Blog: It Takes a Village
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
When I received an invitation to give teachings at a local dharma center, I was happy to accept. The center had faced some difficult times, and its members were trying to navigate a major reorganization. I hoped our collaboration might help them as they began charting new territory.
If you have ever walked into a room where people have been arguing, you might have felt uncomfortable – even if the argument is over and the people have left. This can happen because there is an unseen, but felt, imprint of the emotions and experience expressed in the argument. Imprints like these can stay in spaces for long periods of time after events have happened.
Any kind of event can leave an imprint in this way. If these imprints are not cleared, the space where these events have taken place can begin to feel oppressive. If this is a work space, these imprints may make it difficult to focus or concentrate. If this is a bedroom, like a hotel room, these imprints can make it difficult to sleep.
In these cases, it is helpful to clear the space in order to be able to work or sleep better in the space. Clearing space can involve something as simple as opening a window or cleaning up the space. A more intentional kind of clearing can involve the burning of certain plants, such as dried white sage, or the burning of incense. Once the space is cleared, it is possible to “set” the space. Setting space involves bringing an intention to support a particular event you want to hold in the space by focusing your mind on it.
Whenever I teach, I always clear and set the space beforehand. I clear the imprints of the past events in the space and then call an intention for supportive, informative learning to happen in the room where the class is held. This makes it easier for students to learn. This is because any imprint that might interrupt learning has been cleared, and in its place, an intention to help support learning has been “set” into the space.
I knew things had been hard, but was not prepared for the dense atmosphere that greeted us as we arrived at the dharma center. I cleared and set the space as best I could within their strict set of parameters, and we were able to make a dent in the heaviness that pervaded the room. However, as the evening continued, the heaviness settled back in.
I did my best to present the teachings, but I was not sure the students were fully receiving them. I felt like a cross country runner circling around the track in slow motion, trying to jump over hurdles on a course coated in molasses. I spoke with the organizer after class and told her it would be difficult to come back and do the teachings the next day if we did not have more time to clear the space. She volunteered to come and help me clear the space in the morning.
The next morning, as I sat down to my journey practice, it was immediately clear that her simple clearing was not enough to prepare the space for the afternoon’s teachings. We needed more people to participate, so I enlisted the help of the organizer, my assistant, and the advanced practitioners in attendance. However, it quickly became apparent that we needed more help. It seemed the more we tried to clear the space, the more the space demanded. We began texting members of the Sacred Stream’s Space Clearing Society who lived nearby, but no one could come on such short notice.
One of the many wonderful things about shamanic work is that it can be done non-locally. With little time to spare before class, my assistant casually mentioned that she had her laptop with her. As I negotiated red lights on my way to the dharma center, she called our administrative manager, who happened to be at her computer. They set up a video conference, and four people were able to join non-locally to support us. Instantly, we had a powerful circle come together to clear the space.
We worked for about 20 minutes, and by the time we were done, the atmosphere was much lighter. I felt a huge sense of relief. I was heartened that we could offer this clearing to this community of people who had been struggling to get back on their feet. I felt we were doing a service for them that they truly needed to set their new course with greater clarity.
As I started setting the space for the teaching circle for the afternoon’s class, I felt the lightness of the energy in the room. I felt so grateful for the people who assisted at a moment’s notice, for the teachings about space clearing, and for the chance to be of service to a fellow spiritual community in need.
As people began to arrive for class, one person said, “It feels different in here. What happened?” Another said, “The space feels like it is nurturing us.” Another said, “Thank you for changing the space.” People who did not know anything about space clearing knew that a positive transformation had occurred, and they were able to benefit from the hard work of the organizer and the Space Clearing Society members. The teachings went smoothly and the students seemed to receive the information without too much difficulty.
As I returned home after the day’s teachings, I reflected on all the people who had worked to provide the help that was needed — not only for the space and the teachings, but for the dharma center’s community. On the surface, it looked like the organizer had invited me to teach at the center, but she was really seeking help for her community — help that only those versed in the shamanic practices of space clearing could provide.
Editors’ Note: The Sacred Stream’s Space Clearing Society was established in 2001 to offer space clearing services to people who work in healing or service oriented professions who feel they need a clearer space. The society is made up of graduates and students of the Sacred Stream’s Applied Shamanism Training Program. You can learn more about the Space Clearing Society here.