The Heart of Brazil

December 9, 2015 at 4:40 pm (Interesting stories, Magical Places, Sacred Sites, Serene's articles) (, , , , )

inspirit_articleThis is an article I wrote for InSpirit Magazine, which appeared in their January 2015 issue. Someone was asking me about it the other day, so here it is…

I believe the earth is sacred and nature is healing, and I’ve learned a little about myself, and gained some kind of healing, from every place I’ve travelled to. From plant medicine ceremonies in the jungles of the Amazon and pagan rituals in the English countryside to meditations inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid and spiritual pilgrimages along the leylines of Spain, I’ve long appreciated the magic of the earth itself to heal us.

The South American country of Brazil is no different. It’s a place of powerful crystals, ancient magic, exotic spirituality, lush rainforests, dramatic waterfalls, potent energy and intense vibrations. My journey began in the hot, dry north, a place of sun-soaked, primal energy. Salvador is the centre of Afro-Brasilian culture and of Candomble, a spiritual tradition developed from the rituals introduced by African slaves, the Catholicism they hid their practices within, and the animistic beliefs of the Amerindian people native to this land. I was so grateful to be able to attend a Candomble ritual in the home of a priestess, which was fascinating, with its primitive drum beats, trance dancing and channeling of messages from their deities.

inSpirit-Healing-Cover-231x300I felt more at home in the south though, at Iguazu Falls, the sacred meeting point of air, land and water (and three separate countries – Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay), and a place of rainbows and wild nature. The thermal resort of Caxambu was also deeply healing, and I felt refreshed and renewed as I soaked in the heated mineral waters of one spring and drank from a cooler source. The twelve different springs all have a different mineral composition (and a different taste!), and are recommended for the treatment of various different ailments, from kidney stones to eye problems, high blood pressure and infertility.

Spiritual travellers also flock to the village of Sao Thome das Letras, which is located on a bed of quartz rock in the mountains and is famous for the number of UFO sightings that have taken place there, as well as for the entrance to a tunnel claimed to burrow all the way to Machu Picchu in Peru, which is kind of spooky to climb down into. Some claim it is one of the seven energy points of the planet, and the vibration of the area is palpable.

paintingBut my most profound healing experience took place in the centre of Brazil, the heart of the country, where the energy is nurturing and gentle. Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as John of God, has been healing people for decades in the tiny village of Abadiania. He was guided to build his healing centre, the Casa de Dom Inacio (the House of Saint Ignatius), here because it’s located on one of the largest quartz crystal deposits in the world, and quartz amplifies healing vibrations. You can certainly feel the energy of the land here. The gardens surrounding the buildings are a place of immense peace and power, and it’s wonderful to just relax under the trees, meditating on the wooden benches, talking to other pilgrims and soaking up the sunshine and the leylines of the earth.

Nearby is a sacred waterfall, and a visit is often prescribed as part of people’s treatment. An underground stream flows through the crystal beds beneath the Casa and is purified and charged with energy before splashing down into the waterfall. It’s wonderful to submerge yourself in its (refreshingly cold and) healing waters, gazing up at the sky through the green canopy overhead, absorbing the ancient power of nature, and of the crystals and the earth itself. Some people have visions there; others feel physically, emotionally or spiritually cleansed, and it’s considered a sacred place for direct communication with Spirit.

The incredible healing energy of the land in this area is an important part of Joao’s work, but so are the visible operations, psychic surgeries and energy work he performs at the Casa. He has cut tumours out of bodies, got wheelchair-bound people walking, cured cancer, blindness and HIV, and facilitated spiritual and emotional healing from grief, depression and psychological disorders. Yet the seventy-three-year-old dubbed the Miracle Man can’t read or write and has no medical training. Instead he is a medium, channelling thirty-three different entities, many of them deceased Brazilian doctors and surgeons, as well as the founder of the Jesuits the Casa is named after. It is they who diagnose the thousands of people who flock to Abadiania every week, prescribe the herbal medicines and perform the surgeries. Joao doesn’t even remember what he’s done at the end of a session – he’s an “unconscious medium”, giving his body over while he channels the medical experts through. Staff at the Casa can tell which being he is incorporating by his mannerisms, voice and even eye colour, which changes depending on which entity is working through him on a particular day.

I don’t know how or why it seems to work; certainly it defies logical explanation and understanding. Joao has been studied by doctors and scientists from around the world, but no one has been able to explain what he does or prove him a fake. He has his sceptics, but it’s hard to doubt when you’ve experienced it yourself and seen it with your own eyes. I witnessed some visible surgeries – which I struggled with because I am squeamish and their gruesome vividness was confronting – and was astounded by the quick recovery and effectiveness for those who had them.

I took my mum in the hope Joao could cure her diabetes, so I was surprised, when I went before the entity on my first day, to be told I’d be having an operation that afternoon. Terrified by the prospect of an eye scraping or scissors up the nose, his most common treatment, the whole time I waited to go in I prayed for it to be an invisible surgery. Thankfully, it was. I filed in to a small room with several others and sat in meditation, then Joao came in and said a prayer in Portuguese, asking the entities to heal us. I felt a sensation below my chest – not pain exactly, but discomfort, as though something was being done there. When I went back to my room, where I was instructed to rest for 24 hours, the area was swollen and sore. If I was imagining it, it would not have been there that I pictured something being done. I also felt dazed and vague, much like the after-effects of anaesthesia. In scientific tests of Joao’s patients, x-rays have discovered incisions and internal stitches in people who’ve had invisible operations.

After resting, I spent the next day and a half in current – when visitors are not having an operation, they sit in the surrounding room, meditating in order to raise the vibration and send energy to Joao and the entities. I went back for revision the following week and sat in the current room again, spent time at the sacred waterfall, had a crystal bed session, and went before Joao with a photo of a sick friend, who was prescribed herbal medicine. I was also prescribed herbs for 55 days, along with slight dietary changes.

My migraines did improve for a while, although I was not cured. Nor, unfortunately, was my mum. But we met people who had been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and dramatically cured by Joao, including a woman who was riddled with cancer and told she would soon die – she’s since dedicated her life to helping him as a volunteer – an American man crippled with arthritis, who was slowly beginning to walk again, the woman who ran our pousada, who was cured of a brain tumour, and an Aussie healed of a near-fatal heart murmur. We also met an amazing Brazilian woman who’d travelled to the Casa in search of both emotional and physical healing. When she saw Joao he told her to start painting for him. She replied that she had no artistic talent, but he insisted she did now – and she could suddenly paint the most beautiful healing artworks, which gave her an income as well as a purpose.

Meeting fellow pilgrims is definitely a huge part of the experience, and a wonderful sense of camaraderie develops with the other people who are there hoping to be healed. Visitors swap stories, share experiences, and lend support as each person goes through their individual process. The healings here are not always what you would expect. Some are far more subtle, or address a different issue, but just being in the energy of this place, in this land, with these people, is an experience I will always treasure.

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Meet My Character: Book Blog Tour

January 17, 2015 at 11:42 pm (Book reviews, Magic, Publishing, Serene's articles) (, , , , , , )

felicitybookAuthor Felicity Pulman invited me to take part in the Meet My Character Book Tour Blog – you can read my post about Carlie from Into the Mists further down the page, and enter a competition to win a copy of the book at the bottom… My friendship with Felicity began when we bonded over indie publishing a few years ago, and we’ve supported each other through deadline stress and book dramas since then (along with sharing successes and some lighter moments too). I was honoured that Felicity contributed a piece to Witchy Magic, based on her beautiful Janna Mysteries series, and so happy that we could launch our new books together last year, when Felicity unveiled her gripping I, Morgana, and I released Into the Dark.

Pulman_FelicityFelicity’s I, Morgana is a beautifully written story about the legendary Morgana, and she’s also penned A Ring Through Time, The Shalott Trilogy and Ghost Boy. And next week Blood Oath, the first in her new-look medieval crime series The Janna Chronicles will be published, followed by a new book each month until June. Find out more about Felicity and her work at FelicityPulman.com.au, and read my recent interview with her here. And you can check out her Meet My Character post here.

Now it’s my turn to tag two authors – I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about Dionne and Emma, and also checking out their blogs once they’re up!

dionne_bookI met Sydney writer Dionne Lister last year at Supanova, where we both had stands to launch our new books, and we got to chat again at Book Expo a few months later. She’s the author of the fantasy series Circle of Talia, a coming-of-age story that weaves together magic, adventure and dragons, beginning with the novel Shadows of the Realm, continuing in A Time of Darkness, and concluding with Realm of Blood and Fire.

dionne1Dionne also writes novellas, has released a collection of suspenseful short stories, and is working on her next novel, Little Dove, the first in a new fantasy series. Plus she’s studying for an Associate Degree in Creative Writing, runs the Booktastik website, and co-hosts the Tweep Nation podcast – so I guess I should stop complaining about how busy I am 🙂 To find out more about Dionne and her books, visit her at www.dionnelisterwriter.wordpress.com.

Emma_book_blindsightedI met Emma Hibbs at the online book launch of Into the Mists (which I shared with Selina Fenech, who was launching Hope’s Reign, the second book in her Memory’s Wake Trilogy), where we chatted about faeries and nature and archery and Merida from Brave. We’ve kept in touch since – one of the joys of Facebook is connecting with wonderful people from around the globe – but as Emma lives in north-west England, we haven’t met in the “real” world yet 🙂

EmmaHibbsWriting as EC Hibbs, she is the author of the YA fantasy novel Blindsighted Wanderer and the paranormal romance/thriller Tragic Silence – and she’s already completed books two and three of the latter, and begun a new series. Emma is also a talented artist, which you can check out at her Elphame Arts website, where she does portraits as well as designing gorgeous book covers. Find out more about her at echibbs.weebly.com.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cover_Mists_smallNow to my book character!

What is her name? 

Carlie (named for the goddess Kali) Parker. She’s the main character in Into the Mists and its sequels Into the Dark and Into the Light, and the story is told from her point of view…

Is she a fictional/historical character?

She’s fictional, although many of the rituals she takes part in are based on my experiences, her questioning and scepticism around magic and spirituality echo mine, and she drinks her tea the same way I do, so I guess there is a little of me in her – or her in me… I’m not sure which way that goes 🙂

When and where is the story set?

Carlie is from Sydney Australia, and there are flashbacks to her life there, but most of the story is set in Summer Hill, a small village in south-west England, shrouded in the magical mists that are a character themselves in these books. It’s set in modern times, although I avoided the whole Facebook/iPhone aspects of today, in favour of Carlie being able to connect with the magic of nature and the landscape around her. Summer Hill is a fictional place, but it could perhaps be a parallel universe that sits atop the town of Glastonbury – a different kind of Avalon…

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

When we meet Carlie she is seventeen, and on a plane to the other side of the world. Her parents have just been killed in a car accident, and she’s being sent to live with a grandmother she didn’t know existed. She’s devastated, obviously, and angry, and already hates her new guardian – her mum had left England as a teenager, and always told her that her grandmother was dead, so she believes that this woman must be a monster, to have driven her daughter to flee to Australia and break all contact with her.

What should we know about Carlie?

She’s full of grief and loss, which has also made her angry and bitter, and she’s drowning in self-loathing and guilt. She’s angry at her circumstances and at the world, and cynical of anyone she meets – real or magical – that wants to help her. But her journey into the mists becomes a journey into her inner self, and she has the potential to reveal another self, one that’s smart and funny and caring and full of love, if she has the courage to let go of her teenage defiance and the walls she’s built around her.

What is the personal goal of the character?

In the beginning, she doesn’t really have any goals – she’s not even sure she wants to live. She’s so broken by loss – of her whole family as well as her best friend, her home, her school, her whole future life that she had planned out – that she wishes she had the courage to end it. But eventually the darkness recedes a little, and so her goal becomes to get through each day, to start to heal, and to make amends for her own bad behaviour. She also becomes desperate to uncover the secrets of her mother’s younger life, which have left her shattered and unsure of who she really is, and to unlock the mystery of the woman in blue and the cottage within the mists that isn’t always there…

cover_low-resWho is the publisher, and where can we read more about the book? Are there more in the series?

Into the Mists and Into the Dark are published by Blessed Bee Books, and available in print and ebook formats. You can order them through Amazon, your local bookstore or my website, where you can read more about them too. The third book in the trilogy, Into the Light, will be published in May 2015.

There are three copies of Into the Mists to be won. Just leave a comment on this blog post, then email me via my website, SereneConneeley.com, requesting a copy. The first three people to email me with their postal address will win. (*Paperback or ebook copy depending on where you live…)

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Radical Forgiveness

May 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm (Interesting stories, Serene's articles) (, , )

An interview I did for a national weekly magazine a while back, about a process called Radical Forgiveness, developed by UK-born, American-based author, motivational speaker and spiritual teacher Colin Tipping…

Radical Change

Change your life in just seven minutes, with a healing method that leads to forgiveness of self and others.

Radical Forgiveness is a way to heal emotional and physical blocks and become happier and healthier. It involves reframing your perceptions through filling out a worksheet, going to a workshop or seeing a trained coach. Sound too easy?
Colin Tipping, author of Radical Forgiveness: Making Room for the Miracle, agrees that it seems deceptively simple – but says that is part of its beauty. ‘I’m still surprised by how simple yet effective it is. I’ve seen miracles occur. And bearing in mind how difficult traditional forgiveness is, it’s really amazing,’ he says.
‘People are sceptical about it because they want it to be more complicated. But it’s just a matter of being willing to try it. If a person does that, no matter how disbelieving they are, something will shift.’
US based Colin teaches the process through his book, on a CD, as a coach and through the tools on his website. He also runs workshops, lectures and ceremonies, which he is doing around Australia for the next month. There are also coaches in Australia who can help you through the process, and you can go through the same steps with the worksheet in his book.
Colin believes the first step to healing is to stop blaming others for our problems and move out of the victim archetype. He says traditional forgiveness is good, but it maintains your belief that you are a victim by assuming you are right and someone else is wrong, and that you need to forgive them. It can take years. Radical Forgiveness on the other hand is virtually instantaneous and can be achieved using simple tools. It shifts your consciousness to an understanding that nothing wrong took place and that whatever happened was called forth by you for your own healing and growth.
‘I recognise that this is extremely challenging for someone severely victimised and still carrying a lot of pain. I ask only that you have an open mind and see if this helps you,’ Colin says.
He has people come to him – or one of his coaches – for all kinds of reasons, including physical illnesses ranging from the flu to cancer, as well as emotional issues such as divorce, financial lack, repetitive relationship problems and sexual abuse. It is a principle of RF that if you have a negative belief about yourself, your higher self will bring into your life someone who will act out this belief for you so you can recognise it and let it go. When you don’t take the chance to learn the lesson, you set yourself up to continually repeat the bad patterns.
‘It always happens to me.’ ‘I always attract men who use me.’ ‘I never get paid enough.’ Sound familiar?
Colin’s sister Jill was about to leave her second husband Jeff, as he had withdrawn his affection from her and was instead lavishing all his love on his daughter. She felt rejected and unloved. ‘It’s not fair,’ she told Colin. ‘I’m never enough for a man. I’m unlovable. There must be something wrong with me!’
He asked her to get in touch with her feelings. Had she felt this way before? She revealed that as a little girl she had felt abandoned and unloved by her father. This belief – based on a lie, as in fact her father loved her deeply but was incapable of showing affection to anyone – anchored itself in her subconscious. And she kept attracting people into her life who would perpetuate this belief. Her first husband was unfaithful, proving to her that she wasn’t enough –  and allowing herself to stay the victim while blaming him for being wrong.
Colin helped her see people are just mirrors – reinforcing all the beliefs we have about ourselves, even bad ones. He told her she could stay the victim, or she could thank him and heal the toxic belief system she’s held all her life. She worked through it with Colin and took responsibility for how her vision of herself created the situation. Within days Jeff’s behaviour changed, without her telling him anything. They’re happy now.
‘By realising he’d acted that way for her soul’s growth, she released the energy tied up in the situation, and that’s when miracles happen,’ Colin says. ‘Immediately the energy started to move again, and the love started to flow in her direction. With this process problems will just dissolve and relationships improve dramatically.’

How Radical Forgiveness works
1. Someone compassionately listens to your story (or you do the worksheet) and honours it as being your truth at that time. Owning your story from the point of view of being a victim is important.
2. Get in touch with how angry, hurt, rejected unloved or taken advantage of you feel. This is a vital step that many leave out, thinking you shouldn’t have ‘negative’ feelings.
3. Look at when you first felt these emotions, and how your interpretation of that event led to false beliefs forming – beliefs which determined how you see yourself and who you attract into your life. Most negative beliefs begin in childhood and aren’t based on fact.
4. Reframe your story in this new light. Shift your perception so that instead of seeing the situation as a tragedy, you become willing to see it was what you needed for your growth.
5. Integrate the change into the physical, emotional and spiritual bodies so it becomes part of who you are.

Visit the Radical Forgiveness website here and visit Colin’s website and blog here.

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