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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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Join me for this amazing interview with Carla Robertson of Living Wild and Precious.  Carla is a coach from New Orleans who had a dream since she was in grade school of hiking the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail. People wondered WHY IN THE HECK are you going?  Is your husband OK with this ( He was, LOL!)?  She did a lot of prep and ended up completing all 2,000 miles in 6 months.  She learned a lot about what she was capable of, about what material possessions meant to her and what “fears” really are.  “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”,  is the Mary Oliver inspired question that Carla likes to ask.


Carla is a badass hiker and life coach who most loves leading, teaching and coaching in the outdoors, whether that’s amid the ancient oaks and mysterious bayous of her home in  New Orleans or the rugged mountains of the Appalachian Trail.  Need help reconnecting with your truth or rediscovering a lost dream, or simply tuning up your relationships or tackling your overwhelm?  Carla’s fearless yet gentle style will help you make big shifts with ease.  


Phone number: 205-907-9955

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As you know I am all about the BEASTIES (this is the last holiday my Walrus book will be in print-  a whole new version is coming in 2018- so if you like the original- gift it now!) and how much amazingness can be learned by paying attention to the wild animals that cross our paths in reality, in night dreams, or in other magical ways (youtube videos and coffee mugs etc!). However, I didn’t expect my most recent guest Beastie to appear in our house in the middle of the night.

A few nights ago while in bed I felt something rush over my feet-  I thought it was a freaky dream…I dismissed it and returned to sleep. We’d been hearing weird noises in the ceiling on our third floor for a while but weren’t sure what to think.  A little later that same night,  I heard my husband Mark say in a weird loud voice at 3 AM:  “Sarah….you need to come in here right now.”  He was in the room next door to our bedroom. As I walked in he was standing as still as a tree and said, “check out the dream catcher- we have a visitor”.

Clinging to the edge of the big dream catcher hung in our window was a cute, huge eyed, flying squirrel.  Oh my lord-  I shuddered-  so THAT is what ran over my feet in bed!!!!  Long story short, he moved sooooo quickly that it was impossible to catch him without harming him and because it is NOT OK TO HAVE SQUIRRELS in the bedroom, we ended his life.  It felt absolutely horrible to do this.  Horrible.

Two nights later(after a pest specialist examined everything and assured us it was likely a one time problem)…we discovered yet another flying squirrel-  this one was in bed with me (nestled behind my knees!)— she moved so fast we never were able to find her…she vaporized.  Live traps are now set, a hole near our window has been filled where they probably snuck in and we trust we will clear them.

Southern Flying squirrel, Glaucomys volans, voplaning or gliding at night, steering with its tail to maintain balance and direction
Meanwhile- I’m thinking- THIS MESSAGE has got to be good.  A Flying squirrel in a freaking DREAM CATCHER???
So, I endeavored, as I often recommend to other who are confused about the message of a particular Beastie in their life, to journey and ask my spirits for a little help.  The next thing you know I was meeting “Stan” a very friendly huge flying squirrel (with a powerful hand/paw shake) who I immediately got down on my knees to apologize to, in tears, for harming him.  He laughed and helped me back up—-“you humans take this reality sooo seriously– it’s not the way it appears.…this “reality” is really not the truest one. “But we caused suffering to you”, I said. “Yes”, he admitted “You did.” but, he also reminded me that “that’s life”—just try not to inflict too much and spend more time sharing love.

His message for us? “You guys need to relax and PLAY waaaaay  more.”  It’s true Mark and I have both been working a lot the last few months- me on book projects and him at his day job.  Ever since Stan appeared, I must admit I’ve been laughing a lot-  about sleeping with a live squirrel  and the very idea that we might have more than one in our attic.  Stan assured me that he’d help to get his relatives to go quietly using the live traps.  Phew!

Journeying to meet Stan brought such relief and laughter and AH-HA’s to me and I am forever grateful for this way to view life— the way of seeing with the heart or shamanism.  I am committed to PLAYING and RELAXING in every way I can find.  Sometimes the most awful things turn out to be the BEST things- do you know what I mean?

I hope you are getting clear and helpful messages from the world all around you about to align with your most beautiful, peaceful and contented self!  If you’d like to discover a Beastie of the YEAR for 2017 to help you find your way check out this post. If you want me to choose one for you using the What the Walrus Knows app I created- simply join Squirrel Radio at Facebook and say “please give me a BEASTIE” in the pinned post!

I think mine for 2017 might just have to be STAN THE FLYING SQUIRREL but, I haven’t decided yet.  Maybe he’s a messenger for you?  Do you need to relax and PLAY more?

What do you want to experience in 2017?  How do you want to contribute?  Who are you becoming?  What are you creating?  I can’t wait to see!!

With BIG love, Sarah
P.S.  In case you missed it- I’ve just wrapped up three new episodes of a podcast I have created to explore pilgrimage– travel taken with a sacred purpose in mind.   They are great for taking a soul strol around the hood or for long commutes!


I’ll be bringing you interviews with some of the most irrepressible and fascinating people I know who have undertaken such journeys.  Maybe they will inspire you to take one too?  Or maybe you’ll be inspired on your own daily pilgrimage right at home to see the world a little differently!  I hope you enjoy!

Episode 1- Walking the Camino Solo with Becky Bacon- Blisters and TOTAL presence in Spain!
Episode 2-  Into the Alaskan Wilderness Solo with Wendy Battino- Singing birch trees and Wolverines!
Episode 3-  Walking the SHT- Superior Hiking Trail Solo with Kim Stromgren-  Depression and a Mount Trudee!

P.S.S. As always you can read more about shamanic healing or coaching too- they are both wonderful ways support yourself and prepare the way for a beautiful and heart centered 2017.

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For those of you curious to hear about a shorter pilgrimage- Kim’s was just two nights– but don’t let the brevity of her trip make you think it was small.  What she discovered on Mount Trudy was nothing short of AWESOME.  Her intention was simple:  “I just want to complete it!”.  As she climbed up the dome shaped mountain- things got very interesting.   Kim had an unexpected encounter with something that has been dogging her her for years- depression.  So beautiful was her encounter that she returned to repeat the pilgrimage again just a few days ago.  You can find Kim Stromgren here at SACRED STEPS on Facebook.

You can listen here and subscribe!:)


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

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