When widely recognized and long-time shamanic practitioner Don Simmons phoned me to offer his time to assist the Brown's Mill Food Forest project, my first two thoughts were how fortunate I was going to be to work with him and also "Oh Shit!!" 🙂
I've walked between two worlds for a long time, deepening my practice of Geomancy (loosely defined as earth healing or co-creating with the conscious of the Earth) and furthering my work in the physical realm as an ecological designer. Though I do on almost every project, I have been shy about bridging the two in the public realm and Don was asking me to do this, in an important municipally-led project. It is time.
Don Simmons is founder of The Shaman's Path and a highly respected practitioner in the Southeast. He has been training shamans, energy healers and providing sessions of his own for over 30 years, with a personal practice for 40. I have personally (and now professionally) benefitted from his healing services. His heart and work are dedicated to the awakening of humanity, to promoting love and peace, and I knew he was approaching this project as an act of service.
We didn't know specifics, but that his input would include some measure of blessing the land and enhancing harmony between the various parties involved: several levels of government, several non-profit organizations, neighborhood community, designers and the beings of the land itself.
In general, shamans lend assistance via ceremony- doing blessing and energy work on the subtle levels. Towards healing, it is often more effective than working on the denser, physical plane. Many of us doing this work feel we've been practicing for many lifetimes and the way is completely intuitive, like an ancient language known by the body's innate intelligence though foreign to the modern mind. Most important is an attitude of service and devotion and clarity in intention. The application and methods are diverse and creative.
Geomancy can be seen as a branch of shamanism, perhaps- both are rooted in ancient, earth based arts that work in the subtle realms towards healing and transformation. In Geomancy, we work with elemental beings (of air, fire, water, air), with Devas (the intelligences that guide whole landscapes or projects). We also strive to identify energy systems present in the earth and honor the natural blueprint of a place instead of simply imposing our human mind/ will upon a place... which is critical as landscape designers aiming to bring more awareness to our work with the earth!!
During his first visit, a group of us (Don brought two of his shamanism students and food forest design partner Clara Kwon and myself) walked through the site with an inner eye towards sensing the subtle energy of the place, curious what messages the site may have for us as designers of this forest project, initiating land stewardship here.
There were a lot of keen observations from that visit that are now being considered to inform design currently. Specifically, Don and I both independently felt a strong loving energy, a 'coming home' feeling of sorts near the Rhinehill entrance of the property. In Geomantic terms, I know this to be a heart center: it's the heart center of the property..... does it serve a larger area as heart center, too? Towards the design, Clara and I proposed a circular flower garden for relaxation and also a non-denominational meeting space or chapel for reflection, prayer, medicine making (it is a food forest, after all) or classes near this heart center, to honor its purpose, invite people to spend time in this special place. Don also noted the flow of 'chi' through the property which we have acknowledged in the design by primary and secondary pathways throughout the site.
This coming saturday, Don is inviting 8 other shamans to the site to perform a land blessing. There will be drumming, rattling, prayer and intentions set towards healing and conscious collaboration. Im excited to experience what this will bring, as his work so far has seemed to produce wonderful results for the project! (UPDATE: There were 15 practioners on site for the land blessing and it was wonderful!! We drummed, prayed, set intentions for human and nature co-creativity and harmony and I received some excellent feedback towards the design process.
Between meetings, Don is working remotely on the site, using a map and some natural elements that were presented to him during the first visit, mostly sticks and rocks. When he sent me a photo, I was pleased to see his arrangements on the map actually reflected some elements of the draft conceptual plan we had just completed! Most apparent is the flow of the site between entrances. As well, several members of our planning team have noticed and mentioned the pronounced shift in positive energy that has occurred since Don began his work. Today after our meeting with the Parks dept. there was a comment about "working magic" at how smoothly the meeting flowed..... (why, yes, we have in fact...)
Truly, the air of the whole project from community meetings to presentations with various gov't departments has turned from one of skepticism to camaraderie, facilitation and happiness. I know this is in part due to Don's presence and the work we've done with the site and community energetically. Im very grateful for his participation and look forward to more work with The Shaman's Path!!
photo: energetic grid of Brown's Mill Food Forest site, Don Simmons, The Shamanic Path