Cultivate Spaciousness

In busy times it is important to continue to cultivate spaciousness in our lives.  We are often overwhelmed by a multitude of tasks, bills to pay, phone calls to make, work and school, our jobs.  Oftentimes, people I meet may be doing things that do not inspire or nurture their well being.  Creating a small bit of space helps to hear the voice that is calling out for what will sustain our hearts and souls, our health and joy.  This also helps to cultivate commitment and regularity. By doing this you are able to create a calmer mind, cultivate discernment and begin to more deeply understand the nature of impermanence.

We can create spaciousness in a few different ways.  We may choose to practice five or fifteen minutes of sitting meditation each morning or afternoon.  We can stop our work on the computer for five minutes sometime during the day and rest, quietly looking out the window.  We can choose to become aware of our breath while we are driving, walking, taking the subway.  When we sit down in the park for ten minutes, we may discover our worry chatter suddenly shifts into a more nurturing voice, or inspired thoughts may arise.  When you decide to cultivate spaciousness, leave it at that.  Don’t think too much about this.  I know for myself I often delay meditation because I don’t have the ‘right cushion’ right now, or I just need to get up and get water…then a bit of food…then check email…  You must make it simple and accessible for yourself!  This is a tiny commitment and how easily we distract ourselves.

If you decide to cultivate a daily practice, try to stick to it for a few days at first.  When you forget about it, then go back to it again.  Be gentle with yourself.  The following is a good practice for daily meditation.  Decide on a time and place.  Then, sit in a comfortable meditative posture.  The recommended posture is to sit with your back straight in either cross legged, lotus or half lotus position.  If this is uncomfortable, sit in a chair, but try to keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed. Start with five minutes a day simply focusing on the breath.  When your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath.  Once you have achieved this for a month, then practice focusing on the breath for five minutes, then focus specifically on the in breath and out breath for ten, and then again on the breath generally for five.  You may want to close this fifteen minutes with a power song, an offering to your helper spirits and/or smoke offering.  This simple closing helps to remind us to be in gratitude for the day and readies us for our spiritual work that arises throughout the day.

Although this exercise is important, I also emphasize to my students that sometimes people become either obsessed or rigid with the meditation or they feel guilty because they are not doing it.  This seems to go against the very real reason to meditate which is simply to cultivate a calmer mind and more spaciousness.  Spaciousness is key.  Having the intention to create spaciousness will do so, perhaps even more so then sitting meditation.  By creating spaciousness, we allow our inner hearts to arise and we begin to have direct experiences with the world.  From these experiences, we receive insight, recognize our inner passion and become happier.


Drumming at Ocean Edge, Big Island Hawaii

Open Letter to New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans


Firstly, I would like to say to you that I appreciate the work you are doing and find a lot of value in aspects of your forum.  I am one hundred percent in agreement that spiritual leaders who prey on women or charge outrageous amounts of money or use Native traditions as their own should be called out.  And this should be the case for native and non-native leaders worldwide.  There is a pathology to that which is linked to our violent histories, colonization and the greedy and ignorant nature of humans in general.

A few years ago I used your site during research for my book entitled “Reiki Warrior” as I attempt to do my best to be aware of cultural appropriation. Of course, like any human I am flawed, have blind spots and overlook different perspectives; thus the use of your site. “Reiki Warrior” is a look at the connections between Reiki, shamanism, and Buddha dharma. Ultimately I realized those subjects are too disparate, I am not a recognized Buddha dharma teacher and that it wasn’t the right thing to publish. Perhaps you wish to check out the notes on my healing work and preface here: http://katalinkoda.com/my-journey-on-the-healing-path/

During research for my book “Reiki Warrior” I came across your site many times as it references several teachers that I have studied over the years including Carlos Castaneda, Sandra Ingerman, Michael Harner, White Eagle and Brooke Medicine Eagle. These people, however ‘fraudulent’ they may seem to you and the members of your site, have been helpful to me at times on this curious path that is called life.  Some of them I have met in person. Some of their work has helped me and some of it I do question. Others I have been inspired by, studied and received teachings from include Malidoma Patrice Somé, H.H. the Dalai Lama, H.H. the Karmapa, H.E. Tai Situ, Kumu Ehulany Stephany, Jill Walton and Harry Uhane Jim.  I do understand the cultural sensitivities however, and there are a lot of questions to be asked and I can see that your forum is raising them.

I myself struggle with the word shaman but have used it to describe my work for lack of a better term. Shaman, evolved from šaman, is a Tungusic word from the Evenki peoples, and, as you know, has rapidly grown into an umbrella term for a great many things and indeed pulls quite a bit out of cultural context.  Curiously there are also links found connected to the Chinese term, sha men which translates to mean “Buddhist monk,”  and the Prakrit term samaya, and Sanskrit sramana-s meaning “Buddhist ascetic.”  I have always been very clear about this with my students and clients, that this word is from a particular people and is being used in a different way among the New Age.

Over the years, I have felt uncomfortable at times meeting spirits, becoming a healer and then charging money. However, it is a tricky situation because from my experience the spirits are also very helpful and I can see that people benefit greatly from the healing work. From a basic approach, laying hands on people stimulates their immune system; connecting to our intuition helps us to make better choices about our relationships; listening to the drum can deeply relax us. I have been (somewhat reluctantly) going along this path with opportunities continually presenting themselves to help people. Although I do charge money for healings (at various rates) and sometimes ceremonial work, I also have given hundreds of sessions for free and have led hundreds of ceremonies without charge and continue to do so.  However your post brings these questions that I struggle with back to light. See here for more: http://katalinkoda.com/2015/04/new-age-frauds-and-plastic-shamans/

As a child, I experienced spirits and mostly these experiences were terrifying as I had little or no context in a modern western setting.  I had a head surgery as an infant and my scalp was cut open, I faced cancer at 19, and the death of a baby girl at 26 along with a multitude of continued spirit encounters. All of these life situations have been full of difficult challenges as well as profound blessings and also inevitably led me further along the healing path. When certain spirit situations became overwhelming, thankfully I was guided by the Tibetan traditions and took refuge with a Tibetan Buddhist teacher.  These practices, which have connections to the ancient Bön lineage, bear many protectors and I am better able to navigate this path.  My teacher is a very beautiful being, a living Bodhisattva and I take comfort in attempting to work with the practices as best I can. One approach to keep in mind is Right Motivation which I believe helps one in all aspects of life and I continuously check in with this when doing healing work.

I have also connected with teachers from various other traditions and am passionate about story and myth and how this reflects in cultural context. In my own blood line, I am half Hungarian and within that culture are the Taltós, the Hungarian word for shaman, who may be born without any training or initiation. I have no idea if I am connected to Taltós yet this does intrigue me and makes some sense to me.

As for your post, I would like to clarify a few things you have written. I am not claiming to be a ‘Hawaiian’ teacher nor a ‘Yogi.’ I have been fortunate to study with a Hawaiian Hula Kumu (teacher) Ehulany Stephanie who has been recognized as a Kahuna (master) and herself holds lineages from more than a dozen Hawaiian teachers.  When I first arrived in Hawaii (after living seven years in India), I was moved by the people, land, waters and spirits there and asked her for guidance in the correct way to make offerings, chant, etc. She has shared with me a great many things and also taught me how to follow the Aloha in my heart.
As for being a Yogi, I’m not sure what you are implying here. I have received my certified Yoga Teacher Training from the Sivananda Ashram in South India, a veritable and recognized organization in India.  If you were to identify me as a Yogi, the proper term would be Yogini for a woman and is actually viewed by some lay people of India as similar to ‘witch’ or ‘dakini’ rather than someone who teaches or practices Hatha Yoga.  I would not personally call myself a Yogi or Yogini.

During my seven years living in India, I have to say I never came across the kind of hostility that is being hurled on your site when I told people I did healing work. India is full of just as many hucksters and charlatans and predators as well as true spiritual teachers and healers. On your site, I see many healers, teachers and leaders attempting to explain their path as I am doing here, and to be met with more anger, more hostility does not seem like a way to create solutions to these issues. I also see native peoples standing up fiercely for their culture and spiritual ways that have been exploited, robbed, ripped away, exposed, destroyed,  and changed.

Although I agree with you that charging exorbitant amounts is ridiculous, I also strongly believe that ceremonialists, even if they are inventing ceremony straight from the land, today, with no tradition, deserve to be honored and paid in a way that supports and nourishes them (as long as they are not doing ceremony which claims to be a tradition that they are not).

My experience in India and Nepal is that you give an offering for ceremony; this is naturally woven into the context of the culture as perhaps it was once with native peoples here. Giving an offering is called dana and is an important aspect of any kind of ceremony or healing in east Indian, Tibetan and Nepali culture.  Dana is both a Sanskrit and Pali word that is usually translated as “generosity.”  Several accounts of the curanderos, curanderas and other people in South America is similar, that indeed a form of money is involved.

However, in the modern western culture we do not have that context and people would not know to bring an offering, so charging an amount that equates the work going into the facilitation seems reasonable.  In the few Peyote meetings and sweats I have attended we brought and offered both tobacco and money.  And, on a side note, I found it very curious indeed that at one of the Peyote meetings, led by a Guatemalan man and a Lakota man, we prayed to Jesus Christ. I later discovered that peyote originated in Mexico with the Huichol people.  It seems if you research any native lines, you find a great blend of cultural influences in individual races as well as groups and spiritual lineages.

To me, modern day artists are akin to ceremonialists. Musicians are paid money, so are artists, doctors, nutritionists, and massage therapists. Workshop leaders, retreat facilitators, and yes ceremonialists should be compensated for their work they are offering to the world. Ceremony is food for the soul and as probably everyone on this site knows, creating a full ceremony requires quite a few resources and the creator and facilitator should be supported. If we could find more people who are working with ceremony in an even and approachable manner, I think this work also helps people to connect more with their impact on the earth, create a more sustainable life, clean up a river, plant more trees. Who does not need more healing and attention than the earth right now?

To be clear, I am not talking about people who are doing a traditional sweat lodge, charging huge amounts of money and saying they are a part of a nation they don’t actually belong to or are recognized by; that is a pathology unto itself. A student must check in with that person’s teachings and teachers.  At the same time, I think a lot of this confusion stems from the fact that people are so thirsty for ceremony, feeling lost, over-medicated, anxious and confused in our world. The earth is at a state of crises.  Time and time again I have seen people come to life in a way that is so profound through the simplest of ‘ceremony’ and make healthy changes in their life. In that way, I do respect the work of Michael Harner.

I know that the people on this site have a serious amount of distrust, anger and outrage towards Harner and ‘his bunch’ and the work he is doing. I agree that people need to be educated about what Harner is really offering and I was disturbed to learn that it seems they are taking specific ceremonies out of context without proper offerings. I would be preaching to the choir to note that this is another example of colonization in the realms of spirituality.  Clearly, there are a lot of issues with spiritual tourism, false traditional claims, stealing ceremony and promoting it as a false teacher.  I have found this to be evident among both native peoples and non-natives in several countries.

For myself, the practices from the FSS gave me a kind of container for the things I was already experiencing and found it beneficial. I also see that Harner, as an anthropologist, is working towards preserving shamans and shamanic cultures around the world including Nepal and Tibet and I have gratitude for that. Personally, I found him to be very straight forward, no nonsense and they do not charge huge fees for their workshops. In my experience, they never proclaimed to be of any sort of tradition nor did we do any practices from a specific nation or tribe.

For all the well thought out questions raised on your site, there does seem to be a lot of hostility, mudslinging about race, nation, etc. that also goes on. As a self identified queer woman, I was surprised to find people taking issue with the term ‘two spirit.’ Every person I have met who calls themselves two spirit is a native person. For such a marginalized group, being native who are then also marginalized by being queer (by both non natives and natives alike), I find it odd that you would have fault in this especially knowing how hard it is as a native person and the work you do.

The word ‘native’ itself is an Old French or Latin word and its oldest meaning is ‘raw’ or ‘unspoiled.’ Later meanings, from the 15th century is a ‘person born in bondage,’ and ‘woman born in slavery.’ Queer’ is a Low German word that is defined as ‘deviating from what is expected or normal; strange,’ and later is also ‘worthless’, ‘questionable’,’ suspicious’ and ‘often disparaging : homosexual .’ In the last twenty years, the gay community has reclaimed this word as a means for identification. We have to use words to bridge divides and make sense of who we are. The entire forum you work with is word and concept based; it ultimately has nothing to do with the methods or practices that encompass spiritual practices from the heart and soul. These are incredibly complex issues and I truly believe in the spirit of open communication and dialogue as a better means to solving problems than questioning or attacking people for the terms that are using for identification.

Many people today do not have the opportunity to receive oral teachings and I value your traditionalist approach, but I hope the energy of this forum continues to create dialogue and build bridges. In all my extensive research on myths from various nations around the world, time and time again we find the stories to be about bringing the world back into balance. People in the past, native or not, have always been going out of balance and the spirits have always been there to remind us how to find a way back to balance.

I  wanted to share some thoughts, feel free to publish on your site. I have no preference whether you take the inquiry down or not, but, for the record, I am not claiming to be a Hawaiian teacher or Yogi nor do I claim to be any other kind of ‘traditional’ teacher. I feel strongly in my heart that all people who use the English language have the right to use ‘ceremony’ and regardless of color, nation, gender or any other such identity, in the end, we are all indigenous to the earth.  Every single one of our bones will be buried in her soils soon enough.

Thank you for the work that you do,


Katalin Koda



Sitting with Death

As I attempted to relax on my recent flight back from Hawaii, someone sitting near me had a medical emergency.  She became nauseated and unwell, then lost consciousness and had to be laid down at the back of the plane.

In that moment, all my confusing, self pitying, random nostalgia came to a screeching halt and I felt a jolt of vivid clarity. I had what I call, one of those Death reminders. It was one of those moments—you know the kind—when something happens and suddenly you remember that you too will die.

While the flight attendants rushed around to gather the medical professionals on board, my own muttering mind came to a clear and vivid halt.

As the lady in the back of the plane continued to receive medical assistance, our plane then ran into intense, jarring wind turbulence. Bouncing around like a paper kite, I could literally feel Death sitting on my left shoulder. Just resting there. Grinning perhaps. That gorgeous, shuddering reminder of how short our lives really are.

Since reading Carlos Castenada, I have attuned to this idea that Death sits over our left shoulder. In that moment on the plane, Death showed up in one of its most classic garbs: a raven. He was so real I could almost stroke his soft, glistening black feathers, see the shine in his dark gleaming eye, feel the soft pulse of his heartbeat…Death’s heartbeat?

Death emerged as the theme of the week, returning to the mainland to witness the beautiful death of leaves in fall, darkening days, and my beloved Halloween, or Samhain, around the corner, when the veils grow thin between this world and the next.

And then I faced another marker on the journey of Life and its partner, Death. A few days later my father was suddenly admitted into the hospital for major surgery, turning the wheels of my mind and heart to the recognition of all that passes. The surgery went well and he is on his way toward recovery; still, I realized it’s actually quite remarkable how often we go about our days without even touching into this knowing or, better yet, making friends with Death.

I am 39 years old and have had my own check with mortality reality, cancer at age 19 and the loss of my baby daughter when I was 26. These two experiences have defined my view on Life and Death, a great gift that reminds me to come back to present moment, to stay in gratitude.

The ticking clock of our bodies continues to remind us that we will soon dissolve from this life back into the next. Daily we are offered reminders of this truth, and yet why do most of us continue to scurry and procrastinate as if the future waits with a promise?

Even when we have the huge reminders, how many of us return to our daily lives ignoring the very real truth that one day we will pass away?

In my Buddhist practice, contemplating death is a kind of requirement. In The Four Reminders, we contemplate the preciousness of life, the reality of death, the truth of karma and the suffering of samsara. This is an opening practice and lays the groundwork for all other practices in Buddhism. To get very comfortable on first how precious our life is and then that death is certain and may come in any moment.

It may seem morbid at first, but it is really the most profound and necessary practice. Why? Because it’s the ultimate truth and facing Death, helps to minimize the wildly chaotic mind stream that is so often fueled by ego, emotional highs and lows, things that just truly don’t really matter…let alone exist. I like to check in with: Will this matter in 50 years? Will this relationship/person/problem even exist?

It’s tricky though because how do we confront Death and not be complacent? After cancer, I was on fire for a year. After the death of my baby daughter I lived in a state of depressive pointlessness for a year. Imminent, possible demise has a different effect on all of us  in each situation. However, allowing ourselves the time and practice to mine the terrain of loss, grief and death we certainly find the richest spiritual gems.

On my birthday this year, I unplugged for five days and headed to Mt. Shasta with my beloved. No phone, no social networking, no job… I did yoga at dawn, made love with my partner on the earth, climbed to brilliant, high alpine meadows, drank mineral rich, sparkling water and on the morning of the third day, it dawned on me: I was going to practice the art of living as if I had only one year left on earth.

I had recently discovered this practice in Noah Levine’s work Dharma Punx where he mentions his father’s book,A Year to Live. While in Hawaii I discovered A Year to Live on my friend’s shelf and have been putting it into place. Practices in the book help us to step fully into life by welcoming Death and all that comes with it: fear, hopelessness, the need to come to resolutions, dealing with avoidance.

When I stepped into the practice at sunrise on my birthday, I looked Death square in the eye and felt more alive than ever. I felt a deep commitment to live my best life, as if this year were my last, as if this month, this week, this day, this breath were my very last.

Our lives are fleeting; we get 80 or so years, at best, and likely many of those years will be challenging, or have problems, sickness, and heartache.

Although I have been someone to follow my heart with great passion, I realized in that moment and in the last weeks, that I could open up wider, deeper, and be even more loving. Take risks. Be kind anyway. I can celebrate and stay in joy. I can relax into the wonder that is life and all its forms and relations and the dance of beauty that is ever around us. That I don’t really have to worry, or fret…that I have a choice.

Every moment is a choice and in the Face of Death, I choose Life.

The immense freedom that follows is wild and  wonderful and many things suddenly don’t matter as much. In the vivid clarity that came with that plane ride and news of my father, I quit a couple jobs, made a deeper commitment to my work and writing, made sure to tell my beloveds how much I care about them. I seek peace and resolution in the disharmony and find it within, in a restful place of truth and recognition that everything that rises will also fall away.

Here’s to Death, here’s to Life.


The Lovers

I am working on a 22 day Tarot sadhana or spiritual practice with my beloved, Mika in the current writing of Ceremonial Tarot. ‪#‎ceremonialtarot‬

Today is the Lovers day and wanted to share with you all some thoughts and a poem.

Lately, with friends and many clients, I notice many many people are looking for their ‘soulmate,’ the ONE to complete them. How deeply we celebrate our finding of romantic love. This is interesting to me!

I lived for seven years in India where romantic love, although idealized in Bollywood cinema, is not necessarily overtly valued in the life path. There, arranged marriage is still often the norm and romantic love is seen to be a fire that will soon burn out. With the perspective that we live many lifetimes, there may be a different kind of ardor towards finding ‘the one’ in this life. Instead, ardor for a spiritual path, devotion to a teacher seems to be fueling many…

In my experience in India devotion is not a romantic love but is a deep, longer burning love and is felt firstly for God and one’s spiritual teacher and teachings, for spirit and the divine, then for family, India, one’s country. (Note: these are my OWN thoughts that I have come to form from my time there and do not necessarily reflect those of Indian peoples; perspectives are as varied as the billion plus individuals there, I’m sure!)

The last time I went to India, in September 2012, I was on a deep pilgrimage to rediscover my center. At the time I was in a functional ‘marriage’ to the father of my daughter, a relationship that seemed to be supported by mutual respect and understanding, but actually had a lot of co-dependent issues and not such a firm foundation after all. It took a lot of soul searching the past couple of years to start unpacking that one…

During my 6 week pilgrimage in India in 2012 I performed a Self Marriage Ceremony, check out my video here:

Fire of the Goddess: A Ceremony of Self Marriage from Katalin Koda on Vimeo.

After doing the ceremony, I also visited a man I had felt love for in the past, resolved that part of myself and I was fortunate to attend the Chod teachings with HH Karmapa, my spiritual teacher.

During those six weeks, what happened was…I fell completely head over heels in love with MySelf. Not my small self, but the part of me that that carries the Divine Spark always and forever united to the Inner Beloved.

When I returned home to the Big Island of Hawaii that time, I was in a place of deep, deep contentment. My inner feelings were so calm and content that I had this interesting sense of profound peace that lasted for weeks.

My thoughts were like this: if I had a husband, great. If not, great.
If I had a fabulous home to live in, wonderful. If not, wonderful.
If I was a successful writer, fantastic. If not, fantastic.

I was truly at peace with my entire being…and it was in that moment, in that place of deeply resonating love and beauty and truth and contentment that I then met an extraordinary person…someone who reflected and resonated all these parts that had been tucked away for years and years in the placidity of my previous relationship.

My very first vow of my Self Marriage was…and still is, to call back all parts of mySelf. And in doing so, I opened the gateway to meeting my next level reflections in a partner.

IMG_0976The Universe is always showing us ourSelves, whether it be through intimate romantic relationships, a spiritual teacher, chaotic situations, family relations.
Our own inner dialouge, thoughts, feelings, sense of worth, sense of lack, sense of abundance, sense of gratitude is continuously being reflected by the Infiinitely Creative Universe that surrounds our tiny and exquisite selves. It cannot be any other way, is what I have come to realize. And how much we have to explore then, work with, to learn and discover! For some this comes with romantic relationships; for others through parenting; for others through work; for others being alone in nature…whatever it is, it is showing up For You. For your Divine Self…and my only suggestion is…fall in love. Fall in Love with all of it, as you are it, all around, within and surround.

What I have learned is that the Beloved is ultimately within. Although I fell madly, deeply in love with this lovely woman, Mika…I also know that she is ultimately a reflection of the love, peace, joy and creativity that I feel within. We resonate and so we naturally attracted one another. And, ALSO I was finally at a place in my life, where I was willing to recognize that all that arises within me, is ultimately MINE. Anger, attachment, jealousy, all the rich stuff that provides a way to learn about loving more deeply, compassion, wisdom.

And so this relation~ship was entered into with eyes Wide Open, in wonder and awe, and also an ultimate commitment to oneSelf growth and development. Navigating what we have entered in the midst of a torrential breakup was challenging to say the least! And yet, it helped me to continuously anchor into my own Self Marriage vows, my commitment to my own growth and opening to Love over and over again. This has deepened our own relationShip and intimacy every moment….as we continue to fall in love with ourSelves, with each other, with the Universe….

There is a lot more to say on all of this…but there is a little piece from my heart and Truth to you…Much love!

And here’s a sweet poem dedicated to my Beloved….


The Truth of the Heart

Follow your heart. Listen to your heart. The truth of the heart is something our culture seems to both idealize and demonize.  I have always had a loud heart voice. It has never let me down even as it has encouraged me to take wild leap after leap in my own life. I have often found it curious when others’ seem to have a hard time hearing the voice of the heart. Then I realize, so often, what the heart is yearning for is beyond cultural boundaries, beyond social constraints, past what is ‘good’ or ‘right’ or ‘moral.’ The truth of the heart is pure and holds the essence of love, but love has no fixation on color, or religion, or social structure or family dynamic. Pure love transcends all of this.

When I was fifteeen I had a burning crush on a boy of color and my family reacted very negatively to this news. I became aware that my heart’s truth at times challenges others. Certainly we have all experienced this at one time or another. This stepping into heart’s truth requires courage. Many who have followed their heart have often been shunned by the social norms at the time. Jesus, Joan of Arc, even Ammachi the living saint of India is hated by many of my South Indian friends. As one friend gently reminded me recently, it seems the brighter the light, the darker the shadow mirrors to remind us of the dance of duality that exists within our limited human perception.

Oftentimes we do things, lie even, to make sure we don’t hurt or harm another’s fragile self while burying our own truth deep within. When that truth eventually surfaces, whether its in the form of a breakup, quitting a job, coming out, a disease, we may be judged and put into the mercy of other’s fear and projections. When we betray our own heart, our own truth for so long it seems shocking when it is revealed to others. What is it that we so desperately try to protect or hold onto? What can we shed to step ever more powerfully into alignment with the voice of our hearts?

Ultimately, when we step into love with the fierce flame of compassion and clear sight, we burn up the ego’s wish to be right. The desire to hold onto a small self that won’t feel unsafe, lost, betrayed or hurt.  Love transcends all of this too. Love knows no boundaries.

So much of what we learn, conceptually about what is wrong or right, black or white, good and bad comes from our families, our societies, our cultural standards. I am inspired by certain indigenous practices at the time of coming-of-age when children becoming adults would shed their own human parents and invite the earth and the skies to become their guiding force. That the universal language of love, care, compassion and support may speak to us through those we choose to be in our lives. Through the trees and creatures and stones. Through the infinite night sky. To remember, in love we are part of one another and we are not our concepts, our beliefs, our thoughts.

Ultimately, the heart speaks its own language and it is not the conceptual language of reason or rational. Rumi’s poem captures this so eloquently:

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face into mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.

sufi mystic – jelaluddin rumi – 13th century



Bridges of Impossible Love

This month I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a Shaman Conference themed “Manifesting Bridges of Impossible Love” to both participate and present my work on Self-Marriage. This gathering, the 7th Annual Shamanic Conference hosted by the Sacred Circle of Great Mystery Shamanic Society, was an incredibly rich, creative and transformative experience led by Jean-Luke Edwards, shaman and holder of the Seanair of Sagh’ic Tire Dhream Tradition.

I knew next to nothing about the conference, and honestly, although I had spent time preparing my own workshop, I barely had a chance to tune into the meaning or significance of this gathering. Having never been to Canada, knowing almost no one except Stephanie and one lovely shaman lady I met here in Portland, Lauri Shainsky, a local shamanic sound healer, I felt like a newbie, a beginner. Entering into such a sacred and wildly creative gathering with a fresh mind was wonderful, so open and revealing.

Christina Pratt, founder of Last Mask Center for shamanic healing in Portland opened the workshops for the week.  That morning, she said something that struck a deep chord in me. We were practicing journeying to the essence energies of Love or Wisdom, Virtue and Beauty. She remarked on Virtue, mentioning that in the Taoist sense this means ‘standing at the threshold.’

Standing at the threshold…at the threshold…the threshold. I can definitely relate to this.


I have found my entire life has been a series of thresholds, to stand in that place of the unknown and face the mystery over and over again. Often unwanted, often terrified by the wildness that accompanies the opening of one’s heart in such a way. Yet, it is becoming a bit more familiar in passing years.  In other words, I’m getting used to this outrageous yet blessing filled method of leaping and building my wings on the way down. Blessons: blessings with the lessons over and over again.

The conference was titled Tree and Star: A Calling for Reconciliation and was a gathering to manifest bridges of impossible love. This theme spoke to me so deeply. In the last two and a half years, since my journey to India to do a Self-Marriage ceremony, my life has changed irrevocably and has been an incredible process of stepping up to that threshold and annihilating my identity and selves.

When I returned from India, I was in a place of wellness and deep, deep content. My heart was wide open to the world in utter wonder, just dancing in pure joy along that threshold. I had returned to a thirteen year long relationship that was wearing thin. In that state of openness I met someone else who fueled me into even deeper stages of love, to explore all corners of my soul, my creativity and my passion.

After falling in love with myself, I opened up to falling in love with someone new.

My family dynamic changed drastically, I explored a completely new and different kind of love, I spent months apart from my daughter trying to navigate my new life. Moving through those life changes was like being on a river with unpredictable currents. I faced the storms of anger, rage and betrayal that can follow a huge break up and the huge transition of moving my entire life from my beloved Big Island to Portland, Oregon.

Walking through a new city, with almost no friends, alone, my lover gone, facing the seemingly insurmountable mountain of change and hearing the wild whistling of trains and urban sounds pressing down, the ache of concrete over land, the sounds of rushing cars, desperately seeking a place to live, I remembered what one teacher told me:

Enlightenment is a demolition project.

Indeed it is. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the more powerful unfoldings of my life began with my own Self-Marriage in September of 21012. Stepping more firmly onto my path, opening to presence was the fuel for my journey to say vows to myself.  Sitting inside an ancient Yogini temple on the far flung Eastern corner of India, I said vows with a few witnesses to honor my soul’s path and growth. I entered the threshold, I was initiated onto my path. I wrote about it Self-Marriage at elephant journal and I even filmed it!

Fire of the Goddess: A Ceremony of Self Marriage from Katalin Koda on Vimeo.

My first self-marriage vow was to call back all parts of myself and since then I have been doing just that. Old selves and parts have been showing up and re-integrating. This was indeed a new beginning of a deep and powerful reconciliation process with myself and my life’s work on earth.

So you can imagine, the invitation to present my work at a conference in which the theme was to manifest bridges of impossible love was timely and poignant. I was invited by Stephanie Mills, who attended a day long Fire of the Goddess Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii a few years ago. She was moved by my work which led to an interview me on the Forked Stick Podcast and an invitation to their yearly gathering. See here to listen to my interview!


>Pele MagickThe entire week of this Shamanic Conference was about stepping into that place, that threshold of impossible love. To reconcile all parts of ourselves over and over again. To really deeply witness that we are all reflections of one another and the binding force is indubitably, LOVE.

I walked across burning coals, my prayer for impossible love burning in my heart to the fire, to the stars that shown above reminding us of our ancestors and our descendants.


I participated in Peruvian death rites, releasing my energy body and dying to learn the art of death and rebirth, wherein the power of healing lies for each of us.

I offered a workshop on Self-Marriage in which we explored aspects of loving our selves, the inner Beloved, the inner marriage of the sacred feminine and masculine. The participants wrote vows to themselves and said them outside in soft air, wearing vivid reds and dedicating themselves to practice self-love.

Self-marriage is powerful and radical and it changes us. It is a choice to not only stand at the threshold, but to create the threshold itself so that we are empowered to move forward and truly manifest bridges of impossible love.

I am currently offering my services to help you design their own self-marriage and call back all parts of yourself. This connects you to your divine purpose, to your place on earth and helps to heal your relations. Contact me if you wish to create a ceremony!


New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans

I have recently found that an inquiry has been posted about me on New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans, a site I actually used in writing my currently unpublished Reiki Warrior book! This is fascinating to me. For those of you that don’t know, this is an interesting forum which questions the validity of people who are teachers and spiritual leaders.  Some of the main issues the site focuses on are people who are claiming to be Native, or using Native traditions, thus culturally appropriating healing work as well as those who are using their leadership status to gain power, money, fame and sexual gratification. This inquiry inspired me to post a page on my site, my preface actually from Reiki Warrior: http://katalinkoda.com/my-journey-on-the-healing-path/

I have always held a pang in my heart in trying to be culturally respectful, particularly in the Native American context. I received my BA in Anthropology and did a focus on Native American studies and yet throughout my life, with no desire to do so, I have found myself having experiences with spirits and spirit helpers. Without any context for these experiences, I have had challenges trying to make sense of it.  Certainly my flawed notion of native ceremony, the noble Native American and healing was confronted by also discovering Reiki, Wicca and eventually core shamanism, teachings that have inevitably helped me on my path.

One of the teachers on the forum is Michael Harner and his many students and their work, myself included.  The commentators actively question, criticize and even attack his creation of ‘core shamanism.’  Core shamanism is Harner’s distillation of several shamanic cultures relying mostly on the tool of the drum journey to navigate what he calls the SSC, shamanic state of consciousness, also called non-ordinary reality, a term coined by Carlos Castenada. Indeed Harner is literally taking the shamanic work that is tribe or nation or cultural specific out of context.

We begin to run into problems when people promote Native ceremonies as their own, thus cultural appropriation as well as issues of sex, money and power that are found within the New Age, but also found in countless healing and spiritual situations from South America to India.  I myself experienced first hand several encounters with shady healers and self-proclaimed yogis in India.

I lived in India for 7 years and found that there were so many ‘yogis’ and ‘healers’ and sacred this and sacred that for sale, it kind of blew all those concepts to pieces. I will never forget going to a Yoga class by a ‘Master Yoga’ teacher in Benares (the most holy city on Earth) and he sat there, blowing cigarette smoke across us, reading the NEWSPAPER yelling out ‘Kat, do headstand! Kat, do cobra.” It was humorous and hey, I did a headstand in the midst of cigarette smoke.

I also met a Nepali shaman in Kathamandu who had worked with Michael Harner and praised him excitedly. Harner has been responsible for helping to support the continuation of indigenous shamanic practices around the world and the mission of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies is dedication “to the preservation, study, and teaching of shamanic knowledge for the welfare of the Planet and its inhabitants.” So although the dialogue of ‘New Age Frauds’ is crucial, so is the examination of these topics from a multitude of perspectives as we work with ‘shamanism’ in a contemporary age.

Some of many questions that come to mind:

When are we appropriating and when are we assimilating?

How can we access ‘shamanic’ tools if we are not native to a place and have little context for the land/waters/animals/plants/trees that surround us?

Can shamanic tools help us to reconnect with our surroundings?

Is Core Shamanism ultimately benefiting people?

How do we know the difference between working with the unconscious/subconscious versus meeting real spirits?

Is it correct or right to charge for ceremony, workshops, seminars?

How do we know when a teacher is true or not?

What really is indigenous, or who is indigenous, both in terms of people as well as ceremonial work or healing?

Ultimately this is a very complex issue and requires a delicate approach.  I am currently working on an article to explore the various sides of this, examining the problems of cultural appropriation and the balance of assimilation in a time when our need to reconnect with the earth is dire and of utmost importance.  Anyone interested in commenting or sharing their perspective as I write this article, please contact me! In contemplation of this I return to the definition of indigenous: native to a place. Eventually, I always fall back on the truth that regardless of our blood, color, nation or tribe, indeed we are all native to the earth, we are all native to our mother. And we need to find ways to honor that, heal, and celebrate with one another.


Ancestral Wisdom

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, Samhain, or Witch’s New Year and dark starsDia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  This is a time when the veils are the thinnest between ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality of Dream Time.  We can take time to connect with the compassionate spirit helpers and our ancestors.

Honoring the ancestors has always been something that moves me very deeply inside.  Malidoma Patrice Some, the incredible Dagara healer from West Africa speaks of the ancestors as ALL who have passed over, not only the ones we are related to.  In Buddhism we are reminded over and over of our interconnectedness to all beings and are reborn as infinite beings in a multitude of lives.  Thus we are interwoven.  I remember vividly working deeply with the plants and receiving the message, “The dead nourish the living.”

Here I share a way to honor our ancestors based on my book, Fire of the Goddess: Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine, published by Llewellyn Worldwide.

Calling on Guidance and the Ancestors

Connecting with our ancestors and sending healing is a potent way to reclaim our power and love.  Sometimes we are given very clear messages about how we can further honor our ancestors and may feel compelled to research their stories, do a DNA test to find out our ancestry (especially descendants of slavery who often have broken family trees), or collect letters and photographs from the past.  This helps give a voice to the stories that are flowing through our blood, connects us to the larger family tree and helps us to see how diverse and interconnected we are.

Create an altar with images and objects of your ancestors: photos, jewelry, clothing and gifts from those who have passed on.

Create sacred space by acknowledging the four cardinal directions as well as the earth and sky. Light a few candles in their honor.

Thank your ancestors for their gifts, stories and joys that they shared with you.  Think of all the amazing things they did in their lifetimes: the meals they cooked, the children they raised, the work they did, the gardens they tended, the people they loved.  Think back over the stories of their lives and open your heart in gratitude and connection to their lives. Know that in your bones is the DNA that you have inherited from them and that the stories of of their lives have inevitably been passed down to you.

Give an offering on your altar in memory of your ancestors, flowers perhaps, beads or something that reminds you of them.  If you have jewelry from your grandmothers or mother, or clothing from your grandfathers or father, you may choose to wear it for one moon (one month), to relate to their power, calling in their wisdom and connecting to your family’s ancestry.

As you sit in the candlelight, you may also want to ask for specific guidance from a particular ancestor.  I use grandmother below, but you can use any deceased relative.

Concentrate on the breath and intend that you connect with your ancestor.  Imagine one of your grandmothers sitting across from you.  She is sending you love and light and you can send her back love and light.  Feel the exchange between the two of you and spend several moments honoring the healing energy.  After several minutes, then form your question that you have clearly in your mind.  Ask your question either silently or aloud and visualize her receiving the question.  Sit quietly for some time and wait for a response.

When you feel she has answered, perhaps wait a few more moments and ask anything else, either for clarification or a further question.  Again, wait and receive the message, writing it down.  You may want to also ask her if there is anything you should do to help maintain your connection with your ancestors.

When you are finished, send healing love and gold light to your grandmother.  Take some time to generate gratitude in your heart for connecting in with her.  Imagine her surrounded by a golden bubble and floating off and away into the universe.  She is moving on for now, but you know in your heart that you can access her as needed.

When you have completed your efforts, sit and again thank the ancestors.  Close the sacred space and honor each of the elements.

When you go to sleep, intend that you dream your ancestors.  Be open to the messages and omens that may appear in the days that follow.  When I was writing Fire of the Goddess, I began to have more dreams of my Hungarian grandmother in particular.  One dream was especially powerful, as she visited me in glowing light and stressed that she was not dead, but alive and well.  She looked radiant and beautiful, sitting atop her hospital bed and I was filled with joy in seeing her again.  When I woke up, I looked at the calendar and realized it was April 23rd, the anniversary of my other grandmother’s passing!  The two were inextricably linked in my own mind from that point on and I use their guidance as needed.



pink sky

Pink Rainbow, Pink Sky Blessings

pink sky2This summer I told the story of Mami Wata, feeling the continuous urge to honor the waters, our most vital and irreplaceable resource.  I told the story to my daughter, to my niece and nephew, to sisters in Fire of the Goddess ceremony, to friends and my beloved.  Each time was beautiful and magical, however the most profound moment was on a small beach in Providence, Rhode Island.  We made our flower offerings to the ocean, cried our tears, sang songs and I told the beautiful loving story of Mami Wata.  As the ceremony closed the sky turned the most brilliant shade of pink.  As the pink sky deepened, a PINK RAINBOW appeared in the sky, as if to illuminate the mysterious, feminine watery wonder of Mami Wata.

pink rainbow3