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Article: Interview: Plant Medicine as a Spiritually Transformative Experience: Challenges to Integration in the Modern Context

ACISTE recently had an opportunity to interview Isa about her views on the use of psychotropic plant medicine for psychological and spiritual transformation. Given the recent resurgence of clinical interest in the use of psychedelics for treating mental health concerns, we hope this two-part (Feb/Mar) interview will encourage therapists and others to further educate themselves about the unique integration needs of those who choose to engage plant medicine for healing and guidance.

Je Tsongkhapa, a Buddha in the Land of Snows

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Tsongkhapa, a Buddha in the Land of Snows is Buddhist scholar Thupten Jinpa’s contribution to Shambhala Publications’ remarkable series, The Lives of the Masters, which seeks to memorialize the contributions of some of the most important thinkers in Buddhist philosophy. Tsongkhapa, who lived from 1357-1419, is considered one of the greatest Buddhist philosophers and teachers that ever lived.

The Journey: Buddhism and Shamanism at the Crossroads

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

We live in a time of paradox. On the one hand, wars and conflicts of all sorts rage all around us. The Earth is buckling under the effect of them. We also live in a time where there are opportunities for innovative solutions to our situation. We could focus on different types of innovations – technology, new ways of doing business, and more. But here, I would like to focus on the new spiritual and healing possibilities that are emerging to address this crisis. These approaches to addressing the difficulties of the current time can help us explore consciousness in ways that might not be accessible in less tumultuous times.

Mindfulness In Leadership

Work is a lot of things. It’s fun and rewarding, challenging and exciting. It’s also hard a lot of the time and for most of us it can be a place of real struggle.

In order to thrive, today’s leaders need to develop many different kinds of tools. Trainings around things like presentation skills and strategic planning are relatively accessible. The real differentiator though is less about these kinds of visible skills and more about something that might be described as invisible: Mindfulness.

The Process of Creating

In our bustling society, with advertisements bombarding us from every angle and art being sold to us by astute marketers who study our inclinations right down to what we search online, it’s hard to imagine a time in our consciousness when art was not a specialized field done by specialized people. Sure, you may dabble, but when did you start thinking you weren’t good at something, or worse, you were not “good enough?” Perhaps the more pressing question is when did artistry become something that you admired in other people such that it caused you to doubt your own abilities? If you can remember that time, then you are remembering a very important moment in your history when you turned away from yourself and inadvertently obscured your relationship to that larger essence of interconnectivity, cutting yourself off from something precious and regenerative.

Who is Tara?

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

One of the oldest Stone Age artifacts that has been recovered is a small statue of a full-bodied woman carved from limestone. The statue was named the Woman of Willendorf, after the small village where it was found in southern Austria, and is estimated to be around thirty thousand years old. Many similar statues dating to the early Stone Age have been discovered throughout Europe and beyond. Expressions of the feminine have been found in the art, mythologies and spiritual practices of many ancient cultures, often represented in the form of female deities and goddesses.

Ancient images of Quan Yin, the goddess of mercy, have been found in China, Korea, Thailand and throughout southern Asia. Pachamama, the goddess of the Earth and time, has long been depicted in the traditions of the Andes Mountains of South America in stories and art. Long before Mary, the embodiment of the great feminine in Christianity, Middle Eastern and African cultures revered Isis, who presided over the other gods, life, and death. Images of Kunapipi and Eingana, the mother goddesses of the Australian aboriginal cultures, have been found in rock art dating back at least ten thousand years.

Mothering and Matriarchy

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Matriarchal societies are organized by maternal priorities, meaning all members are cared for in a nurturing and supportive way. To create communities rooted in these values, both men and women must change their fundamental relationship to mothering and motherhood.This shift must go beyond the rhetoric of early feminists who decried the second-class position mothering placed on women, and who sought to liberate women from the prison of the culturally-defined institution of motherhood. Instead, we must recognize the power of motherhood independent of any cultural value systems where mothering becomes a pawn of dominance and ownership. To do this, we must understand how our inability to nurture ourselves and others has weakened us, both on a societal and an individual level.

Light and Sound: the Medicines of the Spirit

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Energy medicine is very basic to all experience, yet it is quite difficult to speak about. One of the reasons energy medicine is challenging to talk about is that it refers to phenomena beyond the purview of our everyday waking consciousness.

As children we have a wider perception of the subtle experience that underlies our thoughts, words and actions. When we question these perceptions, we may be met with unhelpful responses or inadequate answers because the adults around us have often lost contact with what we are experiencing. Part of “growing up” involves learning to view our reality primarily with our conscious mind’s value system. Our conscious mind values organization, goal-setting, and fitting into consensus reality in a way that does not stray too far from the socially accepted norms we learn to live by as we are growing up.

Our education system focuses on developing this problem-solving state of being, designed to block out anything disorganizing or disorienting. Seeing lights in the corner of the room or an energy wave coming off of a person expressing a strong emotion are the kinds of phenomena that get filtered out by the conscious mind’s priorities of organizing and categorizing our experience.

If we allow ourselves to return to this wider awareness we were born with, and which we engage with through dreaming, we can learn about the subtle energies that surround and inform us even when we are not conscious of them.

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

When the Space Clearing Society doesn’t have any requests for services, we offer healing ceremonies for events that happened in the distant past in places around the globe.

Shamanic healing as a practice is complex. Many of the practices that shamans have engaged with for millennia can seem foreign to modern people, yet at the same time, oddly familiar. One practice has to do with conceiving of time and space in a different way. No shamanic practice is dependent on time or space, and shamans can perform an effective healing on someone who is miles away. They can even offer healing to situations that have already occurred. This is because shamans work “outside of time.”

Many of us do “work outside of time” as we daydream about the future and mull over the past, and that is why this work seems familiar. But when we engage in this way, it is also unfamiliar to think about having a powerful effect on events that lie outside our present experience.

Restoring the Health of the Planet

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Fires in California, chemical and oil spills, deadly heatwaves in India, floods in Japan, the extinction of species after species…

People are often uncertain of how they can protect the wellbeing of the planet in these calamitous times. While it can be overwhelming, it’s important to realize we can create change by engaging in social activism, and by individually and collectively aligning ourselves with the forces of nature, just as shamans have done since time immemorial. With the Circles for the Earth, shamanic practitioners gather to create positive change by focusing on a common intention.

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