Woman’s Vision of Transition and Change
Lynn Andrews’ 20-Year Odyssey Arrives at “The Tree of Dreams!”
By Kay Walburger
I began to tell my story 20 years ago. I have written about my own life experiences, teachers, and adventures that have called to me, sometimes from far, far away. In the beginning, I actually received a mysterious invitation to my life-long Odyssey into the Mystery of Life and Women’s Spirituality,” relates Lynn Andrews, internationally-acclaimed author of 18 books, currently published in 12 languages.
“The intriguing invitation was a photograph of an ancient Native American Indian “Marriage Basket.” At the time I received the photograph, I was immersed in the art world and had never seen anything like it. I was fascinated by its intricate design but I couldn’t find out where it was from. I began to have recurring dreams of an elder native woman offering me this beautiful basket. My recurring dream was somewhat frightening and captured my attention. By now I was very aware that some message was trying to get through to me, but I was unsure how to proceed.
“I happened to meet an extraordinary Medicine Man and started telling him about these dreams. I explained that I didn’t know how to unravel this engrossing challenge.
“He said, “If you go to the North of Canada, you will find the Keeper of The Basket you saw in that photograph.” Then he drew, by hand, a crude map on the back of a small paper napkin and gave it to me.
“Against everyone’s best advice I left Beverly Hills and my ‘so-called dream life’ following this tiny map to find my teachers! All my friends feared I had lost my mind. However, I had a great need to know and pursue my destiny, so I followed the map to the North of Canada and found The Keeper of the Basket, Agnes Whistling Elk. She taught me that the “Marriage Basket” symbolizes the balance between male and female! This was to be my first of many lessons to learn about myself.
“Early in my life I had special qualities I didn’t understand. I was able to see light around people. I knew if they were telling the truth or not. I knew if there were an unspoken problem. I did not understand my unique abilities and what to do with them. My childhood was confusing and sometimes conflicting. I felt separate and different because of it! It took many long years for me to understand and accept who I was. I spent much of my early life denying to myself who I was. In my twenties I started to search for a woman to be my teacher, one who would teach me about me!
Sisterhood of the Shields
“In the north of Manitoba, Canada, nestled under quaking poplar trees along Dead Man’s Creek, are two old log cabins a short distance apart. Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs live there at certain times of the year. They are elder women of power who “know how”. They are Native American women who have memorized and hand-ed down to their apprentices and family women a system of universal knowledge that has been held pure and secret for thousands of years. There are kindlings of truth in their voices, and the dry gold of their words has settled on my tongue and changed my life forever.
“That was the beginning. Over many years now, I have gained priceless knowledge from Agnes and the forty-three other native women of the Sisterhood of the Shields. And every few years I have felt compelled to share that wisdom and experience in story form with my own students and readership. I have learned from them, and shared the experiences they have taught me.
“Your people live on borrowed knowledge,” Agnes Whistling Elk said to me when we first met. “If you become my apprentice, you will learn through experience.
“Service,” Ruby said, “is not servitude. We serve each other and learn from each other, and when you have learned your lessons, we walk away from each other in love.
“You serve as an apprentice, but as you serve you do not lose yourself. You are motivated from a place of passion from inside your own unique life. We call this making an act of power . . . in an act of power you create the mirrors that become your teacher,” continued Ruby.
“I’ve learned from them and with them, that all the little pieces of life seeming unimportant, gradually lead to the realization of truth. It’s like a circle made up of small experiences. Power is found in the center. You must circle power in order to find it and bring yourself to the center, to the essence of what you are trying to learn. Most of all they created a safe place for me to explore my life experiences and teach myself the lessons my own life was trying to show me, if I could listen and trust.
“My apprenticeship was to continue far into my future, but for this beginning I was initiated into the Sisterhood of the Shields, a group of 44 shaman woman from all parts of the world. This odyssey of spirit was to take me to the four corners of the earth and learn from my other sisters of my Sisterhood of the Shields, the mystical lessons only they could teach me.
Vision Quest — a Journey to Truth and Meaning
“Your whole life will be a vision quest and a journey to truth and meaning. You were destined to take our teaching out into the world. It was what you were meant to do,” explained Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs.
“You did many interesting things during your youth, but you were alone. You were depressed because nobody knew who you were, and you didn’t feel worthy. This is how many women feel today. Others like you long to experience and know their own truth.
“This I have done for over eighteen years and in eighteen books. My first book, “Medicine Woman,” an autobiography of my life as an apprentice shaman and my quest for truth, was only reached through struggle on the human path.
“My other journeys took me to places such as the majestic Himalayas, near Kathmandu, where they thrust their jagged peaks into Nepal’s azure sky. Here I was to learn from Ani, of Nepal. She shares her ancient wisdom and knowledge through sometimes terrifying experiences. I must remind myself to trust the powers of the Great Spirit that brought me here. I remind myself of my purpose to share with all who will learn the mysteries, revelations, discoveries and warnings that can help humankind restore balance and caring,” explains Lynn. This adventure was told in her book, “Windhorse Woman.”
“In Japan my journey into self-discovery took me to an altogether new and remarkable dimension. My spiritual guides, Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs, revealed to me that in order to become a genuinely enlightened being, I must gain complete knowledge of my own personal power. Not just in my past life, but in my future as well. My adventure began with meeting an old woman Shakkai, who taught me her secrets of the gardens and their larger symbolism in the sacred world of magic and power. The title of this book is, “Shakkai, Woman of the Sacred Garden.”
“Each new adventure into my quest to “know how” to live my spirituality in my daily life keeps me traveling, ever seeking the gifts of wisdom and insight shared with me by my spirit guides and sisters of the Sisterhood of the Shields. I traveled the world and each of my eighteen books is the result of those expeditions into my unknown and the return with treasures of the spirit to share with other seekers. My books include, “Medicine Woman,” “Flight of the Seventh Moon,” “Jaguar Woman,” “Star Woman,” “Crystal Woman,” “Windhorse Woman,” “The Woman of Wyrrd,” “Teaching Around The Sacred Wheel,” “The Mask of Power,” “Shakkai,” “Woman At The Edge of Two Worlds,” “Workbook for Woman At The Edge of Two Worlds,” “Walk In Balance,” “Dark Star,” “Walk In Spirit,” “Love And Power,” “Workbook for Love And Power” and now my latest book “Tree of Dreams.”
Agnes Whistling Elk, along with Ruby Plenty Chiefs, served as her mentors in embracing the ancient teachings and global cosmologies. Lynn Andrews’ work, which includes books, gatherings, lectures and more recently, a home-study school, continues to explore the practices of the Sisterhood of the Shields, whose unified purpose is to preserve the laws of magic, codes and traditions of shamanism. The beliefs of the sisterhood, as Andrews explains, find their roots in female understanding and wisdom and in the need to restore balance to Mother Earth. “When we talk about restoring balance back to earth, we are speaking about the missing element of female consciousness,” says Andrews.
Crossroads: The Transition to ‘Elderhood’
“I think there comes a moment when you can choose madness or not. I choose to stay in the reality I inhabit, although this may have been the more difficult choice.
“We gain power because we cannot prepare for surprises life throws at us such as loss, betrayal, disappointment, and on and on. Events can take you and fling you out of your reality. The struggle to recapture your balance is one of the mysterious gifts of life. These moments become great gifts of strength, spiritual endurance, and power. To find your way back, you have to open your heart, not your mind, and let the healing of the Great Spirit flow through you. You will never be the same again.
“In my way of seeing, there is no other way. There are many experiences, meditations, visualizations, so many ways to broaden your experience, but in the last analysis, to me, experience holds the secret. The experience of your own being is truly all you have when you leave this earthwalk.
“I was at a crossroad in my life. The transition into ‘elderhood’ is a mysterious and sometimes frightening passage. It was my time of transition and change and I was discovering that what once seemed sure now began to unravel. Friends are passing on, romance has stalled and old demons come back to haunt me! All my ideas about death, rebirth, and mortality are challenged,” explains Lynn.
“I must return to my spiritual mentors and question my own metaphysical and spiritual beliefs as I face the deaths of two people who are near and dear to my heart. The contrast in the way these two pass on is a hard lesson to learn and took me to the depths of life and death, myself. It eventually taught me to embrace my shadow self and remain true to my service in the light.”
“One who was to pass on was a beloved teacher and sister of the Sisterhood of the Shields, She Who Walks with the Winds. The other, my stepfather in an urban hospital, not really prepared for his passing and the grief it caused my mother, my daughter and myself.
The Seasons of
the Tree of Dreams
“As the leaves begin to drop from the tree in autumn,” said Face in the Water, “one of my sisters of the Sisterhood of the Shields, a harmonic is created. The harmonic is different with every leaf that falls and different again for every tree. The “Tree of Dreams” is you and me. We are filled with yearning, joy, and love. We are filled with teachings we have received and the experiences we have had. Our branches are the different times of our lives. The leaves are the experiences, the color, the textures, and the aspects of the divine. As the leaves fall, the song can be heard, a new song that plays in the wind and is communicated to other trees, if they are listening.
“As long as you have your song, you can never lose your direction or your vision. Remember, the owl will take you to your Tree of Dreams.
“In the Tree of Dreams there is a song,” the old woman said. “Like any other living thing, it has a song to be sung. To lose your song is to lose your soul. The song in the trees is something to be listened to very, very carefully. It teaches you that life is never ending.”
“I see a dream for your people. The dream is for your people to find a circle of life that honors your elders, something that your people have forgotten.
“People should not be afraid of death . . . we experience the growth it brings so many times in our life. When you are afraid, as you were, your spirit disconnects until you start to love yourself again. It is love that conquers death not fear.
“She Who Walks with the Wind had chosen her own time to die and was serene in it (She had invited me to be with her on this special day). We drove over the countryside that day, and one by one all her things were given to her dearest friends. Ceremonies had been done. The bridges had been crossed. Those who knew her were respectful, they were honored, and while some were sad, they all felt a celebration in their midst.
“We returned to her cabin and she lay down. I held her hand and we talked about her memories of people she loved. As I sat with her, I understood more clearly that life and death are merely different sides of the same shield. Death is a process of beginning, not ending. In death we wake up from the dream.
I held her hand, and She Who Walks with the Wind slowly began to let her spirit fly. She breathed deeply, then looked at me one final time, gently smiling, she closed her eyes. She was moving into spirit wind and showed me the swirling colors of the wind currents as she moved toward home.
Contrast, Grief and Confusion
“I returned home to discover that my stepfather had died of cancer very suddenly. He was not prepared to die and my mother, my daughter and I were plunged into a grief process that was very painful and sad. It was such an amazing contrast to the passing of She Who Walks with the Wind.
“My mother and daughter, like many others, hide behind one addiction or another, not necessarily alcohol or drugs, but in relationships or codes of behavior. Have you ever seen people who hide behind ridged sense of respectability? And they sink into patterns of behavior that render them senseless, at least in regard to what they need to learn in this life. We are here to evolve into a higher consciousness. To do that, we must run up against barriers over and over again.
“This was to be a part of my passage into My Elderhood and a sometimes confusing and painful learning process. I knew I needed time to process and reached out for my mentors.
“You have not resolved your grief, and it separates you from many of the joyous experiences you could be having. That grief shadows you,” said Agnes.
“Never compare yourself to another person. It’s impossible, and yet, we do it day in and day out. When we reach the age of wise blood, the sacred gateway into the second half of our lives, as we call it, we forget the fact that there is no second half of our lives,” reminded Agnes.
“I was realizing there are emotional crystallizations in our lives. Those are the things that drive us, that trick us into behaving in ways that do not serve us. I write from the inside of a woman’s heart. We should always write about what we know. Relationships in our childhood have an impact on our lives and can make us break our connections with people. We destroy the bridges that might connect us to the innermost soul of someone. There is so often a place inside of us needing healing that we can’t seem to face it. Those are emotional crystallizations.
“I know there is magic in this world if you want the world to be magical. If you want life to be special, it will be. All too often magic is presented to us, and we don’t believe it because we don’t trust ourselves. We can sit in the presence of the great masters, angels, or ancient seers of wisdom and find peace and wisdom, but it takes many small deaths, the giving away of old limitations, to get there.
The “Tree of Dreams” is a magical and dramatic story that helps the reader explore the quandaries of their own lives as they travel vicariously as a mystic companion to Lynn, facing her own life’s mysteries. “The story never ends!”
Internationally-acclaimed author Lynn Andrews has written 18 books, currently published in 12 languages. She is also the author of “The Power Deck: The Cards of Wisdom,” a series of self-affirming meditation cards, and four workbooks, as well as over 20 meditation and teaching audio tapes. Andrews’ newest works is “Tree of Dreams.” She is considered a pre-eminent teacher in the field of personal development, twenty-first shaman whose work continually leads us deeper into the journey of self-exploration and spirituality. For further information, contact Lynn Andrews, 2934-1/2 Beverly Glen Circle, Box 378, Los Angeles, CA 90077 or call (800)726-0082. You may also check out her website at www.lynnandrews.com
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