.  Mother Nature and I were having some kind of an affair.  The earth and I, we befriended each other.  For the longest time, I was a taker in the relationship, without giving back.

Jay Thomas with sign reading "Solitude"

When I was old enough to venture off on my own, I’d spend many summer afternoons exploring a nearby forested conservation area next to a lake.  I’d arrange small logs and branches to create the perimeter of an outdoor room of sorts, with scattered pine needles as the floor.  I’d sit there for hours soaking in the natural beauty.  I noticed everything: the dashing of the squirrels, the rustling of leaves, the sky peeking through the canopy, the scent of the air, the texture and moisture of the ground.  Inevitably, I’d fall asleep in my makeshift sacred space, a respite from a much too complicated, unsettled home life.  Nature soothed me.  The Spirits spoke to me—but my young, cluttered mind couldn’t yet decipher the messages.  

The Spirits kept speaking to me. And speaking.  It wasn’t until decades later that I actually listened to them.  I found an inroad by connecting with nature-loving, funky, neo-pagans through the practice of Wicca. It was inspiring and comforting, yet incomplete.  The Spirit contacts were much less potent than I expected.  And since most of our wordy rituals took place indoors, some twigs, soil, and candles on an altar just didn’t cut it for me.  Moreover, I wasn’t healing.  My emotional baggage weighed me down.

Soon after, I explored shamanism for depth-work, because I had reached my limit with conventional psychotherapy.  Talk. Talk. Tears. Blah. Blah. Probe. More sadness.  It was an endless cycle of prodding with no resolution.  Frustrated by yet another bout of melancholy, I sought out a shamanic practitioner and teacher to heal me.  Thing is, he wasn’t interested in healing me.  And he didn’t.  Instead, he gave me tools to do the work on myself. He taught me about Power, Energy, Intention, and Transmutation.  My healing journey became a profound, roller-coaster adventure apprenticeship where I revisited the stuff of talk therapy with an empowered set of shamanic techniques that got results.  I now use these tools in my practice to help others heal and I share what I’ve learned when I teach classes and facilitate retreats.

Jay Thomas and Tony Allicino in a ritual

My early woodland hangouts held space for me to connect with the dirt, flora and small creatures.  I now have a mature, informed shamanic perspective: I connect with Spirit through non-ordinary states of consciousness for healing and personal growth; I explore the alchemical nuances in people, situations and environments, looking for the influence of the elements—fire, water, earth and air; I use the power of love to transform.

I still sneak in a snooze whenever and wherever I can, especially nuzzling up for a nature nap.

Tony Allicino and Jay Thomas will be co-facilitating  An Introduction to Shamanism - May 5-7 and the 10th Annual Gay Shaman's Retreat Sept 22-24

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