Sarah Seidelmann is an MD turned Author, Shamanic Healer and Coach with a special interest in helping others forge a deep and satisfying connection to the Earth. Sarah’s deep appreciation for Nature has helped her find numerous ways to help others connect to their own brilliance. She’s been a frequent guest blogger at Maria Shriver’s site for Architects of Change and has led retreats combining surfing and shamanism in Hawaii and a sacred pachydermal pilgrimage to Thailand.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- What led Sarah to leave medicine and pursue a new healing path helping others find their own “Feel Good” so that they can live courageously and enthusiastically.
- How thinking about our deaths helps us TO LIVE.
- Why it’s important to heal not only for yourself but for the lives of the people you love.
- About Sarah’s book called The Book of Beasties, which is an encyclopedia of spirit animals and how to connect with them.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS SARAH:
- What exactly is a shamanic journey, and how does it restore a person to balance and wholeness?
- Can shamanic healing be helpful regarding mental illness?
- What exactly is a sacred pachydermal pilgrimage?
Listen to the podcast here
Sarah Seidelmann: MD Turned Author, Shamanic Healer And Coach
Thanks for reading another episode. Would you believe we are in our 7th season of the show? In 2 years, we’ve had over 22,000 downloads. It is such a thrill and also a humbling honor to be bringing comfort solace and hope to so many of you, in addition to providing enlightening insights by introducing you to wonderful healers, mediums, grief and trauma specialists, and truly amazing people with their inspiring stories to share. Before we begin our show, make sure to follow us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Our guest is Sarah Seidelmann, who is an MD turned Author, Shamanic Healer, and Coach with a special interest in helping others forge a deep and satisfying connection to the Earth. After many years as a Board-Certified Physician specializing in Surgical Pathology in the Midwest, Sarah felt a strong pull to transformative work and being creative. By that time, she had four children and her life had become complicated. She got coached and found that to be life-changing.
Sarah’s deep appreciation for nature has helped her find many different ways to help others connect to their brilliance. She’s been a frequent guest blogger at Maria Shriver’s site for Architects of Change and has led retreats combining surfing and shamanism in Hawaii and a sacred pack of dermal pilgrimage to Thailand. Sarah, welcome to the community. I know that you love to help others find their feel-good so that they can live courageously and enthusiastically. To begin our feel-good conversation, can you please tell us what led you to leave medicine and step onto a new healing path?
Irene, thank you so much for having me. I started to feel a feeling of disconnection at work. As a pathologist, you’re one of the doctors that sit behind a microscope all day hunting for disease. I’d found it fascinating for about twenty years and then I started feeling less engaged with it. I realized that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I needed to be engaged in the work.
Eventually, I took a sabbatical from work, trying to give myself some time to explore some things. When I was on that break, I spent a lot of time out in the woods, walking my dog. I wasn’t doing anything in particular but I started to feel so much better. When I look back, with four little kids and working so many long hours in an office, I had been a nature star for many years.
Irene, I got giddy. I remember talking to my neighbor and my neighbor thought I was a little nuts because I was like, “Look at how beautiful it’s outside.” I realized there was something going on with me. That summer, I also stumbled into this ancient idea that the animals that cross our path can give us teachings and wisdom, and share messages with us. I thought, “That sounds like the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” At the time, I was extremely confused and very upset. I had planned to work in medicine until I was 75, I mean 80, if they’d let me stick around. Suddenly, I was realizing I wanted out of that and I wanted to find something else that I could do as a vocation.
That’s very brave. You were stopping your whole life.
I wasn’t ready to quit but at least I was brave enough to take the time off, which was good. When I started paying attention to the animals, suddenly, I had to admit that they had fantastic messages for me, Irene. I was like, “There’s something about this that is powerful.” For example, when I was on my sabbatical, I got this strong desire to write a book. I know you’ve written a book. It gripped me but I’m like, “I don’t know how to write a book. How do you write books?” I’ve been a big reader forever and I was feeling stuck about that.
That day, I was like, “Let’s see if any animals can help me out.” I went on a walk and the only creatures that stood out to me were the ants that I saw. They were building their little mountains of sand that they make. It suddenly hit me like, “They make these massive castles built of sand but they don’t do it in one day or alone. They do it one grain of sand at a time.” I thought, “What does it look like for me to work on a book? What would it look like to move one grain of sand across the sidewalk?” I opened up a file. It sounds very simple but for me, it was profound.
Your encounters with nature inspire you to pursue this new calling and help others connect with your brilliance. Could you talk about the new calling and how it helps people connect with your brilliance?
One of the things that I discovered after I started paying attention to the animals is I started reading a little bit more about this concept of shamanism, which is a global phenomenon. The shaman in the indigenous village, whether it’s in Australia, Norway, Brazil, Columbia, or North America is the one who visits the spirit world to bring back health, help, and healing to their people.
I was reading these books and learning that most people have one wild animal spirit that their life is aligned with. I’m wowed. This is what I call a core beast here. Maybe many people call it a power animal. I was like, “I could use that.” They’re supposed to help empower, guide, and protect you. I went on a shamanic journey to find mine.
Tell the people who don’t know. The fact that you go into meditation, do you beat a drum? What do you do?
The shamanic journey describes you altering your consciousness using drumming or some repetition like shaking a rattle. Some people tap their feet. There are so many ways but the classic way would be to drum. When you listen to the drum, that goes at a particular beat with a speed. Scientists have studied this. It causes your brain to go into theta, which is this between awake and a sleep state or a light trance is what we would call it. You’re still awake and aware of what’s going on. I endeavored to go on one of these journeys.
If somebody’s reading and curious about who their spirit is an animal is, you can go to my website and if you subscribe, you’ll get access to a shamanic journey very much like the one that I took. I’ll talk you through the whole thing. I met this wonderful mother bear and she rubbed my back. She assured me where I was going, that my life wasn’t that far away, and all I had to do was relax and enjoy the process.
All I can tell you is that even though I was a physician and very scientific, I felt so good and loved in that state. When I came back, I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m crazy. Is this real? I don’t know.” I decided that it felt so incredibly reassuring and good that I was going to continue to go back and visit her. That’s what I began to do. One of the things that I do with people when they’re feeling distressed, lost with their career, or maybe because of losing somebody is often, I will help them connect with a spirit animal. That often restores people’s sense of who they are and their sense of power. Sometimes it also helps us to accept ourselves for who we are.
Part of being human is that we’re all extremely unique. I don’t know about you but I’ve spent a lot of my life comparing myself to others, thinking I should be like everybody else, or trying to conform. The beauty of the shamanic path or connecting with the spirit animal is that you begin to embrace who you are and how you’re here to help and serve. Even if you and I both had an elephant, that elephant would be working with each of us in our unique way. It’s pretty amazing.
It sounds like what you do helps people let go of judgment of themselves and more into self-love. If you walk around the planet, instead of judging people, say, “They’re on a different journey or have a different mission.” It takes away that judgment too in a very different way. Thank you, Sarah. Everyone, thanks for reading my inspiring and authentic interview with Sarah Seidelmann. Let’s continue with this feel-good conversation for Sarah with this question. Sarah, how do you help smart, successful people connect with the divine so that they can do what they came here to do? Is it through the power animal or their spirit animal or are there other ways also?
There are a lot of ways. Often, I will teach people who are interested to do the shamanic journey. I work with a lot of highly educated. Not everybody is highly educated but many people have done postgraduate education or have achieved a lot in their life through their intellectual capacities. They come to a turn in the road where they realize they can’t negotiate what’s going on with them in their brain with their intellect. They need to connect with their heart, soul, and that wisdom.
The spirit animals are one powerful way. Another is helping people to send them out in nature. Often when I’m taking people on a retreat, I will send people out to a beautiful spot in nature and go to ask the spirit of that place to give them teaching, for example. For the people who are reading, try this sometime. Find a place that you’re drawn to. It’s probably winter for a lot of people but suit up, go out there, and find a place that you like. Sit down and ask the spirit of that place to tell what it knows and share something with you.
I find that with that simple practice, people get the most profound insights. You don’t have to be a shaman or some spiritually enlightening person to get messages from nature. We are all hardwired. We are part of nature. We are nature. It’s natural that we can communicate this way. Maybe some of your readers have walked by a tree and felt drawn to it or felt a special connection or a sense of peace.
It can be so easy. Also, the ocean or something like that. Often, they’ll get these powerful insights like, “I need to let go of trying to control all these things in my life,” or some simple instruction. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to hear those kinds of insights from a tree, a pile of branches, or something than it is to hear that from a friend or your partner.
Your friends point a finger at you and say, “I know what you want to do.”
That’s right. The same goes for the spirit animals. They can be fierce and bossy sometimes. I was more willing to listen to my spirit animal than somebody else a lot of the time. There’s a lot of whimsy to this work and playfulness. It’s not all silly and playful because there are serious things too and sad things but there’s a lot of delight. What a lot of us are yearning for is to recover that sense of delight and odd wonder in the world.
For the finite amount of time in this lifetime, we have to go through this. Shouldn’t we have some delight and feel good? You all be suffering. I don’t think so. We’re talking about spirit animals. This leads me right to the question. Tell us about your two books. One is called The Book of Beasties and the other is called Swimming with Elephants. Tell them why they should buy them. What have you got to teach and tell people about these books? I read one of them and I loved it.
Thank you so much. The Book of Beasties is this beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of spirit animals. The first part of the book is a how-to guide, how to receive messages from the everyday animals that are crossing your path if you want to learn how to do that. Once you’ve found your spirit animal, how to connect with them and all the practices that might be powerful for you.
The back is this beautiful encyclopedia with tons of illustrations and ideas. The message is, “Why do you keep seeing giraffes popping up on Facebook? Is this giraffe trying to tell you something?” This may sound silly but people often find when they look it up, they’re like, “Some of this resonates.” It’s playful and it’s fun to have with friends and family and discover who your kids’ or grandkids’ spirit animals are at Thanksgiving.
That’s a great conversation for Thanksgiving.
It’s so much fun. Swimming with Elephants is a memoir. It’s a little bit of comedic and also poignant. It’s the tale of me leaving medicine to pursue this more spiritual work. I have four kids and my husband is a doctor too. It wasn’t easy navigating that change. Everybody had to come along.
I enjoyed your stories and journey. My heart went out to you sometimes for parts that were fascinating. One of the things you talk about is that we choose how we respond to our perceived suffering. You used the analogy of a weighty elephant who swims effortlessly on the river. Can you tell us more about that?
There was a time when I was feeling down and I went to the spirit world with on the drum journey. I met up with another spirit animal that I knew well, Alice, who’s an elephant that I talk about in the book. She took me to meet her family of elephants. They took me swimming in the spirit realm. It was so delightful and incredible. I felt so loved.
If you can imagine, swimming with a bunch of elephants and all their legs churning the water. They were blowing water using their trunks like water Nerf guns. It was so amazing. This is the buoyancy that the spirit of that connection can bring you even when you’re feeling sad and down. It’s an absolute boost to your mood. There are things we can do.
I have to tell you what touched me so much when I read your book Swimming with Elephants. Shamanic healing can be helpful regarding mental illness. I had no idea. You tell this touching story about your dad that’s so inspiring. Can you share it with everyone? Not just me. Let everyone else know this one.
I had a teacher that I engaged with to start learning some of the principles of shamanism. They started talking about the idea that when a person dies suddenly or accidentally, sometimes they’re not aware that they’re dead. Their body dies but their spirit lingers here like a ghost. I didn’t know what is a ghost but I finally understood. Their spirit lingers here.
When I heard that, I thought immediately of my grandmother who died. She was drinking and smoking in bed. She was an alcoholic. The bed was set on fire because she fell asleep. She died when my dad was very young in his twenties. My dad had been depressed his whole life. I said to him after I got back from this, “Dad, would you ever be interested in shamanic healing? What the teacher had explained is some kind of spiritual work had helped.”
He said yes. I took him to a Shaman nearby and the Shaman endeavored to go on a journey. He found my grandmother back in that burning apartment. Her spirit was still there as part of my dad’s soul. She was there with him waiting. The spirits took my grandmother and transcended her to wherever she needed to go next. My dad received that soul part back to him.
For months afterward, you could tell he became happier. He’s off his antidepressants. It’s amazing. Weeks after this happened, to make it so real, I had this dream of that grandmother whom I had barely known. I was two and a half when she died. She came to me in a dream so strongly, Irene. It was so moving. She had transcended. She was sitting under an apple tree with my grandpa. She was like, “I’m so proud of you. Tell your father how proud I am of him.”
It was amazing. It verified for me the power of this work and the miraculous nature of it. It was special. One thing that inspired me about shamanism is the way they look at mental illness. They think of it as an initiation. When somebody gets depressed, has a psychotic break, or whatever it is, everybody circles the wagons around them. There’s a lot of love and compassion. Everybody’s waiting because they know this person’s going to get a gift from this experience. There’s something that’s trying to come through them.
If the person wants to heal, they help them. It helped me a lot because my mom, my dad, and my sister had a mental illness. It began to help me to understand not to see them as a victim but as a hero being forged by the experience. It doesn’t mean that every single person who has schizophrenia is necessarily going to be restored to perfect health through shamanic healing. However, the way we view that, everybody belongs and is here to somehow help us all.
This is a modality that may be able to help. It’s worth trying if the person is open to it. I have seen soul retrieval in all that before so I know that it’s very real. It’s wonderful. Sarah, you call death the ultimate life coach. Please tell us about your encounters with death. This is big. Explain why you believe that facing and thinking about our deaths helps us to live.
Many of your readers may encounter near-death experiences. My first encounter with death was in college. I got a malignant melanoma diagnosis. For the couple of years that followed that, I was concerned about getting metastatic melanoma and dying. My parents were crying around me a little bit. It was a very strange period.
At that time, it forced me to look at my life. I thought, “If I’m going to be dead in six months, I’m going to change the way I’m doing things.” I was a real gunner student. I was never taking a break. I didn’t go to parties. Suddenly, I was like, “If there’s a party, tell me. I want to party.” I became a party girl and started doing a lot more stuff for fun. That saved me in medical school too because I never lost sight of that again. It’s very important to also have fun.
I have other stories to share about that but I finished a retreat with people where we all sat and faced our death. It was one of the most powerful things. Ask yourself this, if you had died yesterday, what is it that you wish you would’ve done? What do you regret? How do you wish you would’ve left things? Whom did you need to say something to you? Did you need to apologize? Did you need to say, “I love you?” Was there some creative project that you never gave yourself a chance to try? What was it? It’s so important.
We have this limited time. We live under this illusion that we have forever and we don’t. It also brings this precious quality to every day, as you know with losing your husband and this death. Even when we lose somebody we love so much, it awakens us and breaks our hearts open. We start to live and see other people suffering. I don’t know. It’s scary for people to look at but it’s so much fun.
It’s freeing. You and I are both putting true content, quality, and heartfelt in every way on our lawns to help other people. When I do finally get to that point, I would like to have known would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve. That’s so important. The big question I have to ask you in this interview is please tell us about your retreats combining surfing and shamanism. What is a sacred pack of dermal pilgrimage?
There are a few spots left on my next pack of dermal pilgrimage. It’s a trip to Northern Thailand, where we go and live at a place where there are elephants living right on site. We do trekking with the Karen Hill tribe people. We’re going to do an overnight stay with them. There are people that live shamanically. It’s very much in harmony with the natural world. It’s a beautiful wild place and we’re going to do kundalini yoga but it’s for beginners. It’s nothing challenging. It’s a lot of breathing work.
We’re going to do shamanic work. We’re going to get to know ourselves and our spirit animals. We’re going to commune with nature. It’s going to be beautiful. I have another one in the Spring in April of 2020. We’re going to Bali and be doing drumming. That’s for women. We’re going to be engaging with our inner goddesses. There are spaces left on that one too so send me an email at FollowYourFeelGood.com. I will send you everything you need to know for you to explore and look into these things.
Who wouldn’t want to be engaged with their inner goddess? That’s fabulous. I understand that you often work virtually with people by phone and Skype. Do you have a message about the importance of healing that you’d like to share with our readers, Sarah?
In healing, sometimes it’s hard to motivate ourselves to do it but do it for everyone around you. Do it for the next seven generations, your grandchildren, their children, and all those that are going to come after you. When we process our grief and work through our stuff, it lightens everybody’s lives. It will ripple out of you and change everybody’s lives. It’s like being selfish. Working on your healing or investing time and money and your healing work is a gift you give others. It can be hard.
You changed the legacy, the pain.
The pattern can stop with you. Otherwise, when we don’t, that stuff ends up getting dumped onto the shoulders of our kids, friends, and loved ones.
We pass it along. You’re right. How can our readers who can’t wait connect with you? Where can they buy your books? Do you have any offers for them?
My books are at Amazon. You should also be able to find them at any independent bookstore. Ask for them. My website is FollowYourFeelGood.com. You can book appointments directly there. If you join the mailing list and put your name in the yellow box, you’ll get immediate access to a guided shamanic journey where I will walk you gently down into the spirit world, where you can meet a beastie to help you out. It’s one of the most magical things you can do.
Sarah, what is your tip for finding joy in life?
It’s getting to know yourself so that you know what you like and who you are. A lot of times, we get caught up in taking care of everybody, our loved ones, work, or whatever it is. We lose track of who we are. Take that time to get to know yourself.
Thank you so much, Sarah.
Thank you, Irene.
My pleasure. You are such a bright light, encouraging people to discover their feel-good and follow it, knowing that it will take them to good places. Thank you for this very enlightening, fascinating, and feel-good interview. Here’s a reminder, everyone. Make sure to follow us and like us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks again for reading. As I like to say, to be continued. Bye for now.