Discover your core Beastie and get TIPS to feel good from an Elephant here!!

Excrpt from What the Walrus Knows , 2011

Hello friends!  This process won’t help you get the root square of pi but it can definitely offer you hidden and helpful information to some of the most vexing questions of life…such as “How can I feel better?”  or “How can I know I am on the right path?

Shinrin-yoku – The Practice of Forest Bathing

The Japanese term shinrin-yoku translates as forest bathing, and is defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It’s a powerful exercise for connecting to nature and Beastie spirits on a deeper level.

Don’t be fooled by the word forest in forest bathing. You can do this practice in any kind of nature. Your backyard. A city park. Beach.  Prairie. Marsh. You can do it sitting still in nature or walking through nature at a relaxed pace.

Many scientists are finding evidence that the phytochemicals emitted by plants and trees while we practice activities like forest bathing appear to have healing and enhancing effects on humans. There’s so much happening when we’re out in nature. It’s quite magical and ineffable.

1 Pick Your Spot

Find a spot in nature that appeals to you and really draws you in. You can prepare for this by remembering and/or observing what kinds of natural places you’re most drawn to – they’re often the most powerful places to be in for connecting. I like to call them “thin places” places where there’s not much between us and the world of nature and Beastie energies. It just takes a little contemplation to notice what places feel most inviting to you.

The place you intuitively select will be a powerful place simply because you chose it. Maybe there’s a deep forest that invites you. Or you may feel more comfortable in a space that’s open and exposed, like a desert, a prairie, or a mountain plateau. Or it might be a corner of your backyard. I know someone who loves to sit under a tree in his backyard in a specific chair and do this exercise.

It can be fabulous to have a place that feels great that’s nearby. Then you can return to it whenever you like without a big hassle. But whatever feels good to you is the perfect place.

2 Set an Intention

Set an intention of what you’d like to get out of this shinrin-yoku time. Are you looking for insight about a particular issue? Is there something you’d like to learn about yourself? Would you like to have a visit from a guest beastie to help you with a particular quandary? Or perhaps the intention you want to set is simply to go out and experience joy in nature.

3 Open All Your Senses

Open all your senses to what’s happening around you. Simply take in all the sensory information you can. Either sit in one place or walk at a very relaxed pace that’s about 50 percent slower than your normal walking pace.

Doing this for 10 to 30 minutes is a great start. If your mind wanders, that’s fine. Just bring it back to what your senses are taking in.

If it’s possible, I suggest going barefoot, as that will really enhance the connection to nature and your sensory experience. When was the last time you walked barefoot in nature? You deserve to have that much fun.


Gaze with soft eyes on what’s around you. This soft gaze is often called wide-angle vision. Don’t focus on anything specific, but open up your vision to extend as far as it can to the right and to the left, up and down, all at once, as far as you easily can. This helps the brain connect to a relaxed state and use its right side, tapping into your intuitive, subconscious self.

What you might see as you do this is evidence of an animal. You may see the path of a deer that’s crushed the grass as it headed off into the woods. You may see scat of an animal. You may see a feather or a spider web draped with dew. Any of those kinds of signs point to the presence of a particular Beastie.


Even though you may never see it, you could hear a woodpecker hammering away on a tree. You may hear squirrels chasing each other in the tree branches above or in the dry leaves below. Perhaps you hear the call of a bird or the buzz of a dragonfly zigging and zagging through the air nearby.


Encounter this place with your nose. How does it smell? Green and moist, or dry and brittle? Do you smell the natural perfume from blooming trees or fields? What is your nose telling you? Allow your descriptions to be free-form, to come from your right brain. Maybe the air smells yellow or the tree you’re leaning against smells like good memories. Just notice the smells and their associations.


What sensations are you experiencing via your skin? Does the air feel moist on your bare legs? Does it feel dry? Can you feel bits of sand blowing against your back? Is there a harsh wind? Or is it a very soft breeze? Or is there no wind at all? Do leaves or grasses tickle you as they brush against your arms? How does the earth feel beneath your feet? Is it soft and squishy or firm and unmoving?

4 Review Your Experience

Ask yourself what (if any) messages showed up during your forest bathing experience. Were they helpful to you? Was the experience as a whole pleasant? Did anything you experienced suggest a thought or an action to you?

If you came across any Beasties or signs of Beasties while forest bathing, read a bit about them afterwards. If several Beasties showed up, you can pick one that’s most interesting to you and read about it first.

You may be surprised how many Beasties you actually become aware of through your various senses as you practice shinrin-yoku. I sure was the first time I did it.


I invite you to do this exercise as much as possible, to actually make the time for it. The more you do it, the deeper your connection with nature will grow. Keeping a notebook of your shinrin-yoku experiences with the date, your intention, and even a few simple notes about your reflections about what showed up can be powerful. It can help you begin to define for yourself the most powerful way to practice this shinrin-yoku exercise, and it can give you evidence of when the process is working to inform and guide your life. The more we connect with nature, the more magical our lives become.

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(from What the Walrus Knows published in 2011)

Beastie:  Any creature from Ant to Walrus…including

mythical creatures like Unicorn and Griffin.

By analyzing our dreams, even in a basic way, we can deepen our connection with a core beastie or power animal. A Beastie in a dream is thought to be equivalent to that Beastie showing up in waking life. A Beastie that shows up in a dream once can be a guest beastie, bringing you a message. If you have recurring dreams or a big, important dream about a Beastie one that feels very vivid and powerful, that Beastie is likely to be a core beastie for you. If you know your core beastie, you can ask them to show up in your dreams, to heal you or give you guidance.

The process is simple. You might find it works better if you’re well-rested. Set an intention, either in your mind or written out on a slip of paper. You can say something like, “Tonight I’ll get an important message from my core beastie,” or “A core beastie will reveal itself tonight in my dreams.” You might want to add to your intention that you remember the dream in detail and can write it down easily when you wake up. You could tuck your written intention under your pillow. Intention can make all the difference, so give it some thought.

Before you go to sleep, put a notebook and pen beside the bed so you can scribble some details as soon as you wake up without having to get up, as that would likely take you away from the sense of the dream. If you get into feeling anxious (Uh-oh, I’m not remembering anything!), this process can be more challenging, so after you wake up, as you’re recalling the dream, try to stay in that mellow, relaxed, barely awake state. By analyzing the dream using your notes to help you remember it, you can access very powerful information.

The ancient indigenous cultures knew about the power of dreams. Some of those cultures have created and used what they call dream-catchers. A dream-catcher is a hoop with webbing inside, but with a hole at the center. It was thought that all the good dreams would pass through the hole and the unhelpful bad dreams would be caught in the webbing. The good dreams that passed through were thought to offer insights about one’s destiny and path. Some cultures had a practice of dreaming together as a group to bring about and amplify something the entire community desired. Paying attention to dreams was thought to be important work, as dreams provide vital information, teachings, and clues about how we can be successful, avoid danger, and make our way along the road ahead. I know from my own experience of serving on a foundation board that when we join our energies to visualize and dream something wonderful as a community, power is amplified.

It’s sometimes surprising, but even scary dreams can have wonderful messages for us. It’s been my experience that most nightmares are dreams we didn’t complete because wed exited too soon to get to the positive message. I discovered this by re-entering a few of my own so-called bad dreams, using the techniques of shamanic dreaming. You can learn to do this, too. If you do, I recommend that you develop a secure, solid relationship with a core beastie first, so they can accompany you on such a courageous adventure. Perhaps nightmares – waking up before we finish with a dream – are a way of protecting us. When we’re ready to take in the message of the whole dream, we’ll find it.

A classic and simple way of analyzing dreams is to write down all the symbols that occur in a dream to see if you find a message or an insight there. This method, introduced by Sigmund Freud, presumes that the symbols in a dream represent known or hidden parts of ourselves. Freud postulated that all dreams and their messages are created by the dreamer alone. In shamanism, there’s an additional caveat or belief that other energies or spirits (not our own) can intrude on our dreams. Though addressing intrusive spirits in our dreams is beyond the scope of this book, if someone is having debilitating, recurrent nightmares that are causing them to feel dis-spirited, it might indicate that seeking out a shamanic practitioner for assistance may be warranted.

Old dreams, if they feel significant, can still yield helpful information in the present. Whether it’s a long ago old dream or a more recent one, if the dream is long and complicated, it might be easiest to start with decoding only the fragment of the dream with the Beastie in it. It’s helpful to use the fragment that felt most significant during the dream, but any fragment will do, really.


Below are examples of a simple method for discovering the messages contained within a dream. You can try it out with a Beastie dream you’ve had in the past or ask for a new dream about your core beastie and decode that one.

Doing this process requires that you become quiet and still so you can hear the replies. Act as if you’re going to receive replies to the questions you ask.


Several years ago, I dreamed that some scary, extremely large, powerful bears were throwing things around in our backyard and acting in ways that were threatening.


Interview the Dream Beastie. Ask what’s going on. Ask why they’re doing what they’re doing and what they’re trying to communicate to you.

My question to the Beasties: Why are you acting so scary and enraged and threatening? Why are you throwing giant barrels around and growling?

Their Answer: We’re hungry and starving and ticked off! We want you to feed us!

Ask the Beastie what part of your life it represents in this dream.

My question to the Beasties: What part of my life do you represent?

Their Answer: We represent your creativity.

Ask the Beastie for its recommendations, advice, or insight regarding the part of your life it represents.

My question to the Beasties: So, what needs to happen or not happen next in my waking life? What are your recommendations? What do you advise?

Their Answer: You need to FEED your creativity. It’s hungry. You’ll calm down and become peaceful once your creativity is fed regularly.

What I took from decoding that dream is that if I feed my creativity (those bears), I won’t be angry and frustrated. I could also say that to honor my bear as a core beastie, I must feed my creativity. That dream came as I was about to embark on a sabbatical and as I was beginning, in earnest, to deepen my commitment to learning to be a coach and exploring what I’m supposed to do with my life. Dreams often come during times of big transitions and upheaval, as a way of throwing us a bone. When we decode the messages of dreams, we can get help about how proceed.

Here’s another example of using this method for dream decoding …


I was in a boat, holding my fingers out over the edge near the engine. Several humpback whales were gently nudging my fingers. There were a few other passengers on the boat, but the whales weren’t coming to any of them, only to me. The boat felt safe to be riding in, but it was moving too fast and was extremely low in the water.

Interview the Dream Beastie.

My question to the Beasties: Whales, why are you nuzzling me and nibbling at my fingers? Why do you come only to me and not to the others on this boat?

Their Answer: We like you! We want to connect with you.

Ask the Beastie what part of your life it represents in this dream.

My question to the Beastie: What part of my life do you represent?

Their Answer: We represent your connection to nature and to the Beasties and, in a larger way, to your professional work as a change agent and coach.

Ask the Beastie for its recommendations, advice, or insight regarding the part of your life it represents.

My question to the Beasties: So, Beasties, what needs to happen or not happen next in my waking life? What do you advise? What are your recommendations?

Their Answer: We advise you to slow down or we won’t be able to have this special interaction. Also, you need to get more buoyant.

That all made perfect sense to me. If I tried to hurry the process of connecting to nature and to my true calling, I might lose the magical connection I’d been experiencing. I intuitively knew I needed to be more light and playful (buoyant) in my work and shed some ballast in my life to literally get the lead out so I could float at a higher level. My ballast included having too many different projects going on, too many commitments, and too few boundaries regarding my work.

I invite you to give analyzing your dreams a try, in whatever way appeals to you. You might like it as an additional option for connecting on a deeper level with your core beastie.

If you want to learn more about working with spirit animals check out Sourced or Stoked!

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Hello Dear creators of wonder and MAGIC!

If you are new here-  WELCOME!  I hope you find these notes inspiring- it’s my aim!

How do you know when you are getting really warmed up and ready to create something as an artist/writer/comedian/blogger/cakemaker/interior designer/decoupager fill-in-the blank creator of your dreams?

August Kleinzahler
Author of Sleeping It Off in Rapid City and Cutty, One Rock offerred this as his number one tip-off:

When my self-disgust reaches critical mass I seem to be ready to go.

This made me laugh ( lord I KNOW the feeling!)–and in a way its not funny…we don’t want to get to the point where we are disgusted or frustrated to such a degree…the best antidote to feeling bad–is (of course) starting to express yourself (in whatever creative work you chose).

I speak often with amazing clients who are fitting their creative lives around a job in the city, kids/partners/friends, dogs/cats, a crossfit commitment/yoga/running, a spiritual life/AA/Church/meditation/Buddhism and other important life components. It can be a mighty challenge.

Annnnnd, I firmly believe that it is our own perceived limitations are INVITATIONS to find a way around. If you want to create- you must be innovative!

In the link below there’s a great set of ideas and inspiration from writers- but if you’re a playwright or a painter or a songwriter or a comedian- you can apply many of these principles to what you are up to- and some are downright hilarious.  If I had to add mine it would be,

When you’re writing, don’t position yourself to close to the toaster as toast breaks can become numerous and at the end working on a big project is like being pregnant…and eating toast with butter and Spanish orange marmalade (or cinnamon, rasberry jam or peanut butter) will NOT get you any further along.  Replace half of toast breaks with 7 minute workout and you will find balance.  

Since December, I’ve been getting up every day at 5 and meditating  for 15 minutes and writing til 7 AM when I have to wake the kids up. It guarantees that no matter what happens in the rest of my day- I have already written!:)  This means in bed by 9:30 for me!

I haven’t always been quite this steady…but with two book deals in one year– and deadlines- I had to innovate!  And I think I may keep this schedule (except maybe not 7 days a week like I am now) when these projects are complete–I see how steady daily action leads to lovely chunks of good stuff.

All those petals can add up to a hell of a bloom!!   And when you bloom…oh my lord it FEELS GOOD!

I also grab ideas (when they float by during  downtime) to improve an essay or chapter and email myself from my phone or add them to notes on the fly. Do what works for you!

“[Create] every day. Anything you do every day gets easier. If you’re insanely busy, make the amount that you [create] every day small (100 words? [One tiny painting  One photo? One arrangement?]) but do it every day.” -Cory Doctorow

With love, Sarah

read more ideas here:…/practical-tips-on-writing-a-book-f…/
I am always at your service!  My schedule is a bit more limited this because of writing but there is room for you!.

In peace, Sarah

P.S. Another thing that has TREMENDOUSLY helped me in my creative life is building a relationship with spirit.  One way to do that is to go and seek a relationship with a sacred Beastie who can help you.  Curious?  Check out this brief 2 hour experience I created just for you to help you find yours!


I am working on a new book for Sounds True Publishing (coming out in July 2018) :

The Book of Beasties: Your A-to-Z Guide to the Illuminating Wisdom of Spirit Animals

I’m spending my days watching animal documentaries, shamanic journeying and receiving the best messages that the Beasties want to share in the book.

My other new book will arrive October 1, 2017 from Red Wheel/Weiser (not far away!):

Swimming with Elephants: One Woman’s Unexpected Journey from Physician to Healer – A Memoir

Thank you for allowing me into your life:)

Sending the blessings of every direction to you!

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Over the last several years, I have been exploring prayer and what it means to pray.  My Mother has been a most excellent teacher. Recently, I asked her to show me how she prays each morning and it was so inspiring that we invited anybody who was interested to my house to talk about prayer. My Mom shared her method which is simple and profound.

She begins daily with “Dear friend….” and shares all of the good that’s been going on in her life (gratitude) and always prays for herself first…her concerns and her worries.  Then she moves on to pray for others..moving from her innermost circle outward to the entire world and it’s leaders.  She keeps track of her daily practice in a journal and as the things she is praying for find resolution or “come true’, she circles them.

Her book is filled with circled answered prayers–  what a beautiful reminder that what we ask for is often given.  It was such an inspiring evening and others shared their practices, their struggles (Am I teaching my kids the right things?) (I need more quiet in my life) and their were some hilarious stories.

As a teenager, my friend Suzi overheard her friend’s mothers very proper Norwegian women’s farming community womens’ group in prayer, “Please God…Don’t let us be shit-asses”.  Which reminds me that, above all,  it’s ok to PRAY IN WHATEVER WAY FEELS GOOD TO US. 

Here’s a little piece I wrote about some of the things I have learned about prayer in the past few years.

Two things everybody got tuh do fuh themselves. They got tuh go tuh God

and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh themselves.

-Zora Neale Hurston


A question about prayer had been on my mind lately as I see the endless requests for prayers and healing for others on my Facebook feed: Please pray for my grandmother, my neighbor’s daughter, for the lady I just saw in the parking lot, my son…we don’t like his girlfriend (and wish they’d break up?). I wondered, Is it always okay to pray for others? And what about praying for specific outcomes? Could I pray without asking for a person’s permission? Ethically, in shamanic practice, I would never do any work without explicit permission.  

It also seemed, to me, that if prayer was powerful, then it follows that praying for a specific outcome for someone without their permission would be tampering with their soul.  Without permission, I worried, prayer could be sorcery—or at least using one’s superpowers unethically. At least, that was my  working hypothesis.

Prayer became a bone of contention between Mom and me. She’s confessed, from time to time, that she’s been praying for specific outcomes for me or for my children,

“Sweetie, I’m just praying that George gets good grades just like I’m praying for a husband for Maria,” says my Mom.

            “Well, that’s fine if Maria gave you permission to do that (she did) but, have you asked George?” I asked. “I just don’t think you should pray for others, at least not older adolescents and adults without their consent.  What if George was supposed to experience struggle right now in school, so he could learn the lessons he needs to become who he’s meant to be?  

In yoga, there’s a shorthand phrase for this active process of living fearlessly and doing our own work: “sweeping out karma.” It’s like sweeping the dirt or unwholesomeness out of your home to keep it fresh. Maybe a person may want or need to do this sweeping work for themselves. Or maybe they needed a teaching from an experience they’d had and there was no need to rush in and pray to make it all go away. Maybe the sweetness of life is in the sweeping.

Mom was exasperated. “Oh, honey, it’s just fine to pray for people. I’ve always prayed for you; I prayed for you for at least fifteen years to find a good husband.”

What about praying for the world as a whole? Or ecological systems? Presidents and world leaders? Tiny, helpless babies and children? Elephants up against poachers with AK-47s? Elderly people with dementia? Not to mention, there was so much distress in the world, it seems we could pray without ceasing. How do we balance taking time to pray for others with actively living our own lives?  It seems to makes sense to pray for those who seem extremely vulnerable (babies, young children, elderly) and those without a voice, like elephants.

When I finally get around to asking Alice the Elephant about prayer, she shamelessly takes my Mother’s side.  With typical pachydermal patience and grace, Alice explains,  “Praying is always beautiful and it’s always OK to pray because prayer’s purpose is to help YOU feel good.”  Oh the irony.  It’s about getting to that place of peace and stillness.  Sitting in a ceremony, months later, I suddenly realized how proud and pretentious I have been to question my Mother’s prayers.  How LUCKY was I to have been the subject of her prayers for so many decades?  I was also shown how many of our ancestors have been praying for all of us, for our future, the earth and for our lives.  It was deeply humbling.

Months later, the spirits offer me hint on how to pray that works for me and doesn’t ever feel like meddling.  This holy tipoff arrives when I desperately need to pray.

I was shifting uncomfortably on a blow up mattress next to my dear friend’s Maggie’s bed while our other friend slept alongside her. It was forty eight hours after her husband David committed suicide.

I tried to meditate …it was hard to sleep knowing Maggie hadn’t been able to get much rest at all.  My heart ached for her.  For her kids.  Eventually, I slipped into a dream.  In this dream,  was shown that Maggie and each of her three high school aged children were being embraced by posses of enormous angels with gigantic and insanely soft feathered wings.  A downy, divine embrace was tenderly holding each of them in their beds while they slept.  I cannot emphasize how large and soft these tender wings were– like God’s extra large cashmere oven mitts.

As I walked downstairs the next morning as quietly as I could to get coffee started I noticed something I hadn’t before.  It was a carved wooden angel with horn over their main entrance doorway…after that I noticed several more all over the house. Her family was clearly an angel kind of family.  That image of huge angel gangs with their vast wings sweetly holding this family lingered with me….it brought me so much peace in that period that I began to apply to everything that gave me grief.  

 When I envision [A distressing event or suffering person(s)] embraced by the angel wings it’s a prayer – it calms me and feels like a request all at once.  I use it for: ambulances screaming by me on the road, car wrecks, police officers (who encounter more suffering than the average bear), people who look like they’re in pain, people who look like they’re angry, people look like they’re out of control, my friend’s son who is struggling at school, Elephants being beaten into submission, Mark who is working long hours today and he’s exhausted, Donald Trump, ORLANDO, Syria.  The enormous feathered angelic embrace has become my three-in-one  prayer and  meditation.  This never fails to help me feel a little bit better. 

Do you pray?  If yes, how do you pray? Do you ever struggle with it?

If you’re local and would like to come to a future Prayers with my Mother meet-up at my house- we plan to do it again in the Spring-  just send me an email- saying YES to prayers!

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(Our maximalist dining room wall with LLAMA:))

Hello dear creators of magic and wonder!

This is just a brief note to share a film that I think is SOOOOO good!  It’s called Miniamlism. and the trailer is here.   The film brilliantly covers a very complex topic-  finding meaning in our life and STUFF-  and how to make sense of it.  I guarantee you’ll feel inspired and clearer about the life you truly want after watching it!
You can watch it free on Netflix if you’ve got a membership.  Watch it while you work out and double your FEEL GOOD.

I’m no stranger to simplifying/downsizing (this summer we did our second downsize and eliminated our mortgage so we could continue to pursue the life we love) and what I can honestly say is that our home and possessions had to shrink so that we could GROW.  I’m a bit of a maximalist, design wise, and you’ll never see my living room looking spare….I’ve written about my MAGPIE tendencies here (in case you can relate).  But, what has happened is that I hit “PAUSE” a lot now before buying anything that’s not absolutely essential.  Sometimes paper mache llamas ARE essential.  And, sometimes you can wear last year’s dress to that black tie event every year:)

What I’m after is freedom-  to live and work and explore the world in the way we want to do it and when you live beneath your means-  it’s possible.  That fun “feeling” you get from new shoes, cars, coats, coffee machines, etc etc is temporary…but when you experience true connection, community, and can be YOURSELF on a regular basis?  That is true wealth.  I wrote here about how to know if you’re truly a success.

I’m having an extremely busy December and Spring 2017-  finishing up my latest book Swimming with Elephants:  One Woman’s Unexpected Journey from Physician to Healer and beginning my new MASSIVE BEASTIE book project for Sounds True (it will replace What the Walrus Knows in 2018).  I will still have openings for coaching and healing (in person or via phone or SKYPE) for the time being.  You can book here.

I’m sending blessings of every kind imaginable to you!
With love, Sarah

P.S.  One of the best gifts you can give this season is the right under your nose- and you can read more here.

P.S.  A spot has opened to go to Peru for a two week intensive healing retreat with shaman LuzMa from  let me know if you are interested and I can send you details!

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About Me

I am not a pie in the sky person. I’m a realist with 4 real kids, a real husband, 2 real dogs and a "real life" – it’s just that my reality has shifted. I am a Board-Certified physician who left my pathology practice in order to live out my destiny as... LEARN MORE

Sarah's New Book, "Swimming with Elephants" Coming to Bookstores and Online 10/1/17 Learn More