Today’s post is an interview with Carla Meeske, shamanic healer and animal communicator. Carla has been a professional Shaman for over 10 years and teaches shamanic healing and animal communication workshops all over the country.
She also offers one-on-one training, webinars, and is the author of the book The Calico Shaman: True Tales of Animal Communication and the DVD Speak to My Heart: Shamanic Animal Communication.
Hi! So what is it we want to talk about?
Well, this interview is part of a series of interviews with practitioners from a wide variety of [alternative healing] fields. My goal with these interviews is for people to learn about therapies they may not know about, so I’m asking some very basic questions, but I also try to include some that hopefully lets people who are a bit familiar with the therapy learn something new.
Ok, sounds good.
Great, so I’ll start with the basics:
What is shamanism?
It is the ancient art of crossing between the worlds of ordinary reality into the world of non-ordinary reality and engaging compassionate spirits. The reason we engage those spirits is to provide healing and bring information into this world.
A Shaman is somebody who is able to go into a trance-like state and speak with the spirits directly, on behalf of themselves and other people.
What is shamanic healing?
Shamanic healing is when the compassionate loving spirits come to aid a person or animal. They first diagnose what’s ailing the person, what’s wrong, and they diagnose it from a spiritual point of view, not necessarily from the point of view that a therapist or physician would use.
So for example, in our circle this weekend, one of the gentlemen in the circle wanted shamanic healing to help him recover from the grief of the loss of his daughter, because his daughter has died of breast cancer. And you know, there is nothing more wretched than losing your child. So we’ve been working with Bob a long time, and we all journeyed for him to heal him of whatever it is that he needs healing with right now so that he can finally step out of that place of grief and go back to being a full living human being again. And the way I saw his grief was like cords wrapped tight around his heart, and the spirits untied the cords and they went up and turned into butterflies. Now, everybody who was journeying saw that same constriction around his heart chakra, but they each saw it differently, they saw the transformation differently, and each person brought back different pieces of information in addition to that core piece, so all these people doing the shamanic healing for this gentleman brought back little pieces of the puzzle, and it fit together for him. When we were done, he sat up, he took a deep breath, and his whole face was changed. And from that moment forward, he began smiling again. And he said “I feel completely different, I feel really, really better. Thank you”.
Would you call it energy healing or spiritual healing?
I prefer to call it Spiritual healing. Because energy healing is a word that is over used and under defined.
Would you call it a religion?
No, it’s not a religion. Shamanism is a recognition of multiple dimensions of reality and a willingness to introduce yourself to the beings who live in the multiple dimensions of reality, and it is an experience of the realities that are there.
Do you feel that shamanism in any way conflicts with the more commonly practiced religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc.)?
Well, it conflicts with any religion that says that their religion is absolutely the only way to connect with spirits. If a religion says “you are following a false god, or “you’re evil” or “of the devil if you don’t do exactly what I do” then it conflicts with that. However, if a religion has a more philosophical way of seeing things, then it does not. And it is really up to the individual, how fundamentalist they are. Fundamentalists frequently do not like anything that is not of their fundamentalist persuasion. The more open-minded people are much more accepting.
What about you, how did you get into shamanism?
I was always interested in “things that go bump in the night” (laughter) and as early as 7th grade, I was reading the I Ching and so I had the mystical tendencies. And in the mid 80s, I had a soul retrieval by a woman named Sandy Ingerman, and she said that her spirit teachers said that I had proclivity and that she suggested I take training with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, so I did! And it took me quite a long time to complete my training with them, which I did, now I think we figured it was 11 years ago [that I completed my training at the foundation], and it took me a long time to get that done because I was working and I was kind of a slow learner, which is good, because it’s given me a chance to really explore each nuance of it carefully.
Are there accredited shamanic schools?
I don’t believe there is any accredited shamanic training, there may be shamanism courses inside universities that I don’t know of, but the Foundation for Shamanic Studies offers an extensive training program.
I offer a yearlong training program in shamanism for animals where I teach people many of the core principles of shamanism that I have learned, always in the context of healing animals. It is a compact program, but it covers a lot of important ground. People get a lot of hands on experience, and I do certify people as being fully trained in shamanic healing for animals at the end of the training.
Do you need a certification or any sort of license to practice shamanism?
No. There are no laws governing shamanism in this country. There may be in countries where Shamanism is an accepted and normal doctoring practice, like Tuva. Each major shamanic society, training school and the like teaches a clear and important code of ethics. I personally am aligned with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and The Society of Shamanic Practitioners.
So anybody, without any previous spiritual experience, can become a Shaman?
They can study shamanism but actually to become a Shaman per se, that is a title that is given to someone by other people because the work that person has done has been successful. So you can study, study, study but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to perform. The people who I train do perform and I have witnessed their work many, many times before I give them their certification of training.
Do people ever fail your program?
Yes, you bet.
Why is that? Is it that the person realizes they don’t have the appropriate calling, etc.?
Exactly. “It isn’t right for me.” They’ll say ” this just isn’t my thing” and they leave. And the people who stay in the program, it is their thing, they are successful. They love it, and they do great work, and it’s a win-win situation.
Shamanic healing is your full time job, right? Is that the case for a lot of people? Generally speaking, is this something you can make a living on?
Yes, it is. You bet. I just came back from the 11th reunion with my training group that I went through the three year advanced training with at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and everyone in that circle does this work professionally. Not everyone does it full time professionally, some have other jobs, therapists and nurses, etc.
I have heard that in order to be a Shaman, you have to go through many difficulties and suffering in your own life, is that true?
It is a common occurrence when people step into the shamanic work that they have some kind of life changing situation that takes them off of the path that was not productive for them and put them onto the path that is productive for them
For me, that life changing experience was simply losing my connection to the corporate world. I didn’t suffer any horrible illness or anything like that. When coming into any kind of energetic healing work, some people will suffer a crisis that commits them to the path. You don’t have to though, it’s not necessary. When I joined the path, I had heard about that, so I journeyed to the spirits and I said, there will be none of that, please, I request no illness, no accidents, none of that crap. They said “Oh fine, how do you want to do it?” I said “I want to drop out”, and so they arranged for me to get fired. (laughter)
That sounds more like a blessing than a difficulty to me!
Well, I got a six month severance, so yeah! And a job teaching at the University of Oregon as soon as I wanted it, so what the heck? (laughter)
Did you go through an initiation? It sounds like they can be pretty brutal? I heard of someone who during their initiation had been held under water for 3 hours and had obviously drowned, but was now back as a Shaman.
Well, that’s kind of extreme. I take people through shamanic initiations in my training program, but they are not initiations that are physically arduous. We do the initiatory work inside the context of a shamanic journey so our energetic bodies undergo the changes and shifts that are required, but nobody has to go sitting out in the wilderness, nobody has to be eaten alive by ants, and nobody has to… you know, I just don’t do that. In my shamanic training, we do not do physically arduous things. Other people in their training programs like to have people do physically arduous things – I don’t. I just simply won’t have any part of that.
In the old days, in a lot of tribal cultures, there was a physical initiatory element that was quite arduous, and if we look at what those cultures were doing it makes sense. They lived in places that were damned hard, and the person had to be tough in many, many ways. And just like a puberty ritual can be a big hairy deal in a tribal culture, so can a shamanic ritual.
But, we don’t… our lives are much more comfortable now, and the spirits work with us very, very strongly and perform miracles without us having to go through life and death initiations.
When you go on a shamanic journey, do you always encounter helpful spirits or are they ever “bad” or “evil”?
In one sense I do, because there is the spiritual aspect of illness. The illnesses we carry in us, the stresses and tensions and strains have spiritual aspects to them, and so when I’m doing healing work, I’m engaging with the energetic influences that create illnesses, and those are not compassionate influences. So yes, I do, but it’s not like I’m out there swashbuckling with daemons.
Are the spirits capable of tricking the Shaman into thinking they are good when they are not?
Oh, I have seen that, but it is incredibly rare and it’s really not that important. What is more important is that we are deeply connected with spirits of incredible integrity and incredible compassion, and the power that they have comes through the Shaman’s bones and really can work miracles on behalf of other people and animals.
Are the spirits humans and animals that have passed on? Are there other entities as well?
Oh, there are many entities. The humans and animals that have passed on are absolutely part of my family of spirits that I work with. But I also work with the spirits of nature, and I work with ancient gods and goddesses, ancient ancestors of mine that may not even be human. I work with the power of the sun and the earth and the moon, I work with many forces that have been known to the people of all cultures and are universal to the people of all cultures.
Do you see them?
I do. I see them in my mind’s eye, and sometimes I see them physically.
What do they look like? People?
Sometimes. Sometimes they look like animals, sometimes they look like something else. Everything has spirit. Your computer has spirit.
Do you ever encounter the same spirits or are they different every time?
I have a team of spirits that I work with consistently and I have additional spirits that come in on an as needed basis. And I will also work with the spirits that are unique to the client. So my team will be involved and the animal’s team will be involved, so it can be quite a dense party of spirits when I’m doing a healing.
So the spirits vary with each person and animal?
Well, my team is pretty consistent, but if the spirits who are connected to that person and animal want to be engaged in it, they join the team for the time that I’m doing the healing.
Can the spirits contact you on their own (i.e. without you trying to contact them)?
Well, that’s a good question, and the Shaman’s job is to be in control of the contact. Which isn’t to say that we are in total control, but I am not stricken by spirits. We reach out to spirit and spirit reaches back to us. We cross a bridge to meet spirit halfway.
So it’s not like they tap you on the shoulder and say, hey, you need to…
Well, they do, but it’s not unwanted… it’s not as though as I am stricken by spirit and thrown to the ground and need to follow their direction and change the course of my life.
No, I didn’t really mean that, I was just curious if instead of you saying to the spirit “this person needs help”, they reach out to you and suggest you should help someone
Oh, that’s very interesting, because when I do work for anybody it’s always with that person’s permission, at that person’s request, so if I do work for a human, the human has to actually ask me to do the work, and if I do work for an animal, that animal’s person must make the request of me. So there is an ethical consideration not to do work in violation of someone’s sovereign right to be whoever they wish to be. Because you know, some people are on their path, and some animals are on their path, and that path may not be pretty, but it’s their path and we should not interfere unless we are asked to, with a sincere request.
So if someone comes to you and say “there is a problem with my animal, can you help” and you check in with the animal and see that that’s their path, even though it might be a problem, you can’t help?
Well, if a person asks me to work on their animal I always will, because the person has an entwined connected relationship to their animal so the person can give permission, and I have never seen a situation where that was not appropriate with an animal. So if a person asks me to work on their animal, that’s all the permission I need. And if the animal is in a place of sickness because it is their path to be in that place of sickness, my job is to make it as easy and simple and beautiful for them as possible.
I read that the spirits sometimes give you recommendations for herbs etc. that you are not familiar with?
Sometimes. Sometimes that happens, but not that often. Because I try to avoid becoming a prescription service. I find that it is better for me to ask the Spirits to direct people to the right experts.
Do you have to know what the diagnosis is before the healing session? Like for example say my dog was having seizures, so I have a very specific diagnosis?
No, I don’t have to know what the diagnosis is. But it is helpful for me to understand what the problem is, so that I can go to the spirits and say “I present to you the dog Frodo who has seizures. Can we please, I beg of you, heal Frodo so that he no longer has seizures”. so I want to know what my request is. In the case of my friend Bob, my request was that he be healed so that he could step back into his life and enjoy life, have his power and his strength back.
In the case of the dog with seizures I would ask that the dog would be able to move forward in life seizure free. And I would ask for that healing to be direct on him and also for the spirits to guide you, the person, to other members of a healing team that have pieces of the puzzle. So they would do healing work on the dog, whatever that would entail for the dog, and then they would either whisper in your ear directly or let you know by a million different ways and guide you to the next piece of the puzzle, perhaps nutrition or acupuncture, who knows, some other therapist, or understanding what environmental problem is triggering the seizures, you know, getting it on another level. So the spirits do the work on the spiritual level and then they help guide you to getting it on another level so that the whole thing can come together.
So spiritual healing, shamanic healing is never a replacement for hospitals, doctors and so forth, it is an adjunctive therapy, but it can be the difference between the traditional [allopathic] therapy working or not working.
So if you don’t know what the problem is, you just know that something is “off” with your dog, shamanic healing would still work?
It would, but you would not expect the shamanic healer to come back with a veterinary diagnosis. You’d expect them to relieve the pain and suffering of the problem and either give you ideas of where you could go next directly or have the spirits inspire your path, so that the next email you open guides you to it, or all of a sudden you see a magazine article that guides you to it, or a friends calls you and says “you know, I have this thing I want to share with you”.
So that answers what was going to be my next question: How does the healing happen? Do the spirits themselves do it or do they tell you what to do? It sounds like it is a little bit of both?
Sometimes. Sometimes the spirits do it 100%.
So they are capable of doing that (i.e. all of the healing)?
Absolutely. Miracles, miracles, miracles. But there is a reason they are called miracles. Even in Shamanic work they are not every time affairs. Conditions must be right, and exactly what those conditions are is complex and mysterious.
It sounds like in order to fully reap the benefits of Shamanic healing, the client/patient, or their person in the case of an animal, has to be aware of the signs around him/her? Trust their intuition in order to find out what to do next?
Yes, exactly. And it flows very easily. A lot of people in the “business” will tell you that when you are connected to spirit, you’re connected to spirits’ guidance, that your life flows, you just have to watch out for the signposts. Well, intuition is one of the… intuition is the telephone speakers that the spirits use to talk to you.
I understand there are several different shamanic healing techniques – soul retrieval, power animals, illness extraction, etc. Does each deal with a different type of illness (physical vs. psychological, etc.) or do you need all components to work together for healing to take place?
No. It depends on what the problem is and what the spirits say is needed. I teach a lot of techniques, but each healing individually unfolds as is needed for that client. First thing I do is connect with the spirits, the second thing we do is to connect with the spirit of the animal [being treated] and then the spirits work with the animal to determine what’s needed.
How come the spirits are capable of doing all this?
Well, I guess that’s right up there with “how come grass is green”?
Laughter. It’s just the way the world is, it’s just the way the world works.
You also do Shamanic animal communication – how is that different from “regular” animal communication?
Shamanic animal communication is very similar to telepathic, but in shamanic animal communication we use the shamanic journey to facilitate the connection to the animal. So the first thing the shamanic animal communicator does is go into the journey state, connect with a compassionate being, like the power animal or teacher, and then ask that being to connect to the spirit of the animal with whom they wish to speak. So it’s different, because you’re not trying to clear your mind, you’re not trying to give and receive, it’s actually quite different. You’re in the journey, it’s like being in a dream, except it’s a lucid dream, the sprits are actively engaging all of your sensory perceptions in your brain, your sight, your hearing, your voice, your taste. And you say to your power animal “Will you please connect me with the spirit of Susie’s cocker spaniel Ruffy”? So Ruffy appears and your power animal says “I present to you Ruffy”, and the power animal or compassionate spirit can actually facilitate the whole communication. It’s really easy. Once you’ve learned to do the shamanic journey, animal communication is easy.
So the Power animal acts as an interpreter?
They’re like an interpreter, that’s right. A facilitator.
Oh, I see. And everybody has a power animal?
Yes, everybody has a power animal. You just haven’t met him.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, Carla. I learned a lot of new things, and what you do is truly fascinating. In closing, what advice would you give someone who is interested in learning shamanism?
Come to Spirithealer.com!