Transcript: Episode 11

This tran­script has been edit­ed for clar­i­ty. There may be dif­fer­ences between the audio and this tran­script.

Dis­cov­er the Sacred in Your City: Insights from a Man­hat­tan Shaman

[00:00:00]

Intro­duc­tion to Shaman­ism

John: What I’m inter­est­ed in right now, Tony, is how you found your way into shaman­ism and what your sto­ry is.

Find­ing Shaman­ism through Griev­ing

Tony: Yeah in 1996 my part­ner of 14 years died, and dur­ing my ini­tial days of griev­ing I was seek­ing com­fort in what­ev­er form it may appear to me. And I put the word out to my friends. I said, look, if there’s any­thing that you think might be of assis­tance in help­ing me move through this process of grief, I would real­ly appre­ci­ate it.

A friend of mine sent me infor­ma­tion about a work­shop that was being held up at the Omega Insti­tute, which is in Rhinebeck, New York. It’s upstate New York on the Hud­son Riv­er being it was a work­shop called hon­or­ing our jour­ney. it was a a spir­i­tu­al

work­shop for gay men. And I was intrigued by that because my expe­ri­ence in defin­ing gay­ness pri­or to that [00:01:00] was, I nev­er asso­ci­at­ed spir­i­tu­al­i­ty with gay­ness. And so I checked into it it seemed right that the gen­tle­man who a New York City psy­chother­a­pist who cre­at­ed this group for gay men in the ear­ly 90s to help them process and to deal with the AIDS cri­sis, which

seemed serendip­i­tous about this group, and I attend­ed the work­shop, it was five days, and it was the first time in six months that I reclaimed my abil­i­ty to laugh, humour and joy. It was incred­i­ble. Amongst the read­ing list that was pre­sent­ed to us was a book called Gay Soul by Mark Thomp­son.

And in the book Gay Soul, Mark inter­viewed, I think about a half a dozen, not a half a dozen known gay men. And he asked them pret­ty much the same ques­tions. And one of them was how do they define spir­i­tu­al­i­ty? And they all, express their expe­ri­ences on their respec­tive spir­i­tu­al [00:02:00] path.

but quite often in the course of this book and these inter­views, The term shaman­ism kept on appear­ing and my under­grad­u­ate degree, lib­er­al arts and his­to­ry. It took anthro­pol­o­gy class­es, but in the 1960s the term shaman­ism was just not used. It was Mar­garet Mead. It was witch doc­tors.

It was med­i­cine men. And so I was curi­ous. What is this shaman­ism? Every­body’s talk­ing about. talk­ing about in this book, in this inter­view.

First Steps into Shaman­ic Prac­tice

Tony: So I put that ques­tion out to a man that I met at this Hon­or­ing Our Jour­ney expe­ri­ence, and he said to me, he said Oh, if you want to know about shaman­ism, you have to read Michael Harn­er’s The Way of the Shaman.

I picked that book up. I read it. It was inspi­ra­tional, and I fin­ished the book. And soon after­wards an orga­ni­za­tion in New York City, the Open Cen­ter, which is a cen­ter that offered var­i­ous new age, holis­tic, spir­i­tu­al work­shops. They were host­ing Michael Harn­er’s, [00:03:00] foun­da­tion for shaman­ic stud­ies week­end work­shop on the way of the shaman.

And I signed up for that. And it was taught by San­dra Inge­man. It was held in a syn­a­gogue in Chelsea, New York. It was pret­ty incred­i­ble. I walked in, there were about 80 peo­ple. I almost walked out what am I doing here? But I decid­ed to stay the course since I had reg­is­tered and after, two days it just put me on my path of con­tin­u­ing to explore shaman­ism in, in many of the var­i­ous tra­di­tions that it exists.

from that basic intro­duc­tion work­shop that San­dra Inger­man taught there was A six week fol­low up that the Open Cen­ter was offer­ing. And that was that was incred­i­ble because it pro­vid­ed those of us And I think from the 80, I think it whit­tled down to about 25, 25 peo­ple signed up for the six week fol­low up and that allowed us to prac­tice [00:04:00] shaman­ism every week under the guid­ance of Nan Moss and David Corbin.

How much bet­ter could it pos­si­bly get, San­dra Inger­man, Nan Moss and David Corbin as the three peo­ple who intro­duced me to the shaman­ic path that I find myself. on. That’s the roots of my shaman­ic ini­ti­a­tion.

John: When I attend­ed a work­shop called, Spir­its of Nature. I had the good for­tune, of hav­ing it in an old school­house in the coun­try. iso­lat­ed just sounds of birds in the trees, crick­ets singing with the wind gen­tly mov­ing through the bows of the great spruce trees; this was won­der­ful place to learn about nature spir­its . Tony, what was your expe­ri­ence grow­ing up in a large city like New York . , Where’s the sacred­ness to be found in New York City?

Urban Shaman­ism in New York

Tony: Thank you very much for that ques­tion. As a native born New York­er I think of the sto­ry of the fish that is lis­ten­ing to this con­ver­sa­tion amongst oth­er fish about, we’re talk­ing about [00:05:00] water, and there’s all this chat­ter about water, and then there’s one fish looks at the Fol­low them and says, what’s this water that you’re talk­ing about? Because the fish who asked that ques­tion embody the water did­n’t see him­self or her­self out­side of their envi­ron­ment. And that’s how I feel about being born and raised in New York City. It’s just such a part of who I am. But I do appre­ci­ate your ques­tion because it does allow me to reflect on, what it was like grow­ing up in Brook­lyn, New York when, dur­ing the the years that I did and the neigh­bor­hood in Brook­lyn that I grew up in. is called Cypress Hills. Now, I don’t think any­one would asso­ciate a neigh­bor­hood in New York City with the name Cypress Hills. But that is the neigh­bor­hood that I grew up in. And it’s locat­ed [00:06:00] in The cor­ner of Brook­lyn that is right next to Queens. Queens actu­al­ly bor­ders it on the east and on the north.

It became a favorite place for me to hang out because it was a place where I used to go and smoke cig­a­rettes with my friends. We could not get caught as 13 year olds smok­ing cig­a­rettes.

But on both sides to the left and to the right are two very large parks.

One of them is called High­land Park. And for me grow­ing up, it was like a for­est. I used to go there. They had a play­ground, but they also had these like shrubs and these Places where you could mean­der and be you. I real­ly felt like I was in the coun­try. And at the top of the park was the Ridge­wood Reser­voir which was a reser­voir that fed var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods of New York City with water.

The reser­voir has since closed and what the city did is it just allowed nature to reclaim itself. [00:07:00] So if you go there today, it’s real­ly incred­i­ble. All of, the nat­ur­al plants just have tak­en over as is the nature of plants. And on the oth­er­side of The ceme­tery was a for­est park.

you got very rich. oppor­tu­ni­ty to be in nature in a very inter­est­ing way.

John: And espe­cial­ly at that time, neigh­bours watched out for every­body. it was a real eclec­tic neigh­bor­hood. It was­n’t an eth­nic ghet­to of one par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group or a racial group. It was very mixed. And there were plen­ty oppor­tu­ni­ties , to explore and to be curi­ous and to also to feel safe, As you became old­er start­ed on your path, how do you tune into this? The city spir­its or do you,

Engag­ing with City Spir­its

Tony: yeah. New York City is the result of the glacial age. And the rock is that Tens of [00:08:00] thou­sands of years ago exist­ed in anoth­er part of our plan­et, up north that the ice age pushed down and cre­at­ed the Pal­isades and Man­hat­tan. So it’s a real sol­id bedrock and I’m very con­scious of the sta­bil­i­ty that I am for­tu­nate to walk upon and to inhab­it.

I live in Man­hat­tan. It’s sur­round­ed by water. We have the Hud­son Riv­er to the west, and we have the East Riv­er to the east. So I always quite often tell peo­ple that I live on an island off the east coast of Amer­i­ca. And in actu­al­i­ty, it’s true.

I’m not mak­ing it up. And so I’m very aware of the pow­er of water. The pow­er of earth. And peo­ple think of New York City is being steel and con­crete; it might not have the skies of Mon­tana, but there’s still a won­der­ful sky that is avail­able [00:09:00] and water and earth and cer­tain­ly just the Not only the fire, of below, but also the fire that is gen­er­at­ed from the occu­pants of the peo­ple who live in this city.

I remem­ber Ken Burns’ doc­u­men­tary about New York City. In the very first chap­ter, he talked about the Dutch set­tle­ment and how the Dutch set­tled in New York. New Ams­ter­dam is a place of com­merce, and New York City is a place of com­merce. And I was think­ing about that: com­merce shares its same Latin root with the com­mu­ni­ty and all of the oth­er won­der­ful words that begin with C O M, and C O M means togeth­er.

So there is, and there is a real togeth­er­ness in New York City, the city of New York, that can be expe­ri­enced And New York­ers have to pay atten­tion. And, I’m very con­scious of, the [00:10:00] won­der­ful, ani­mals that, exist in New York City, pigeons and rats and squir­rels They’re not wolves, and they’re not bears, they’re not eagles, how­ev­er, They are, in my per­son­al opin­ion, they are exam­ples of thriv­ing and resilience. They’re like virus­es and bac­te­ria. They adapt very well to their envi­ron­ment. And I think. Many of us would ben­e­fit from hav­ing a lit­tle pigeon or rat or squir­rel ener­gy in order to help us get through espe­cial­ly the dif­fi­cult peri­ods that we may expe­ri­ence in our lives.

John:

Tony: I was just think­ing of the sub­way being full of rats, but so many oth­er things in it so with­in its own , envi­ron­ment, the place of the sub­way is dif­fer­ent than the spir­it oth­er places, the spir­it of cen­tral park, Yeah. It’s like any place, we we exist upon [00:11:00] lay­ers. There are so many lay­ers beneath our feet and, but the the sub­way, the sub­way sys­tem is cer­tain­ly, a liv­ing and cur­rent exam­ple of what is under­ground. The sub­ways in Lon­don are called the under­ground.

Yeah, it’s yes, as above, so below.

John: Yeah, I know I think I men­tioned to you before the, my boat I live on dur­ing the sum­mer has won­der­ful spir­i­tu­al pow­er and ener­gy and I know that the hous­es that I lived in had tremen­dous spir­it think of every home, wher­ev­er peo­ple come togeth­er. all that ener­gy it cre­ates, or some­how the spir­it of place devel­ops. And I know as a para­medic, I go into so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple’s homes and there’s those that you just know have no ener­gy, no life, or spir­it I should say, no spir­i­tu­al essence. And it’s reflect­ed in the home when you walk in

And oth­er places [00:12:00] I’ve had cer­e­mo­ny and called in the spir­it of the home. And it’s a tremen­dous ener­gy you feel that just wells up real­ly quick­ly. apart­ment build­ings are no dif­fer­ent. same for our work­places. when you think of it, they’re all con­tain­ers, of many peo­ple, plants and ani­mals . and thus the abil­i­ty to have spir­it there present. And very unique. is avail­able. What’s your thoughts on that?

Tony: I agree with what’s that say­ing about one’s home is one’s cas­tle. I also like to think of it as one’s sanc­tu­ary. It’s, but it’s of one’s cre­ation. It’s what you bring to one’s home envi­ron­ment.

I very for­tu­nate, in my par­ents, they owned the the build­ing that I grew up in. in Brook­lyn. It was a five fam­i­ly build­ing with two stores. One of the stores was my father’s busi­ness. My father [00:13:00] was the pro­pri­etor of a soda foun­tain can­dy store. And the oth­er busi­ness was a bar­ber and there were five fam­i­lies.

And when my father went to work, he lit­er­al­ly left our apart­ment and went down­stairs and He was in his store, from six in the morn­ing till about 10, 10, 1030 at night, but he was also the land­lord. So if any­thing need­ed to be addressed in his the build­ing that he owned, he was, the land­lord was very acces­si­ble.

So he cre­at­ed a very, good place for peo­ple to, to live and to thrive dur­ing that peri­od of the Eisen­how­er 1950s. I’d like to think that I brought that into every home I’ve lived in and wher­ev­er that may be.

In my cur­rent home I live in Green­wich Vil­lage. And the build­ing was built in [00:14:00] 1890 as a ten­e­ment for immi­grants. the orga­ni­za­tion that pushed and processed the land­mark­ing of my neigh­bor­hood, every build­ing and every occu­pant in the build­ing got infor­ma­tion about the build­ing from when it was built, who lived there orig­i­nal­ly.

So it was won­der­ful, like read­ing this doc­u­ment about Irish immi­grants and Ger­man immi­grants and who was who worked in the gar­ment indus­try, who was a shoe repair­man, who was a labor­er. So I always like to think that and where the apart­ments I’m liv­ing in, I have to remind myself that this was a home for a fam­i­ly.

I’m sin­gle, I live alone. And trust me, my, my home is filled with the things that , are impor­tant to me. I try to imag­ine a moth­er, a father, maybe. three or four chil­dren liv­ing in the same space but they did And so I real­ly like to think that there are [00:15:00] lay­ers of of har­mo­ny that exist in this build­ing.

When I moved back in I was hav­ing the walls paint­ed and this was passed on to me by a gen­tle­man that I befriend­ed and he car­ries a lot of Native Amer­i­can tra­di­tions

Cre­at­ing Sacred Spaces

Tony: And he said, Before the painters put a coat of paint on the walls, write your affir­ma­tions on the walls, so that they will be there. and they will be pro­tect­ed, By a lay­er of paint. So under­neath the paint­ed job in my apart­ment, all of these affir­ma­tions, I want­ed this place to be a har­mo­nious, peace­ful, lov­ing, wel­com­ing envi­ron­ment.

I feel real­ly for­tu­nate. I’ve been here for over 25 years, and I think that that is the type of envi­ron­ment that peo­ple expe­ri­ence once they pass my apart­ment door. And as I shared with you, yeah. I con­duct month­ly drum cir­cles here in my apart­ment and, every­body who comes, [00:16:00] inevitably they make some com­ment about, wow, what a beau­ti­ful, peace­ful, real­ly enjoy­able space you have.

And but then, recent­ly some­body did ask me, they said, how do you pro­tect your apart­ment all the oth­er stuff that you don’t want be, to, pass your front door? And I thought about that and I have quite a few sacred objects around my apart­ment which I feel pro­tect me and my apart­ment, my space. I think the most impor­tant thing is that I do not give per­mis­sion. I do not give per­mis­sion for any­thing that may cause me or oth­ers harm to pass through my front door,

we Talked about empow­er­ing peo­ple, we have to acknowl­edge the pow­er that we all pos­sess

John: And we could cer­tain­ly build pow­er in a home, obvi­ous­ly, or in a work­place, or a com­mu­ni­ty where there’s a great cama­raderie. And [00:17:00] we cer­tain­ly know I’ll have, in every city, neigh­bor­hoods that very lit­tle and very dark places a lot of pover­ty and that means that they can’t be sup­pressed is what I want to say, not pover­ty.

You can still have a rich spir­i­tu­al exis­tence and not the abun­dance that per­haps oth­ers have. Now, you’re a heal­er and you have peo­ple that come to your your apart­ment to, to do shaman­ic work with. And I know that there’s you go to oth­er peo­ple peo­ple’s home to do work in their homes.

Shaman­ic Heal­ing and Clear­ings

John: since COVID when things moved remote­ly and then a few years ago, things returned, it’s inter­est­ing you talk about, going to oth­er peo­ple’s homes.

Tony: There was a peri­od where, yeah, I would be called upon and I would just, jump on the sub­way and go to some­body’s home, espe­cial­ly for like clear­ings. A lot of peo­ple would con­tact me or anoth­er shaman­ic prac­ti­tion­er want­i­ng to do [00:18:00] a clear­ing. They were about to move into an apart­ment or they had moved into apart­ment and the vibra­tion was You know, kinds sta­t­ic or, they did­n’t feel at ease.

I haven’t received too many requests for that as of late. most of the time when I see my clients they come to my home. I pre­fer that I have every­thing I need at hand’s reach

Rit­u­al and Cer­e­mo­ny in Urban Spaces

John: are you ever called or felt to do a rit­u­al or cer­e­mo­ny in oth­er areas of the city?

Tony: Yeah. Again, it just may be that, I’m not send­ing that vibra­tion out there any­more. you had inquired about, the expe­ri­ence that I had, in New York city, that stood out

And what. popped into my mem­o­ry was Some of us, I think there were four of us New York City every year hosts the Hal­loween parade. And we decid­ed. And at that point, we were prob­a­bly all in our late 50s, ear­ly 60s. so four of [00:19:00] us decid­ed we would put on cer­e­mo­ni­al gob and cer­e­mo­ni­al mask and grab our rat­tles and drums. And we would march up sixth Avenue in the Hal­loween day night parade.

John: In your regalia. That’d be a sight to

Tony: In our regalia.

And it was, you did­n’t actu­al­ly, you did­n’t stand out because, you were walk­ing amongst all sorts of peo­ple in their regalia, call them cos­tumes or what­ev­er. I just remem­ber we set the inten­tion that as we were walk­ing, we were going to be bless­ing the crowds, bless­ing the city, and just, using the vibra­tion of our drums and our rat­tles

Don­na Hen­ness a New York City shaman she’s made it a career to have rit­u­als in the city at dif­fer­ent she would put togeth­er some of her stu­dents and peo­ple who fol­lowed her and she would the open­ing of the New York City Hal­loween [00:20:00] Parade.

I think she had appoint­ed her­self as New York City’s urban shaman.

And she would ask them all to dress in sil­ver. She would ask for a dona­tion in order to acquire the amount of of sage that she would need to smudge the length of the parade.

And they would be the first group out. The path of the parade and the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple on both sides who are watch­ing it,

Don­na’s one exam­ple. And then there’s, oh God, my mem­o­ry is just shot today. There’s anoth­er woman, and actu­al­ly, she used to, she’s a Rei­ki mas­ter, and she’s also a shaman­ic prac­ti­tion­er. And she lives close to Cen­tral Park, and every day, she goes to the park, and she brings bird seeds, and she actu­al­ly sits there with her palm open, and the birds actu­al­ly feed out of her hand.

And quite admirable. Look, it’s [00:21:00] many peo­ple live in this city. So you’re going to have all sorts of peo­ple and it’s not just the head­lines that instill fear in peo­ple. There’s a lots of peo­ple who actu­al­ly cre­ate. Inspi­ra­tion to cel­e­brate the nature of the city and the com­mu­ni­ty of the city.

I neglect­ed to men­tion that where Green­wich vil­lage meets Chelsea, which is around 14th street, there’s a, there’s an area there and it’s called Gainsvoort. It has a Dutch name. It’s quite unique because it’s. There’s a place where I think four or five streets all come togeth­er where this lit­tle square what I learned through read­ing and through attend­ing dif­fer­ent infor­ma­tion events host­ed by this local indige­nous peo­ple. was that was a meet­ing place. It was a place of com­merce. Tribes would come from dif­fer­ent direc­tions and they would meet there to have their [00:22:00] mar­ket.

I was won­der­ing if there are oth­er sig­nif­i­cant sites that have made it through the years to the present. I was think­ing of how many church­es in Europe were built on pre­vi­ous sites that the Druids or Celts or oth­er shaman­ic com­mu­ni­ties had built over sacred wells or oth­er fea­tures here in New York City?

There’s none that I’m famil­iar with. But New York City, espe­cial­ly low in Man­hat­tan, did have quite a few church­es, Trin­i­ty Church being one of them for many decades. Trin­i­ty Church, which is locat­ed in the Wall Street area, was the tallest build­ing. And I think tra­di­tion­al­ly, In terms of Chris­t­ian nations, the church was always sup­posed to be the tallest build­ing in a city or in a town.

And so if you look at prints or draw­ings of ear­ly New York City, you always see Trin­i­ty Church’s steeple stick­ing up. I was think­ing about this ear­li­er, because we’re talk­ing about the sacred­ness of a par­tic­u­lar place. And those [00:23:00] church­es had attached to them ceme­ter­ies.

And so there are a lot, there are quite a few ceme­ter­ies actu­al­ly on the island of Man­hat­tan. Trin­i­ty Church had the church ceme­tery. I believe Alexan­der Hamil­ton and his wife are buried there and plus oth­er notable found­ing fathers from the New York City area. And then when that ceme­tery over­flowed and there was no more room for it, they built the uptown branch of the ceme­tery, And if you look at old maps of New York City, say from 1800 to 1825, you’ll see that the Trin­i­ty Church’s ceme­tery In the mid 19th cen­tu­ry, they, trust­ing that they dug up the bod­ies in order as the city, the island expand­ed and they were build­ing brown­stone and res­i­dences and they dug up the bod­ies and relo­cat­ed [00:24:00] them. And now it’s a park and it has a swim­ming pool and it has var­i­ous ball courts, and so forth. But every time I pass there, I’m con­scious that this was their last place of rest.

what I’m try­ing to say is In any urban sit­u­a­tion, I think it’s real­ly impor­tant for peo­ple to pay atten­tion to where they are and what’s below the sur­face and what’s as above, so below, and just to pay atten­tion to one’s phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment, because lay­ered beyond the phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment is also the unknown.

I get a big kick out of it. When­ev­er I walk past that block with a friend, I say, this used to be a ceme­tery. And they go, what? These beau­ti­ful brown­stones and this park are for kids to play with. And I said, yeah. I said dead peo­ple were buried here.

I think it was about 20 years ago. They were doing some exca­va­tion [00:25:00] down­town, and they found the African bur­ial. Where African slaves were buried, and they turned that into a sacred site and they had mem­bers of the New York African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. They did a cer­e­mo­ny of remem­brance.

John: Yeah, I often, wher­ev­er I go, when I want to get plugged in, I always men­tion invit­ing the ances­tors of the place, wher­ev­er I am. And it’s not just humans, the non-human, all the trees, every­thing that was here before. Before me, humans were walk­ing this part of the earth.

And I feel like a real con­nec­tion comes in when I invite the ances­tors of the place to be present with me. And it gives me a boost of pow­er and just anoth­er pres­ence sup­port­ing me, [00:26:00] And you’re right. I, yeah, the ceme­tery thing, I still am think­ing that was such a ball­sy move because it’s, there’s so much to that, and I don’t think it’s the same, but I know a lot of indige­nous cul­tures are seek­ing a return of all their kin who have been moved to oth­er muse­ums and that around the world and they want to bring them home.

And have them in their place of bur­ial. And I think that’s impor­tant work.

Tony: these are usu­al­ly his­tor­i­cal muse­ums, like the Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry. I think they returned skulls and bones that were in a case. On dis­play, they returned them to the tribes for a prop­er bur­ial. I think I know of two Jew­ish ceme­ter­ies that are scratched.

In these lit­tle cor­ners on a street, a pedes­tri­an street that peo­ple pass on their way to and from liv­ing their lives. But there is a fence and there’s a sign. And if you stop and [00:27:00] look at the sign, you say, Oh my God, on the oth­er side of this fence is a ceme­tery and where peo­ple from the 1700s, 1800s were buried.

It is a good reminder that we exist on the shoul­ders of what was before, and there’s some­thing very excit­ing about that. I often remind my clients, espe­cial­ly those strug­gling with feel­ing con­nect­ed.

And quite often, the issue is, Oh, I feel dis­con­nect­ed. I don’t feel I could relate. And it’s in a minute, and there is so much to feel con­nect­ed to if you remove what­ev­er bar­ri­ers may be in the way that pre­vent you from feel­ing that con­nec­tion, whether it be feel­ing con­nect­ed to what’s above in this incred­i­ble solar sys­tem and that we occu­py or in our imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment of where we live.

John: For indi­vid­u­als who might be just start­ing on a path of a shaman­ic path, would find­ing sacred places [00:28:00] in the city itself be dif­fi­cult?

Tony: No, not at all. It’s quite easy. It is like you could find a tree that you can con­nect to. You could take a stroll over to the Hud­son Riv­er. The Hud­son Riv­er is one of the might­i­est rivers in the world.

It’s very wide. And it starts up in the Adiron­dacks on top of some moun­tain again, a lit­tle creek flow­ing into a stream into the riv­er that gets wide. It’s real­ly, I’ve trav­elled a lot, and I’ve seen lots of rivers in the world’s cities, and I’m always in awe of the Hud­son Riv­er.

I for­got what the Indi­an name is, but I think it trans­lates to some­thing like the riv­er that flows in two direc­tions because there’s a time of day when the water becomes brack­ish. It has a sea­wa­ter from the ocean. And the fresh­wa­ter from the riv­er and it gets very brack­ish. And I’m so hap­py over the prob­a­bly the past 20 years that [00:29:00] the city has start­ed to reclaim clean­ing up

We’ve seen whales and por­pois­es in the Hud­son Riv­er, and they’re once again seed­ing oys­ters.

The city is seed­ing the riv­er with these, and again, there’s a real­ly strong effort to reclaim it. So yes, there are many places where one could go to one of the ceme­ter­ies. Trin­i­ty Ceme­tery is open.

Also, at St. Paul’s Church, there are a lot of places and oppor­tu­ni­ties where one could con­nect with the spir­it, spir­it of the place to grow one’s shaman­ic spir­i­tu­al prac­tice. A friend of mine, Nan­cy, has a sacred tree in Cen­tral Park. She’s a shaman­ic teacher and a shaman­ic prac­ti­tion­er, and she brings her stu­dents quite often there, and they’ll do a cer­e­mo­ny around the tree. I shared the Native Amer­i­can cer­e­mo­ni­al dance called the Naraya, the dance of [00:30:00] for every­one, reclaimed around 1991 1990. It’s a cer­e­mo­ni­al dance that orig­i­nat­ed in the Great Basin region of the Unit­ed States but went under­ground for a cen­tu­ry.

The leg­end was that a group of white peo­ple dressed as Indi­ans would bring back the dance. And that’s exact­ly what hap­pened. A group of men and women who were fol­low­ing Native Amer­i­can tra­di­tions and pipe cer­e­monies and would meet dur­ing the full moon invit­ed an elder from the Great Basin, and he intu­itive­ly felt that there was a pur­pose and a rea­son for him to be invit­ed.

So he flew to New York City. He attend­ed and met with, attend­ed this full moon cer­e­mo­ny. He met with the peo­ple, and they brought the dance back for the first time after a cen­tu­ry. It was held in St. John the Divine Cathe­dral on 110th Street in Man­hat­tan. And it was danced there for prob­a­bly [00:31:00] five, six, sev­en years. I raised it because they would meet, and the dance was always held around the win­ter sol­stice, always in Decem­ber. So they would like to gath­er. Six months lat­er, around the sum­mer sol­stice, they would meet in Cen­tral Park, and they would meet at a place in Cen­tral Park called Fal­con Crest.

It’s a rise in Cen­tral Park around 72nd Street. They would hold sum­mer sol­stice cer­e­monies there, and they would, includ­ing the pipe, would be passed around; the pipe car­ri­ers would share their med­i­cine, their pipe med­i­cine, and they would be drum­ming, and they would be singing, and they would be a potluck, and it was won­der­ful.

Reflec­tions on Urban Shaman­ism

Tony: I believe that the more peo­ple are liv­ing a life that is in, they intend to cre­ate as, to what­ev­er degree that they’re capa­ble, a bal­anced, har­mo­nious life. I have to [00:32:00] deep with­in my heart believe that it does impact and affect where one lives.

I think it’s very, and it just rip­ples out. I could see how peo­ple respond to me just by how I respond to them. The auto­mat­ic in this ser­vice indus­try cul­ture that we live in is when­ev­er you go into any place; you’re greet­ed and usu­al­ly with a, Oh, hel­lo. Good day. How are you? And the per­son say­ing that may expect or not expect a response from you, what they don’t expect is you to ask, how are you doing today?

And it takes them, I always notice it real­ly, to be acknowl­edged. And it’s, again, pay­ing atten­tion, and acknowl­edg­ing that we share a space, we share a place. We, when last week we cel­e­brat­ed Earth Day, we share a plan­et. [00:33:00] With a mul­ti­tude of liv­ing, sen­tient beings in every form that they may take, and to inter­act with them respect­ful­ly.

Respect­ful­ly, this is where my Bud­dhist tra­di­tion comes in, but with­out expect­ing a response or get­ting any­thing back in return. So this is where New York City, being a place of Con­gress, gets to me. Turn top­sy turvy. It’s a give. Don’t expect to get it. Don’t expect to get it. Just live your life in a very giv­ing, heart-scent­ed place.

Look­ing Towards the Future

John: Tony, maybe one last ques­tion: Where do you see shaman­ism, urban shaman­ism, head­ing in the future? Do you have any pre­dic­tions or hopes?

Tony: Plen­ty of hope. I hope that it con­tin­ues to grow. I’ve had this con­ver­sa­tion recent­ly with some of the men and women that I’ve [00:34:00] had the very dear good for­tune of train­ing with and study­ing with, and also hav­ing as stu­dents, and we have a sense that shaman­ism as a spir­i­tu­al prac­tice things peak.

And some of us have the awe of the opin­ion that We, shaman­ism, because it’s become so com­mon in the ver­nac­u­lar of every­body, I’ll get requests from peo­ple and it’s like they’re request­ing a soul retrieval like they were order­ing like a Star­bucks lat­te. It’s just that I need a soul retrieval. I’m not even sure if they know what a soul retrieval is, what the process is, or what may need to occur before a soul retrieval is per­formed.

So, part of the shaman­ic is that this fol­lows a long lin­eage of the shaman­ic path. It is edu­ca­tors who edu­cate the com­mu­ni­ty. That is [00:35:00] an impor­tant com­po­nent of walk­ing this path. And yeah, I’m not going to pre­dict any­thing, but I hope it con­tin­ues to grow.

Things will con­tin­ue. And dur­ing this peri­od of maybe quiet­ness, there is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a rebirth, for a spurt of growth. But again, I think it’s real­ly impor­tant for peo­ple to take care of them­selves to what­ev­er degree they can.

And to. Be hon­ourable and truth­ful in their inter­ac­tions with all of their rela­tions. Yeah.

John: Thank you, Tony. It’s been a fun jour­ney this episode to go along with [00:36:00] you. Thank you very much.

Tony: Thank you. I appre­ci­ate it. I real­ly appre­ci­ate you reach­ing out to me and giv­ing it some thought.