Love and the Beauty of Pain

Love is NOT easy. Somebody WILL get hurt.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

I’m not talking about creating suffering for the sake of suffering, or inflicting our Shadows on others because we don’t know how else to bleed off a bit of the inner tension. I’m referring to the healthy kind of pain that squeezes your heart enough to point out your wounds and blind spots, but that ultimately lives in a safe container where it is welcome to be held and examined properly as a gift and learning tool, rather than an enemy.

I got dumped this afternoon, which was mostly a surprise for me. My wonderful (now ex) boyfriend and I have been experiencing some challenges lately, but I was fully prepared to gently and compassionately work through them together. I was under the impression that he was on board to do the same. In this case, no one is the bad guy. No one is the victim. Instead, we are two people who care deeply about each other, love spending time together and had some challenges come up, as they always do in relationship. I was ready to say yes to working through them. He was not.

Being told, “I don’t want to hurt you,” by a partner as part of a breakup speech feels simultaneously very sweet and completely clueless. I say that without judgement or pointing fingers, but as someone who has experienced my fair share of pain in relationship and knows the difference between healthy, constructive, growth-inducing pain and heart-splitting, destructive, damaging trauma. This relationship had already poked one of my deepest wounds and caused me some significant discomfort, but I was still willing to say yes to it because I knew that, by working through that pain with a compassionate partner, I was showing up in the world as the kind of person I want to be, and ultimately moving toward healing. I knew I was signing up for more painful teaching moments by continuing to say yes to being with this person, and I was still happy to do so because I know the richness that comes from such experiences. (Not to mention the sheer joy and beautiful connection that comprised the majority of our relationship.)

Pain is a great teacher—one of the most powerful and blatantly misunderstood allies for someone who seeks to truly know themselves. When we are children, we learn from pain. We learn that we can run, and when we fall and skin our knees, we learn to run more gracefully. As we grow, we learn all sorts of amazing skills that allow us to move us through life, and because of pain, we learn to do them well, respecting the potential for danger. We know that living in the world involves exposing ourselves to harm, but if we do not wish to let the potential pain dictate our actions, we learn how to move through our lives with awareness and grace and do those things anyway.

Relationship and the pain that comes with it is one of the most marvelous teachers and catalysts for unfolding the infinite beauty of one’s consciousness. Pain teaches us where our edges are so we can look at them, hold them with tenderness and gently lean into the wounding. When used with care and awareness, pain teaches us compassion, honesty, surrender, and how to love ourselves and our partners more deeply. Creating opportunities where pain can be welcomed as an honored teacher, rather than pushed away in fear, is what allows a relationship to build a solid foundation based in trust and the lived experience of working together through a challenge. Couples who hold each other’s pain lovingly and allow it to transmute into growth and learning cultivate a relationship dynamic that is much more likely to weather the storm of an unexpected life trauma (accident, sickness, family catastrophe) because they will have the tools ready to meet that pain with awareness, compassion and grace.

I cannot blame this man for wanting to avoid causing me harm, and for wanting to avoid being hurt, himself. None of us want to inflict suffering upon those whom we hold dear, and yet, love and pain are two sides of the same coin. Only through fully understanding and embracing both of these energies can we ever hope to know the true depth and beauty of our hearts.

As I shepherd myself through this process of closing a chapter with someone—a beautiful, compassionate man with whom I was just beginning to fall in love— I will gently examine my wounds and edges. I will say yes to this squeeze in my chest. I will invite pain in as a beloved ally to teach me the depth of my own heart and my capacity to love.

I will tenderly hold my own pain and know that it’s a beautiful thing.


SHAMAN: What's in a "title"?

Last week I enjoyed the opportunity to introduce myself to someone using "anything but the woo-woo words" to describe myself and what I do. I was meeting a family member of someone close to me for the first time, and was forewarned that this family member would be most receptive to meeting me and warming to my character if I did not use "Spiritual language" to describe myself. In short, the phrase, "I'm a Shaman!" was off the table.

Challenge accepted!

When asked, "what do you do?" by this family member, I described the functional, tangible aspects of my work. "I support humans and animals in their journey to natural health and wellness. I work with animal health and behavior, and on the human side, I help people connect with their joy, love and purpose. I mentor people through challenging periods of their lives and help them work their way to the other side feeling more empowered, confident and connected." This person nodded approvingly and the conversation moved on.

Fast forward to today, in continuing with the theme, when someone online asked me, "What do you do as a Shaman?"

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed considering the functional implications of the term. What does a Shaman "do?"

Here is what I wrote back:

"I'm kind of laughing at my internal response to your question, which was "What DON'T I do as a Shaman?" I know that's not how you meant the question, but I try each day to live the idea of "my every breath and action is a practice in devotion to All That Is." So, essentially, I do everything as a Shaman, from washing the dishes and dancing to my healing work and more!

In other senses of the question, I practice the philosophy of "A Shaman devotes herself to the health and well-being of her Tribe." In my case, my Tribe is my global community. I work with humans and animals all over the world (though much of my client base is local) to help them discover and express their greatest joy, their fiercest love and their deepest purpose. I teach empowerment, mentor personal investigation and shepherd people through the underworld as they experience their own dark nights of the soul.

Functionally, I also work with supporting natural health and wellness (for humans and animals), teach Reiki and other healing practices (to humans), translate between species (animal communication) and channel Spirit (usually for humans).

Does that answer your question?"

Being a Shaman means different things to different people. The term gets thrown around a lot, and it's often loaded with some kind of judgment and/or misunderstanding. It took me YEARS before I was able to "put on the mantle" of claiming my medicine and publicly call myself a Shaman.

Now that I've journeyed through the process of fearing the label, unfolding the layers of the label, coming into my own understanding of the label, claiming the label and living the label, I'm finding that the label matters less and less. Shaman isn't what I DO, it's who I AM and how I live each moment of my life.

When my every breath is a prayer for the Highest and Greatest Good of All That Is, when I practice presence and peace in the face of every challenge, when I accompany people into the depths of their darkest fears so that they may feel safe, when I surrender to Spirit and allow the Divine to flow through me in order to let someone feel loved and seen and held--THAT is what I do, with or without the label. Shaman or not.

To be fair, the word "Shaman" fits more easily on a business card. It can be a very loaded "title," but it is also only that--a title. How is someone living their life as a Shaman? How do they practice their devotion? What is their offering? How do they live their service? These are questions I love to ponder for myself and others in the world, whether or not they call themselves Shamans.

I offer my gratitude to all those who continue to inquire and create opportunities for me to ponder my work, my choices and my path! I gladly receive these moments of reflection and growing understanding.

Many blessings and much love from your friendly neighborhood Shaman!

Michelle Hawk

Winter Solstice Blessings

December 21, 2016

I allow my gaze to float serenely over the bare birch limbs visible immediately outside of my office corner window. The sunlight streaming from behind the pine trees turns the water droplets hanging from twigs into gleaming starbursts that decorate the seemingly lifeless boughs.

What juxtaposition to witness this afternoon of the Winter Solstice in its gleaming golden glory. The misty haze that rises from the trees captures the sunlight and turns my thoughts towards tree auras as I imagine my hungry cells, like those of the languid pines, greedily slurping up every photon in photosynthetic gluttony. (I had my DNA tested earlier this year and I’m about 36% solar panel.)

How interesting, I think to myself, that this, the Darkest Day of the Year, can be so full of glowing, radiant light. The sweetness that comes from an unexpected sunny day creeps inside my chest like a beautiful poem, and I feel Gaia whispering to me as a lover would, telling me to relish this gift. I gaze at my sunlit hand in awe, noticing my fierce pleasure at the warmth and illumination. I employ my Hawk vision to help me observe in intricate detail the texture of my skin, the precise shade of each freckle and the exact pattern of the tiny, almost invisible hairs that cover the back of my hand.

Tonight I will drop into the fullness of the darkness and surrender back into the womb space of our Earthly cycles. I embrace the dark. I welcome her touch. I feel at ease in her inky softness. We have worked and played well together over the years, and I appreciate her for her wisdom.

Yet, for now, I hold in my heart the simple joy of knowing balance and grace. Even on the Darkest Day of the Year, there still shines a painfully beautiful light. Even in our own darkest moments, there still exists that same excruciating luminosity. This idea is the very speck of radiance that saved me three years ago, when I thought that I would be swallowed whole by the insurmountable Shadow. Darkness and I hadn’t yet cultivated our comfortable friendship at that time, and I feared that she would make me disappear.

I needn’t have worried (though that was part of the journey). Darkness has proven herself to be a wonderful teacher and powerful ally. She and I have achieved a level of ease and intimacy that I enjoy with only a few trusted beings. I have danced and held ceremony to honor her every year since we began our partnership, and will do so again this evening.

Last year for the Winter Solstice, I wrote a love letter to my Medicine Family in celebration of community, Tribe and witnessing us hold each other through our journeys. This year, I write this love letter to both Darkness and Light to honor their wisdom and their presence in all of our lives.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Happy Solstice.

A Love Letter to My Medicine Family

Originally published on Eagle Song December 22, 2015.

Dear Tribe,

Happy Solstice! I am so grateful to take this time to reflect on the past year and its lessons, and on the people with whom I exchanged beautiful energy.

Thank you so much for the times we danced together, laughed, cooked amazing food, dressed up in costumes, drank tea and talked about the Universe and sat in hot springs until we felt like we were dissolving into infinity.

Thank you for sitting in the forest with me and listening to the rain, nerding out with me over communication and human consciousness, serenading me with beautiful songs and feeding me chocolate.

Thank you for witnessing me in my grief, offering me reflections on my process, being amazing mirrors for my own growth and awareness, teaching me about Power and Love and living your own journeys so fiercely that it inspires me to do the same. Thank you for showing up to talk about the hard stuff with me.

I am so happy to hold space for your process, to reflect with you on your journey, to hold you as you cry, to read your words, to crack jokes all night so you can laugh for a moment and forget your broken heart. I am happy to hold ceremony for you and offer you healing.

I love journeying with you into your own darkness, helping you discover your demons and shine a light on your deepest fears. I will always be there to share my insight, offer my intuition or be a sounding board. Tell me your stories, share your epiphanies and bare your hearts. I love watching your soul sparkle as you speak your Truth.

This past year has been particularly magical because of my amazing Medicine Sisters who have shown up in all the most beautiful ways. Never before have I had such a strong reflection of the Divine Feminine from so many powerful women.

I am also so grateful for my Medicine Brothers and their embodiment of the Divine Masculine.

This is also a dedication letter of sorts. As I continue on my path and step more completely into alignment with my role as a Shaman, there is a necessary acknowledgement of purpose and commitment. As a friend told me, a Shaman doesn’t choose to become a Shaman. They do so because it’s the only way they know how to heal themselves. And once they pass through the Shadow realm and come out the other side, a Shaman’s life belongs to their tribe.

The work that I am doing now is the work that I will be doing (in some form or another) for the rest of my life. So many thanks to my amazing Tribe–you make it so easy to commit to you! And that’s exactly what I’m doing: I commit to supporting you, my Tribe, in your health and well-being, especially in regards to your Spiritual journey.

I hold so much gratitude for my Medicine Family. Thank you for seeing me. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Many blessings,


Solstice Darkness

Originally published on Eagle Song December 21, 2015.

Tonight marks the Winter Solstice. This is a personally significant holiday for several reasons. Not only is this when I celebrate the New Year, but four years ago today (on the Solstice in 2011) I received my Shamanic Initiation. Add to that the perfect container to call in the darkness to do some lovely Shadow work–this is a very Shamanic holiday.

Last night I attended Solstice Dance for the third year in a row and spent some time taking stock of the last year. I felt considerable distress when I noticed some similar themes of what was going on this time two years ago, last year and now. And as I danced, I thought, “Has that little actually changed? What the fuck am I doing that this is still a main theme in my life?”

But of course, things have changed. This is one of those examples of the Cycles of Power: after all, everything is cyclical and we live in a spiraling Universe. So even though it seems that around this time every year I revisit themes of power, love and wounding, each year I do so with a new level of understanding, awareness and comfort of working within the darkness.

Two years ago, I remember my big Solstice revelation was centered around the idea of “It’s okay to not be okay.” Using darkness itself as a healing tool was relatively new to me, and by that time I had already been going through Underworld Initiations for at least six months. Accepting that I didn’t feel happy and shiny all the time was a big step for me.

Last year, one of the main threads of darkness was working through healing my relationship to relationship itself. I held three consecutive days of some form of ritual and I worked as hard as I could to move through the darkness so I could come out the other side and be done.

And I’m still not done, because the Underworld Initiations have continued. (And according to my astrologer friend, they probably will for about another year, until the end of my Saturn Return.) But I’ve reached a place, after spending the last two and a half years or so working through some level of wounding and trauma and challenge, where I’m totally okay with hanging out in the darkness. And even though this Solstice is helping me confront some of my deepest fears, prompting crises of purpose and inspiring new levels of pain, I finally know how to welcome it.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been saying “I feel like I’m dying.” I’ve actually been able to feel parts of me shriveling in the presence of intense emotion and energy. But it occurred to me last night as I was dancing that I didn’t really know what parts of me have been dying. Given the trajectory of my path thus far, it seems like a good thing. So I decided that I would dance my Death. As I danced, I called upon Pluto and Persephone, Lord and Lady of the Underworld, to bring me my Death. I asked that all the parts of me that were ready to go move with Death to be guided into the Underworld. I also asked that, if the next year will continue to bring Shadow work, Pluto and Persephone stand with me as guides through the darkness. (Owl also showed up for me yesterday when I was teaching Reiki Master class, so I danced with her as well. She is another entity who has offered to guide me through the Shadow.)

Even though it initially felt like I was in a similar place as I have been for the last two years, so much has changed. The mere fact that I am now completely comfortable calling in the deepest darkness available to work through my own wounding is new within the last year, and I can attribute this ease in working with the Shadow realm to the last several years moving deeper and deeper into darkness with myself and others. This particular Cycle of Power has offered me some wonderful reflection about my growth in all areas of my life, and I am grateful to embrace the Darkness as my ally for transformation. This has been a long process of Death, and I’m happy to learn everything I can until I’m ready to be reborn in the Light.

Artwork by Veronica Gutierrez

Love and Sex Magic

Originally published on Eagle Song November 14, 2015.

In the last several months, I have had so many fantastic conversations with various amazing women about Love Magic and Sex Magic. Just the other night I was speaking with a new friend, a lovely empath who is self-employed as a sex worker, and halfway through the evening I realized I should have been recording our entire conversation because it would have made a fascinating podcast episode. And last week I spent an afternoon catching up with two medicine sisters, both powerful healers, one of whom has worked for years as a professional dominatrix in New York. Add to that my weekly women’s group meeting (where one of the members is a dancer who works at a popular strip club in town) and the recent conversations with medicine sisters not employed in the sex industry (Shamans, empaths and lightworkers all), and the result is an amazing picture of the true depth of healing power that comes from the Divine Feminine when she works through Love and Sex Magic. Holy cow.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that my healing and energy work was as deeply integrated into my sexual and love relationships as it was into every other aspect of my life. After all, just because I wasn’t consciously “doing a healing session” on my partner doesn’t mean that healing work was not taking place, maybe on a deeper level than either of us realized. Purely by virtue of the fact that I am who I am–a Shaman who has committed her life to working in service to Self and Spirit and offering healing to the collective consciousness of All That Is–anyone who spends time with me, or comes into contact with my writing or any other manifestation of my work in the world, will receive the ripple effect of my healing work.

I think my first conscious inkling of the fact occurred sometime early this year, when my partner at the time mentioned something about my “Reiki hands.” We were cuddling in bed and I had my hand laying flat on his chest, right over his heart. “What do you mean, my ‘Reiki hands’?” I asked, pulling my hand away to look at it, as if that would explain his observation.

“There–you took your hand away, and the difference is just as if your hand were heavy and you removed a weight. Not in a bad way, but in that it has a definite presence,” he said.

“But I wasn’t intending to do Reiki on you,” I replied, obtusely.

“It doesn’t seem to matter,” he replied, smiling. “Your Reiki is so in you… it’s just there.”

Even after that conversation, it took me until just recently to cultivate a more tangible awareness of the concept. Prompted by some summer romances that all included some serious “I have no idea what the hell just happened” moments of moving massive amounts of energy, I began to consider things in the light of sex magic to see if the idea offered any more information.

As soon as I looked at my romantic and sexual history through the lens of treating these interactions as healing experiences, the pattern became clear. I mean stupid obvious. Here were all these men, most of whom would never think to seek out my help in a professional context, who needed deep healing. So instead of hiring me, they showed up in my life to receive healing work through the magic of love and sex.

It also helped me gain some serious perspective when my medicine sisters and I shared our stories of love and sex magic. I finally recognized the difference between a love relationship in which healing occurs as a function of the love already present, and a healing relationship in which love manifests as a means for the healing to take place. I realized that most of the confusing terminations to many of my relationships could be attributed to that very distinction: I have always operated from the place of being in a loving relationship where healing happened to take place, and I see now that many of these encounters actually existed in the realm of a healing relationship where love existed as a means to facilitate the healing. No wonder it didn’t work out.

But, through this lens, I’ve been able to fully appreciate the depth of some of the healing that has taken place, both for these men and for myself. I am absolutely amazed at the beautiful opportunities for growth, safety, awareness, transparency and healing of all kinds that have resulted from the love and sex magic that I have shared with them. The more I learn, the more firmly I believe that Love and Sex Magic are some of the most potent forms of alchemy available to humankind.

This new awareness of mine has also served to offer healing to my understanding of past relationships that either ended painfully or in confusion. The most recent example is my latest partner. He and I had our third round of breakup two weeks ago, after dating on and off for a year and a half. The more I move through the process of grieving and bringing understanding to this relationship, the more apparent it becomes that this was a healing relationship in which love manifested as a means for the healing to take place. This in no way diminishes or makes any less real the love we have for each other–this man helped me discover the depth of my heart and my enormous capacity for love–but I’m realizing more and more all the ways in which it was truly a healing interaction. We showed up for each other in some enormously powerful circumstances, and I will be lovingly grateful for the rest of my life, but healing was always the primary driver of the relationship. And that’s exactly how it needed to be.

I have also noticed (and conversations with medicine sisters have confirmed that they have seen this as well) that, when love and sex magic create opportunities for healing, people don’t always take them. I suppose this is the case when an opportunity for healing becomes available through any means, but the circumstance when someone says no to healing created through love and sex magic results in its own kind of tension, especially when misunderstanding about the nature of the relationship comes into play. Of course, humans on this planet have the power of free will and may choose whatever windows of opportunity they wish to pursue (or not), but not accepting the energies offered through love and sex magic holds its own brand of pain for all involved. (Unless the sexual healing takes place in a professional context, and I’ll return to this idea later.)

Again, I will use the example of my latest partner. Knowing what I do now about the primary energy of our relationship being that of healing, it’s easier for me to see all the ways in which we were in service to each other. At the time, however, I saw how much I wanted for him to fully step into his power so he could show up completely for his own life and for me. I spent the majority of the relationship waiting around for him to take this window of opportunity that I was creating for him with the magic of my love, but he never did.

And that is entirely his decision. Even though the relationship included some serious pain, I have zero regrets about spending the time and energy that I did with this person. After all, I still love him deeply, and I am working to transmute it into a love free from attachment and in complete acceptance of the healing nature of our relationship. And with this new layer of understanding, I feel as though I am more capable of receiving all the gifts he offered me while we were together, and of seeing all the ways in which love magic works below the surface.

I have also had experiences with other people who shy away from fully immersing themselves in the opportunities created by the healing of love and sex magic. Their interaction with me prompts an energetic shift in their awareness that scares them, or brings up something that they are not prepared to confront, or a decision that they are not ready to make. I briefly dated a man last year who had so much shame boil to the surface about his struggle with cocaine addiction that he could no longer see me. Another man earlier this year experienced some strong emotions after being intimate with me. The sensation overwhelmed him and he shut down in fear, despite my efforts to help him place his feelings in a healthy context.

This is where I return to the idea of professionally facilitated sexual healing. In speaking with both my dominatrix and sex worker friends, they said that creating the space for healing to occur through sex was the majority of their job (whether their clients realized it or not…mostly not). My dancer friend and I have also talked at length about the safe healing container that she facilitates when interacting with her customers. In each circumstance, these women use sex magic to create a window of opportunity for healing for their clients, who may then choose to accept it or not. Hearing about some of the profound personal breakthroughs and revelations that these men experience under the guidance of facilitated sex work is absolutely fantastic. It was fascinating to speak about the trauma work I’ve done with my clients and to hear from the dominatrix perspective about how BDSM can be such an amazing tool for healing deep shadow. When people accept the opportunities created for their healing, healing occurs. And love and sex magic work on some of the deepest wounds known to humanity.

Who exists in the world who does not need some type of healing? And how much of that pain and trauma could be released through the powerful alchemy of love and sex magic? I’m not necessarily advocating that people go out and hire sex workers, but if that’s your thing, go for it. Rather, I will absolutely advocate for bringing impeccable awareness to the healing potential of love and sexual relationships. Through some serious oversight on my part, the idea never occurred to me that, “I am a healer and healing is present in all aspects of my life, therefore healing is present in my love and sex life. The same awareness and capacity for healing which I hold to the rest of my interpersonal relationships must be present in my romantic and sexual relationships as well.”

I already feel the effects of this new awareness (particularly around the distinction between love relationships where healing happens, and healing relationships where love manifests) and I look forward to implementing these ideas in my experiences moving forward. I have yet to see a limit to the depths to which we humans can reflect each other. Love and sex magic are some of the most potent forms of alchemy, and when used with deep awareness and understanding, the opportunities for reflection and healing are endless.

The Hawk and The Boy

Originally published on Eagle Song November 8, 2015.

The Hawk and The Boy
Michelle Levesque

Once there was a young hawk who, just as she had begun to learn the strength of her wings and discover the joy of flight, suffered an attack by another bird. She tumbled out of the sky and landed among the bushes. As she lay on the ground, barely able to move, she knew that she would soon die, and hopelessness filled her heart.

She eventually heard a rustling, and opened her eyes to see the face of a boy. “I saw you fall,” he said. “I came to find you. I am here to help.”

As he gathered her broken body in his arms, she felt the beat of his compassionate heart against her chest. Knowing that she was safe, she closed her eyes.

The young hawk slowly recovered, thanks to the loving care of the boy. As time passed and she regained her strength, she grew to love the boy for his gentleness. She knew that he would do anything for her.

When her wings had finally healed, the boy urged her to fly. The young hawk joyfully leaped into the air and started to spiral upward, but when she looked back, she saw that the boy had not followed her. Confused, she returned to him. She wondered why he had not joined her in the sky, when they loved each other so.

She saw the sadness on the boy’s face as he turned away. “You must go and fly,” he told her. “You were born to feel the wind caress your feathers.”

Days passed, and the hawk refused to leave the boy. She sat in a tree and watched him, and every time he looked up at her, she saw the pain in his eyes and her heart broke. “If only he would come fly with me,” she thought. “Then he would feel so much joy as we spiral together up above the earth.” And then her heart ached, too, in longing for the sensation of flight. As strong as her love was for the boy, she still felt the pull of the sky.

As time wore on, the hawk watched the boy she loved in growing despair. If only there were something she could do for him to see the joy return to his face!

Finally, one day, she could bear it no longer. “I do not know how to help you,” she thought. “I stay by your side and offer you my love, but I see only sadness in your eyes.” Her heart aching in grief, the young hawk took off, clumsily at first. It had been so long since she had flown! But as her wings found their rhythm and she began to glide higher and higher, she felt a tingle run down her spine.

And all of a sudden, from below, she heard a cry of joy! She looked down to see the boy gleefully jumping in the air, laughing and waving his arms. And as she saw the tears of happiness on his face, she felt her own heart lighten and fill with pure love and the joy of being. She whirled through the air, delighted at feeling the wind flow over her feathers and hearing the boy’s shouts from below. She knew then that, even though he would never join her in the sky, he would see her flying and he would share in her joy. “Every day, I will give him the gift of my flight,” she thought. “He will know that I love him when he sees me spiral above.” And even though she could never live on the ground with him, she would always feel his love as he witnessed her doing what she was born to do in this life.