Category: Q&A

Photo by Seyed Mostafa Zamani

Q&A – Creating Sacred Space at the Day Job

Dear Kelley, Thank you so much for your compassionate guidance over the years.  I chose the academic [career] route years ago out of love of ideas, intellectual engagement, and writing. Increasingly, I find it deeply unsettling,  to the point where I cry almost every day when going to work.

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What Balance Feels Like – An Intentional Insights Reader Q&A

I still accept Q&A from readers of my blog, regarding animism, shamanism, and all manner of soul healing. If you would like to submit an inquiry, read the TOS and direct it me.

Dear Kelley
I have the gift of a new start and want to honour, respect, and dive into it joyously. A drag in that is my relation to others. I feel wounded from things in the past and I don’t want to take that into my new life. How can I go about releasing the last vestiges of the old pain and my part in it, to attract love and support into my new life? Thank you for creating this interesting and generous opportunity. ~A

Photo by Kristaps Bergfelds ~flickrThanks for your note, A. When I see summaries of where people are along manifesting their heart’s desires, I often see sand drawings along a coastal shoreline. Instead of seeing you at the shoreline, I see you about waist-deep in the surf, attempting to still the waves with the palms of your hands.

When I ask this aspect of you how stilling the water symbolizes the way you relate to others, the response is, “I just need a little space to get steady, then they can come.” She’s indicating intentionally holding back relationships until some self-defined sense of readiness or healing has come.

I ask her what that readiness or healing feels like, and I find myself floating gently on the surf. So, she does have an idea of what that balance feels like. Incorporating the sense of being carried while also actively participating is key. There is also an emphasis on trust, and allowing support from others.

Appealing to my guides, they indicate that water should be an available comfort to sink into, during this shift. The body needs that gentle support to release emotions internalized in the cells. With intention, water can help shepherd away memories and uncomfortable feelings the body has carried.

They also suggest looking beyond the current manifestation of the self, to ancestral lines, and do any release work necessary there. Some of the relationship distress isn’t yours, A, and that’s why the work you’ve done to release it only reaches so far. Tune the focus of healing more widely around you, through your lines on all sides, and  across space and time, to release anything unwanted, regarding relationship hurt. You don’t have to identify these ancestral wounds, or even name them. Acknowledge them, and through your healing methods and spiritual support, allow them to leave. A few passes with a H’oponopono ritual may help and bring comfort with the changes coming into your life.

If you don’t have anyone who can help you do this work, it may be something we can do remotely.

Best to you, A!

Q&A – Breaking Unconscious Patterns

Dear Kelley, I am writing with great anxiety, pain, and desperation because of a deep sense of loss and sadness and affection, of which I cannot make sense. I have found myself feeling very attached to a man I met briefly a few months ago, and with whom I have kept in contact online. Since meeting him I have felt so powerfully drawn, and deep pain in my heart in ways I have not felt ever before. We live in opposite sides of the world, different lives, etc. Part of me wants to somehow break ‘free’ from this, yet I feel as though I am being punished. Any advice, guidance would be deeply appreciated. Many thanks in advance, Liz.

Photo by SurFeRGiRL30 @ flickrThanks for your note, Liz. When I ask to see the dynamic between yourself and this man, I’m taken to a familiar place. I tend to see how people organize their lives as sand drawings along a coastal  shoreline. When I examine yours, it loops and scrawls spiraling back on themselves in a jumble, and this man is a dark tower in the distance. No trail in the sand leads to the tower. The proxy of you who stands with me on the shore is experiencing a great deal of anxiety and stress around finding a straight line in the sand, yet she just keeps doubling back to where she starts.

My sense of that image is the unfulfillment of this relationship is connected to a perceived pattern of wanting things you can’t have.  It isn’t at all about whether the relationship will work, if there’s a connection, or how the two of you are connected. It’s about an internalized dynamic for you, that says, “Anything I really want is clearly out of my reach. Anything that feels good to me must be unobtainable.”  The obstacles you perceive in distance and life are real. However, the angst around them is being exacerbated by these beliefs, which came long before this man was in your life. They feel like unconscious patterns that have been with you for a long time, and to varying degrees, manifest a sense of not getting what you want in other life areas, as well.

Focusing on the romantic desires will derail you from releasing these beliefs.  Clarify if you really want to work on the source of these feelings. If so, I suggest doing some releasing work around them, and possibly soul retrieval to locate and learn more about your personal power in discerning what you want at a deep level, and learning to create life around having it. If you are comfortable doing distance work, I’m available for that, and if you want to find someone close to you to work with, I may know someone who can do just that.

My best to you, Liz.

If you have a life challenge that you’d like insight on, or questions about everyday shamanism, contact Kelley.

Author S. Kelley Harrell on writing, life, and shamanism

A bit back I had the pleasure of being interviewed by David Garlow of the Here’s a reprise if you missed it:

With all of the writing groups that writers take part in you are bound to see subjects of every type come across your screen. It is how we all connect, interact, and help be it through promoting, beta reading, and feedback on ideas or paragraphs, even a simple sentence. Within these I could not help but notice Kelley Harrell for her subject, personality, and approachability. Believe me, not all writers are that approachable; I compare it to a gamers group or even a music scene with competition, some prima donna egos, you know; like anything else.

Kelley has some rich and deep subjects that she tackles in a unique way and that more than anything is what made me look closer. I found someone with a vibrant personality, in touch with the universe around her, and whose work is truly impressive. From her own Bio:

Kelley is best known for publishing shamanic memoir, spiritual nonfiction, and magickal realism. She also writes for The Huffington Post, and has maintained the blog Intentional Insights – Q&A From Within, since 2004. Her work has been published in Innerchange Magazine, Mystic Pop, SageWoman, The Beltane Papers, Women Writers, Women, Books, Savvy Authors, If… a Journal of Spiritual Exploration, OmPlace AltWire, Astro Abby.

Author S. Kelley Harrell

Poetry collections featuring her work include Chiron Review, The Blotter, Bottom Line Writers, Charlotte Writer’s Circle. Her short stories have been featured in The Windhover, The Olive Leaf.

Take a few moments to get to know more about this wonderful woman and all that she does, it really is quite impressive.

Interview with author S. Kelley Harrell

So the first question is when did you fall in love with writing; what was the catalyst for you?

I don’t recall not being in love with writing. Before I learned the alphabet, my mother transcribed stories I dictated to her. Learning to write was my gateway drug to life. I loved it—the feel of the pen in my hand, the evidence of my brain on paper, how it all fit together to form a cohesive movement. I just loved it from the beginning, and I still do.

I know a lot of writers write for several outlets beyond books, what other outlets do you work?

I have kept a blog for 9 years, Intentional Insights – Q&A From Within, responding to inquiries readers have about paranormal events in their lives, dreams, modern shamanism and animism. I also write a modern spirituality column for the Huffington Post, and I publish fiction under another name.

What genre(s) do you normally work in and why?

I am best known for shamanic memoir, though I also write nonfiction spirituality books, New Adult Magickal Realism, and all sorts of fiction. I’m just in love with writing. It’s another sense to me, so I filter as much expression through it as I possibly can.

How did you get started and were there any frustrations? How did you get beyond those?

The first book I submitted for publication was Gift of the Dreamtime, almost 10 years ago. At that time, no one was writing about modern shamanism, certainly not from within the ecstatic trance perspective. Everything you read on shamanism then was academic anthropology, fiction, or nonfictional accounts of what shamanism was like. My book was the first to show how the shamanic narrative (healing story) works from inside, making the reader part of the soul travel, thus healing.

At that time, publishers wanted anything shamanic to be shaped into a self-help book, following the recipe of personal story, universal conclusions drawn from that experience, followed by end-of-chapter exercises for the reader to journey along. To do that would have entirely changed the format and writing of my book, let alone that fantastic vantage point within trance. It took me a while to find a publisher who got what I was doing, and my life hasn’t been the same since!

What are your works thus far and where can people find them?

  • Gift of the Dreamtime – Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma
  • Real Wyrd – A Modern Shaman’s Roots in the Middle World
  • Gift of the Dreamtime Reader’s Companion

What is forthcoming and can you give a brief description?

I have a few nonfiction projects in the works. One is a collection of healing stories by female survivors of assault. I’m in the final stages of writing a memoir of shamanic techniques in working with chronic health conditions, and am mid-way through a comprehensive book on modern shamanism. I’ve also completed and am seeking a home for my first novel, The Last Snow Moon.

I have learned that the literary world can be quite cutthroat; what advice would you give to a person trying to find a way to publish their work?

Do what’s right for you, period. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to, but you know you need to. Things you don’t want to do aren’t the same as what doesn’t support your truth. Knowing that difference can take you a long way. Go with what’s right for you. It’s always the best path in the end.

Thursday Betwixt – After the Journey

Herbert's Soul by Joe Poole @ flickr“Then he began to think of all the things Christopher Robin would want to tell him when he came back from wherever he was going to, and how muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain to try and get them right in his mind. ‘So, perhaps,’ he said sadly to himself, ‘Christopher Robin won’t tell me anymore,’ and he wondered if being a faithful Knight meant that you just went on being faithful without being told things” ~A. A. Milne, The Wonderful World of Pooh

I’ve been re-thinking the format of my blog, and in doing so would like to create a more open dialogue around modern shamanism and animism.

“That’s not so different from what you’ve been doing,” you say.

Well, yes, but after spending some time clarifying what I need to do on my personal path and in my work, I realize this blog isn’t doing enough. I’m still open to the reader Q&A format, so feel free to shoot me inquiries. The thing is,  it’s hard to ask a question when you don’t know the subject well. While we have come a long way, culturally, in the twenty-five years of my study of shamanism, we still don’t talk about the lifestyle around a shamanistic or animistic lifestyle, which frankly, has a lot to do with the problems that arise when learning to journey. To identify my entries on this theme, I will be posting them under the category “Thursday Betwixt,” dedicated space in my blog to address a topic with a foot in both worlds.

And before you say it, I know I’ve always said there’s no veil. There’s no line that says here’s Here, and———-there’s conveniently, separately located There, the official Other Side. Nonetheless, the need to articulate how that between experience feels and works in daily life requires some kind of identifier, and I’m not going to reinvent the conceptual wheel. Rather, I’ll just go with what we’ve got.

So here’s where this new direction starts: life after shamanic journeying. When I first discovered there were classes that taught shamanic techniques, that collection of techniques was put forward as shamanism. Well, they’re not =) What is even harder to process is that many are still presenting journeying and shamanism in that synonymous way–as if the ability to slide into trance makes one a shaman. Without celebration of our natural inclination toward trance states. Without discussion of what to do with the information stirred by the mere process of journeying. Without discussion of how life after that point changes–even if you have no plans to become a shaman.  Without plans for how to carry the ecstatic experience into daily life–back to the foot in both worlds thing. Without provisions for how to recreate that ecstasy on your own.

Many present the technique of journeying as the feature distinguishing shamanism from other intuitive/psychic arts. It is. But that’s not all. I’ve said from day one of deciding–and it is a decision–to be a modern shaman, that anyone can see. We’re all seers, all intuitive. Going into trance doesn’t make you a shaman, it makes you human. It’s not a special skill reserved for certain people. But knowing what to do with intuition, how to respond to it, how to incorporate its wisdom into everyday life is a very special skill, that can–and should–be learned, for your own journeys, and especially if you want to work with others. Otherwise, dipping into journeying can make a huge mess, a spiritual crisis bigger than what brought you to learning the technique to start with.

To that end, a lot of people come to me, after a crash weekend course in journeying, needing to sort it all out, because that’s the part that can’t be taught in two days. Apart from the emotional fallout–which spans absolute ecstasy to horror, depression to joy, and everything between–that often occurs after learning to journey, the thing I hear most is how they can’t hold the ecstatic experience. They can’t recreate it the way they felt it in those early soul adventures.

The very first introductions we make, actively engaging the unseen, blow our socks off. Most definitely they alter our sense of self and Life, on a dime.  Even people who consider their initial soul travels “unsuccessful,” with regard to meeting allies recognize the innate power of the altered state.  In fact, often those with least expectation are the most deeply affected. Without fail, though, eventually the colors fade, the messages obscure. Sometimes communication stops short, and guides don’t even show up. Why?

Sure,  part of that can be chalked up to dynamics. There’s something magickal about group sacred space, particularly when it’s created with the intention to facilitate and support shamanic journeying. Creating space in isolation doesn’t always get the same results, though if done with the intention of bringing in the totems in your familiar to help you hold the space, it can be even more personal, more transcendent.  Another culprit is not observing ritual for journeying. The key thing to know about not being able to sustain the thrilling, vivid journeys of fledgling soul travel is… no one can recreate it that way, without manifesting through the rest of life what each journey teaches.  Journeys become rote because shamanism isn’t just journeying.

It’s not a personal fault; it’s a deep component of our individualistic culture. We aren’t steeped in honoring the unseen through ordinary, commonplace gestures. Our standard mode of operation is one or the other–Here or There. We don’t recognize both at once. Even those of us on religious paths generally aren’t that thorough in bringing those spiritual tenets through all the days we’re not in earshot of the congregation. We are not known for walking our talk.

Without consistent observation of the unseen  when we’re not in trance, it’s really hard to sustain exhilarating journeys into the Dreamtime. Journeying is all or nothing, in that to continue having life-altering experiences in trance, you have to manifest what you glean in them, in day-to-day life. What we do Here, directly impacts what we can achieve There. It’s all connected. When we water our houseplants, we have to consider our relationship to them, how our care affects them. When we walk through a space, we have to realize we aren’t just moving through it, but are engaging with it.  When we encounter conflict, we mustn’t just rush to heal it, but consider its role in our story.

As seekers on a shamanistic path it’s not just suggested that we root into the unseen as deeply as possible, it’s expected. We don’t just roll up on the Other Side to learn things and heal ourselves or others. Relationships with Guides and totems need reciprocity as much as other relationships in our lives. Also, shamanic journeying isn’t just the formation of relationships to the spiritual allies you encounter in that state, it’s a relationship to journeying, itself.

Journeying is a lifestyle change. It gives you the seeds to grow what you need in your life. Unplanted, nothing can grow, Here or There. Planted, you grow everywhere.

Domestic Violence and Soul Release

Woman Smoke by Graham Crumb, [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsKelley, I survived domestic violence, leaving a marriage 4 years ago (the divorce was 3 years ago). The marriage lasted 14 years. I’m so much happier now, like night and day, but feel stuck in several areas of my life. It feels like the former marriage hangs over me like a gray cloud. What’s going on? Negative thought patterns? Evil spirits? How can I break free of this?  Thanks, P.

Thanks for your note, P. Wow, your ex was a piece of work! When I ask to see the source of the cloud you feel, I’m shown a manifestation of your former spouse. In the distance I see a younger manifestation of you, though I can’t get to you because your ex stands between us. The spouse’s manifestation is a feminine elemental covered in writhing green vines, and the field around her swirls with daggers and blades that slice anything that nears her. She’s cloudy and dark, and her skin is sallow. Her teeth are elongated and sharp, and she lunges at me. My sense is that this manifestation is a component of your spouse that is stuck in your field, though it is more than that. The hold your ex has maintained since your departure has become its own life force–this seething green elemental.

I ask her simply if this is her life’s destiny, to torment you, even after parting.  She stops gnashing at me and stares blankly. I ask her again if this is what she wants to do with her consciousness forever, and she drops to the ground, sobbing. She tells me that it isn’t what she wants, though her life force says otherwise. I suspect she is telling me what I want to hear, and after a few seconds she attacks me again.

I hold up my hand and tell her this kind of interaction is not an option. She can go up for healing willingly, or my guides and hers can take her there. Either way, this stops here. For a few more seconds nothing changes, and I place my hand in her etheric field. When I do I see blood and a gaping wound at her root chakra, and overall she’s generally hurt. She becomes a twenty-something woman then, who is exhausted and in a lot of pain. At this point she goes up for healing to the soulbody workers, and she moves on to her destiny. My guides clean up the scene where she had camped for so long, which also ripples healing out to others she harmed along her path. Finally I am able to reach the manifestation of you that is there.

You, likewise, are war torn and hurt, also very eager for healing. When I bring you up, you replenish quickly, and this manifestation of you is released. As well, the area in which you were held is healed, and my feeling is this clearing of your former spouse from your field is what has been needed.  She is now free to address her pain and reasons for being abusive in a way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else. Likewise, you are in a place where you can choose more freely how to move forward without her influence.

This feeling of a cloud over you has been one long, draining spiritual emergency, PTSD of the soul. With it now cleared, take care to shore up your protection for a few weeks. Often after releasing energy that has weighed us down for years, when free of it we are vulnerable. Any sore sports, memories, feelings that come up from your time with her, bless them as merely passengers moving through on the way to their destinies. You can just hold the door and let them go. New irritations and sensitivities that arise over the next few days are just your etheric field remapping, raw nerves finding new pathways. Try not to get too into the feelings of things, and let them pass through as well, just observing, feeling.

You are wise to realize what a good place you are in now, P. I hope that you can stand more clearly and firmly in that strength as you shift more into yourself. If I can help you further, I’m happy to.

Ethics and Implications of Distance Soul Healing

Kelley,  Last year my friend’s eighty-some year-old father went into the hospital for the fourth time in a few months. He had fallen, had a brain bleed, and other serious problems. She sent out an e-mail asking for prayers for her dad, saying she had been “shown” the possibility of his full recovery. I offered a prayer and sent energy from heaven and earth to be received as his higher self directed. I had no intentions beyond these. When I was praying for him, I “saw” him and experienced his presence. I also saw an etheric issue in his field, which I could imagine my guides shifting. I asked him if it was okay to allow them to do this, and his response was along the lines of,  “Of course I want to be helped out of this! Anything you can do, do it. Let’s get started already!”

Our guides and some other angelic took charge of the energy. I don’t remember what they did, though the matter was handled.  A few days later I heard he made a remarkable recovery  and was released to rehab(Many people suffer from addiction. Click here to check your Premera rehab insurance benefits covers rehab treatment.). Eventually he went home, though he never fully recovered. He had other medical incidents and passed away two weeks ago.

My question is, did I do something ill-advised? I have since read that one should never do healing work of this nature without permission from the subject on the physical plane. According to these sources, they need to say “yes” verbally or in writing. Believing that one has permission from that person’s soul or higher self is not adequate. Also, could I have retained any energy from this interaction that is damaging to me?   Thank you, C.

Thanks for your note, C.  What a great question, and what a great experience!  I do distance soul healing as part of my shamanic practice, and I’m often asked about the ethics of it. For my professional work, I base my intentions from what clients inform me needs balance. I do a very careful assessment of the request and determine if I’m a good fit for that distance work. If not, I will say, and if so, I proceed with the client’s permission.

Working from a general request for healing is a very different approach. I am in the camp that you get the verbal agreement when possible, and that you don’t sit down and intend to do healing without someone’s knowledge of it.  In cases like you describe, where it wasn’t at all your intention, I think you were at the right place and the right time for some other touch that needed an earthly vessel to work through, for him.  Because you didn’t intend it, this experience is different.  You intended the space.  What happened in it was beyond you. You were likewise blessed by witnessing it.

As far as picking up things from doing healings for others…  You always have to clean yourself after, even when the session went great, with no tension or distress–to you or the recipient. In the same way that you wash your hands before you eat at a restaurant, clear yourself before healing work.  The same way that you wash them when you are done eating, clear yourself after.   Part of what makes shamanic healing successful is the long-established relationship with one’s guides, as well as great finesse in traversing the spirit realms.  That said, when doing healings, whether in-person or remotely for others or self, we pass through layers that are beyond our awareness.  Even those of us who do such healings and soul interactions regularly don’t know every little detail of  what’s in that space, what’s been there, ever. That’s why we do rituals before and after healings, to clear out what is not appropriate to the healing, and what isn’t appropriate for us to bring back from it.

Clearing yourself after directing healing can be as simple as, “I release anything from this experience that doesn’t bless me,” or “”I release anything from this experience that isn’t aligned with my wellbeing.”  Use the wording that literally gives you a tingle or some clear sense of a shift.

C, you are wise to consider the parameters of ethical remote healing, as well as its potential to affect you.  Thanks for probing thoughts we all need to consider as we become more responsible, responsive Universal citizens.


Life After Life

Hi, Kelley – I have recently been very bothered with the concept of the end of physical existence. This just hit me as I am watching my small children grow. I have been doing lots of web searching on any proof of existence beyond death, i.e. the afterlife.  In your experience, do we really have existence after physical death? If so, is it your understanding that we get to interact with our loved ones on that plane? Thank you for any response! Randy

Bird GirlThanks for your note, Randy. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling the spirit realm, processing my own perceptions of what that is, as well as what those who dwell only in the spirit realm say the experience out of form is.  I can’t say for certain if the experience fully removed from the body is the same or similar to soul travel out of the body. I can say that the experiences I’ve had in soul travel are beyond what my imagination could create, and I’m always left compelled to explore the possibilities more.  With that in mind, the short answer is yes, there is something after and beyond being in form, as I’ve experienced it.  Exactly what that is seems to vary.

Initially I’m told by my spirit guides that what we believe in form is how life out of form shapes.  It makes sense if you think about it, as what we believe is how life in form shapes, too.  That we create our own reality isn’t a far-fetched concept anymore.  So, as someone who carries no preconception of punishment or reward after life in form, I don’t experience that there is such.  What I experience in spirit space is an opportunity for total clearing of my worries, completing or releasing unfinished business, recognizing needs to be filled, deep blessings and gratitude for experiences I treasure, blessing the form and bringing it peace. That space can be very complicated or very simple, it seems, and how much we have managed mindfulness and found peace on stresses in life dictates how gently we fare between lives.

With that concept in mind, I have experienced that the space between lives is rich, if not a landscape for entire other lives, as well.  The idea that we have lives between lives, in the space where we are utterly and completely out of form, is precious.  In that space I’ve encountered soulmates who never come into form, who volunteer to be an anchor in that between space, feeding the work that their physical counterpart does here. Likewise, the notion that we have needs, relationships,  tasks to perform that only pertain to life between lives is amazing.

Coming back into form?  It’s a choice. It seems that some feel they can best make peace with unfinished business by coming back to create themselves again.  I know some cultures honor a very strict hierarchy in returning to form, though I’ve never observed a specific pattern or rules around doing so.

Regarding whether we know each other and can interact out of form, my experience is that we do, though it’s different.  We do recognize Aunt Millie in the spirit realm, though our perception of ourselves and Life becomes so big that we don’t need to restrict her to being just “Aunt Millie.” We don’t need to restrict ourselves to being only what we were, are, in form.  When we traverse the spirit realm, our perception becomes bigger, fuller, deeper. Our concept of ‘relationship’ becomes less about how we knew each other in form and more about how we find each other in ourselves, in everything, all the time.

The questions you’re asking Randy, are ones we all must confront.  By doing so now, you are creating the kind of mindfulness that will allow you to be aware out of form. I truly believe that one of the great disservices our culture has done itself is in not teaching how to die mindfully. The overall message I get from my guides on life after life is if we know how to die well, that means we’re living well, too.