Category: Blog

Blog: Healing Post-War Anxiety with Applied Shamanic Practice

Blog: Healing Post-War Anxiety with Applied Shamanic Practice

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

A young man named Jared had recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was having trouble sleeping and felt anxious most of the time. Jared didn’t like talking about his experience overseas. He felt embarrassed that he was having such a hard time reintegrating into civilian life.

In working with him, I learned that Jared had some problems with anxiety before going to the Middle East, but they had gotten much worse since his return. He had tried a series of medications, but they made him feel “weird,” so he didn’t like taking them. The anxiety made it hard for him to focus. I suggested starting off with a more traditional approach.

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Blog: The Lessons of the Equinox, the Earth, and the Sun

Blog: The Lessons of the Equinox, the Earth, and the Sun

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

The fall equinox this year occurs just before the new moon, marking the end of a cycle of growth as the agricultural growing season comes to an end. This year, the growing season ends just as the new moon begins a new cycle of growth. The equinox, of course, is the moment in the year when the day is as long as the night. Just as the moon’s influence begins to expand toward fullness, the sun’s influence wanes as the days become shorter. The sun continues on its path toward the winter solstice, the shortest day.

The dance between the moon and the sun at this fall equinox is one of growth and completion, increase and decrease, promise and reflection. The complexity of this dance is something we must all learn to hold in our awareness if we are to understand what the Earth might be trying to teach us through the complexity of this moment. We are challenged to understand the duality each celestial sphere expresses in relation to the other as we seek to find the moment of balance between them.

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Blog: The Light of the Summer Solstice

Blog: The Light of the Summer Solstice

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

The sun is strong in the garden now, as it is everywhere else. It remains directly overhead for most of the day, leaving the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary to sparkle their own colors without the sun’s influence. From the depth of the blue, to the heat of the sun, everything is intense right now. The COVID surge here in the Bay Area is at its highest since the pandemic began. The news from Ukraine tells us that the fighting is at its fiercest since the Russians began bombarding. Political polarization is at fever pitch over the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court. For a time known for the vividness of the light that comes with the longest day of the year, this year’s summer solstice seems to be providing us with more intensity than usual.

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Blog: The Shamanic Journey and Metaphor

Blog: The Shamanic Journey and Metaphor

By Clementine Moss

I understand metaphor. I have been blissfully falling into the written word since See Spot Run or something similar. When I learned to read, I remember the rising images from the page, pictures becoming alive because of what the words were spelling out.

When I learned to journey, I began to understand the symbols of my inner world.When we recognize that our stories are not our full identity, then we can release them from ruling us, along with the patterns and behaviors that weight them. I found Eastern meditation practices and discovered my identity beneath stories. I found Shamanism and learned to sneak up behind the stories, unravel them in a way that allows me to clear my perception and experience life, each moment, more fully.

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Blog: Thoughts at the Spring Equinox

Blog: Thoughts at the Spring Equinox

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

As I was untangling the new prayer flags to put up at the Sacred Stream Center for Losar, the Tibetan new year, I realized that the spring equinox this year falls right between the Tibetan new year in early March and the Khmer new year in mid-April.

Both of these celebrations were originally harvest celebrations in Tibet and Cambodia. They were also a time when people made offerings and affirmed their connections to the natural world and its cycles of time.

Within the rhythm of nature’s time, the spring equinox is the moment when the nights and the days are of equal length. It is a time when the sun rises directly due east and sets directly due west. It is the time of the year when the sun rises most quickly and sets most quickly.

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Blog: Reflections on the Winter Solstice

Blog: Reflections on the Winter Solstice

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

As the nights have been growing longer as we approach the winter solstice, I have been reflecting on the relationship between light and darkness from a new perspective. We often think of light and dark as being opposite of one another. In some cases that is true. From one point of view, the light of day is the opposite of the dark of night. But from another vantage point, dark and light are moments of the same cycle of change. That cycle of change determines our experience of reality in utterly fundamental ways. The sun rising and setting is basic to our experience on earth. Yet, we don’t often think about the fact that the sun rising and setting dictates when and how we do almost everything we do. We may not often think about how our lives might be structured without this baseline rhythm the play of light and dark creates.

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Blog: Reflections on the Fall Equinox

Blog: Reflections on the Fall Equinox

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Around the fall equinox of 2018, as I was doing the fall garden clean up, I realized that a small California Live Oak had planted itself in the center of the garden at the Sacred Stream Center. I was very excited to have the oak choose our garden, but everyone else was worried that the oak would get too big and block out the other plants. I knew there was no way I would interfere with the oak’s plans, as we are visitors to its habitat – not the other way around.

Only 200 years ago, the land on which the Sacred Stream Center sits was covered in California Live Oak. The hills throughout California were dotted with these majestic trees, which can indeed grow very tall and spread their canopies widely. An oak taking up residence in that patch of ground would have had the flowing water of Strawberry Creek nearby and lots of laurel and bay trees keeping it company.

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Blog: Lessons of the Manzanita Tree

Blog: Lessons of the Manzanita Tree

By Clementine Moss

North Fork, California is the site of the gorgeous Vipassana meditation center at which I have spent a couple of 10-day retreats. On foggy mornings at my home in San Francisco, I often think of the early morning walk to the meditation hall, and the faces of the single yellow daffodils lining the path up the hill.

In one of the retreats, I became fixated on the manzanita trees, their dark red spindly trunks, the light green color of the leaves, the pink hanging bouquets of flower. It is inevitable that the senses become more vibrant when meditating for ten hours a day. The contrasting colors of the manzanita were almost too much to bear.

I fantasized about having a garden of manzanita one day, how it would be to set out a picnic among such a gorgeous color combination. I wanted to wrap myself in these colors and shapes. I guess, really, I was longing to be a bird.

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Blog: Summer Solstice and the Light of Potential

Blog: Summer Solstice and the Light of Potential

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

It seems fitting as we approach the longest day of the year that an opening into larger possibilities might be extending toward us. This is particularly true because of another celestial event that is happening in the sky this week. This is the moment in its orbit when the planet Venus is closest to the sun. Venus is the planet of beauty, love and possibility in western astrology, With the potentials of this influence enhanced by its proximity to the sun, we soon may be able to step into a new collective experience, beyond the constrictions of the pandemic.

This new potential has certainly been evident in the sanctuary at the Sacred Stream Center. Thanks to donations from last year’s fund drive, we have been able to begin the restoration of the three stained glass windows that grace the room.

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Blog: My CBD Story

Blog: My CBD Story

By Valerie Burke

Imagine trying to swim across the English Channel wearing a space suit with one arm tied behind your back. Wearing snow shoes, blindfolded and drugged.

Towing a small submarine.

Before finding CBD, that’s what my life had been like when it came to my health.

As far back as I can remember, my life has been riddled with an endless string of odd and seemingly unrelated symptoms. Hormone imbalances. Chronic pain. Relentless, intractable headaches. Weird and unexpected reactions to things. Weight gain.

I don’t ever recall being healthy – at least for very long.

My childhood was marked by frequent colds, infections of one kind or another, and mysterious aches and pains for which there was never any medical explanation.

Prevailing medical opinions: “It’s all in her head.”

In the 1990s, I had a total hysterectomy for chronic ovarian cysts and endometriosis that no hormone regimen could control. They found massive abdominal adhesions that wrapped around my insides in a tangled, angry web.

The diagnosis of “fibromyalgia” was the best they could come up with.

By my early 30s, I had also developed osteoarthritis resulting in three orthopedic surgeries by the age of 40 – one hip and two knees.

I DID feel like my head was exploding, and it wasn’t just the migraines. Just nothing made sense.

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Blog: Equinox, Equipoise, Equanimity

Blog: Equinox, Equipoise, Equanimity

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

The evening of the spring equinox, as I watch the shadows lengthen across the room, I reflect on how the magic of this play of light is around us everywhere, all the time. Many of us take for granted the sunrise and sunset. Indeed, we may not even notice the incremental lengthening of light throughout the late winter that brings us to this moment, where the day meets the night in equal measure.

On the equinoxes, the idea of balance always seems emphasized to me. How do we find our way to this moment of fleeting equilibrium each spring and fall? How well do we hold center in the tension of opposing forces around us at this moment of equipoise? These questions seem to take on more import now, when many of us are striving to counteract the effects of polarization that have increased in almost every aspect of our lives since the last spring equinox.

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Blog: The Hidden Messages in Water

Blog: The Hidden Messages in Water

By Clementine Moss

I recently read The Hidden Messages in Water, Dr. Masaru Emoto’s account of analyzing the effect of the energetic environment on crystals in water. If you haven’t seen these studies, you can pull up the images online and see the beautiful snow flake patterns of the sentiments “I love you” and the song “Amazing Grace,” and the chaotic, disrupted patterns of hate and negativity on the water crystals. The take-away is how we experience a direct response to vibration and frequency, and how our physical being, seventy percent water, might cultivate protection against disruption of our crystals.

One way to guard against this disruption is through gratitude. This information has created new rituals for me around the house. “Thank you water! Thank you! I love you!” now happens before every hydration. “Thank you water! Thank you for keeping Henry healthy!” as I refill the pug’s bowl. I try to remember to do the same for my food, too. Suddenly, a little “thank you” before eating takes on new meaning, as I imagine the molecules arranging themselves into patterns of love as they lift to my mouth.

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Blog: Like Rays of The Sun, Radiating Outward: How Our Personal Work Affects the Collective

Blog: Like Rays of The Sun, Radiating Outward: How Our Personal Work Affects the Collective

By Elizabeth Brinkman Day, Ph.D., CHT

“Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These iconic words from Emma Lazarus’ 1883 sonnet, “The New Colossus,” gracing the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, are far from actualized in our country. The day before the Statue of Liberty’s inauguration in October 1886, the New York State Woman Suffrage Association met, agreeing that the statue was a symbol of hypocrisy, given that the monument was representing Freedom as a majestic female in a State where women were not yet free to vote.

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Blog: Finding Light on the Winter Solstice

Blog: Finding Light on the Winter Solstice

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

The wind is cold and biting. I hear the neighborhood kids playing in the fallen leaves all around the Sacred Stream Center as the late afternoon sun is setting far too quickly. I rarely put the electric lights on in the Sacred Stream Sanctuary, because the room has stained glass windows on the eastern, southern and western sides of the wood paneled space. Throughout the day, I know what time it is by gauging where the light is falling in the room. Now, it is fading fast behind the 100-year-old arched stained glass that engulfs the western wall.

This is the fourth time in the solstice calendar that we have cancelled our quarterly drum circle. We have come together to mark the solstice or equinox since 1995. When the spring equinox circle was cancelled in March of this year, it was jarring to realize that our traditions could so easily be abandoned. Now, with the winter winds, it does not seem surprising at all that anything we may have planned does not occur as we thought it might.

As we look into the darkening nights, we are all facing obscurations on so many levels. The pandemic promises to continue to break infection records. Our political landscape both nationally and internationally is fraught with so much danger. The climate crisis deepens as our fellow creatures continue to withdraw from the earth. Since human time began on earth, the winter solstice season has been a time when people have looked into the yawning darkness and wondered if the light would ever return. We still ask this same question, and its import is multiplied across the many layers of complexity we are facing.

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Blog: Reflections on the Fall Equinox

Blog: Reflections on the Fall Equinox

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

I am sitting in the garden at the Sacred Stream Center as dusk is falling on September 22, the fall equinox. Usually, we would be calling the community together at the fall equinox drum circle, and the garden would be humming with conversation. It is quiet here now. There is just the sound of the bubbling fountains and the calling of the birds enjoying a late afternoon bath.

This is the third season where we have not been able to come together for the drum circles which we have held since the mid-1990’s on every equinox and solstice. In March, at the spring equinox, we were all adapting to the new reality that the coronavirus created as we practiced social distancing. We could not come together to welcome the new season as we have been doing for decades. By June, at the summer solstice, we were hoping that the solstice would mark a new coming together. But a resurgence of coronavirus in California dashed that hope. And now, here at the fall equinox, I am reflecting on the passage of time as we continue to socially distance, fearing yet another predicted resurgence of the virus between now and the winter solstice on December 21.

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