Julia Plevin

We have to shamanize

Julia Plevin
We have to shamanize

I have not always had an easy journey in this life.

It’s funny because some things have come easily to me and if you read my resume or look at me, you might think everything is hunky dory. My dear friend said to me the other day, “You’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do. You went to an Ivy League school, lived around the world, went to design school in NYC, hosted nature-connection retreats and wrote a book.” I’m also lucky in lots of ways — I have a loving family. I was never abused (in this lifetime) and never worried about where I would sleep or where my next meal would come from.

But my internal experience has not always matched my external experience. And that in itself is isolating. I believe that the greater the gap between what you portray and what you actually feel, the more suffering (hence how healing it is so speak your truth!)

I have dealt with a lot of mental and physical (perhaps interconnected!) ailments. I spent a decade dealing with chronic lyme disease. I’m an Enneagram Four — the personality of the classic tortured artist and like my astrologist said, “There’s a lot of crazy in your chart.” I’m empathetic so I feel your pain, maybe more than you do, and also the pain of the world. My heart is big and wide open but I’m often misunderstood. I’m highly sensitive and there’s a lot of energy that moves through me.

The more I understand myself, the more courage I have to act. My shaman elder told me about Dan Millman's Peaceful Warrior life path calculator. My life path is a 30/3:

3: Expression and Sensitivity
0: Inner Gifts
3: Expression and Sensitivity
All digits have an influence—but the bolded issue is key to your hidden calling.

Those on the 30/3 life path are here to work through issues of expression and sensitivity, overcoming self-doubt to express themselves and use their inner gifts to encourage, uplift, and inspire others. Most people come into life to work on a mixture of issues, but for 30/3s, their work and destiny are clear and focused. Those working 30/3 have the support of inner gifts, which include highly tuned sensitivity, inner strength, expressiveness, and intuition. All of these resources complement and support one major life theme: emotional expression. However, since our life purpose isn’t what comes easiest, 30/3s have distinct hurdles to overcome before they can fulfill their destiny. Because 30/3s resonate with the perfectionism of 6s and feel acutely sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, they’re prone to feeling disappointed and disheartened at times, and to expressing in negative ways, such as criticizing and complaining.

For most of my life, I’ve tried to be “normal.” Calm, cool, and collected. I’ve been afraid to share my true voice because what if people think I’m crazy? Or too much? What if no one loves the real me?

And it’s really no wonder. For generations, women have been burned, tortured, raped, and murdered for speaking their truth. I carry that with me in my root chakra even though now I’m lucky to live in a time and place where it is safe to fully show up.

When I was in Guatemala in April, my teacher Llyn Cedar Roberts led us through a simple energy exercise on the shores of Lake Atitlan. We did some hand gestures around the four directions and spun in a circle and then said goodnight. But there was no way I could sleep. There was so much energy moving through me. It felt insane. I laid on the ground outside trying to ground but it was a pretty sleepless night. The next morning I asked her how to manage all the energy that moves through me.

From everything I’ve heard from your journey, you have a calling. And when you have a calling like this, you have to shamanize. We have to shamanize or else we could end up in a mental institute.
— Llyn Cedar Roberts

For those of us who have this calling, we have to use our energy for the force of good. For healing. Otherwise it’s just too much.

This I know to be true. But the question is what does it mean to be a Shaman when you’re a Jewish woman living in San Francisco in 2018? This is a question I am walking with. What I have learned is it’s less about what you wear or do and more about how you show up. It’s about committing every day to serving the highest good.

A shaman is someone who serves the community
— Rob Murphy

It starts as an internal commitment or way of being. It can manifest outwardly in infinite ways. This may manifest as being a healer. It’s about knowing and embodying the healing power of nature, universal life force, and spiritual energy. From food to music to art to forests and good conversations, there’s so much in this world that is healing. Being a shaman is  also about being fully present and in the moment. It means showing up with gifts and offerings to people and Mother Earth. It’s about asking “How can I serve?” and “What can I offer?” in each moment.

One way to shamanize is to blossom into your own truth. It is to connect to your divine purpose and live fully expressed. I see a lot of overlap between artist and shaman. Maybe a shaman is a tortured artist who is no longer tortured. A healed artist. Or maybe the gerund is better — healing. Because I’m not sure we are ever completely healed on this Earth. I’ve been healed at moments and then not at others.


For me, a lot of expressing my truth has to do with writing and emotional expression through creation. This is something that I’ve intrinsically known my whole life and also had reflected to me in pretty much every astrological reading and personality test.

I need to express my truth as a way to heal myself. It’s getting all this stuff out. It’s so backed up, clogged. And then when it comes it comes like projectile vomit and diarrhea at the same time. And tears too. It all comes out and it’s not beautiful by the classic definition of beauty but also it’s so beautiful because it’s the pure human experience.

Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.
— Alan Watts

Writing, expressing, and emotional creation are not nice things that I enjoy doing. In fact, I sort of hate it but it’s a must. When nothing makes sense and life doesn’t feel worth living, I create in order to feel life flow through me.

I ask myself if I am crazy at least 10 times a day. I question why I need to express and who am I to make art? I fear that I might hurt someone's feelings or say the wrong thing. And then I just keep going.

We tell ourselves stories in order to live
— Joan Didion

I think we create in order to live too. I told a mentor about this recent download, the assignment to make 1,111 God’s Eyes and she said that she wasn’t surprised given the trauma that I am going through.


Even though it was my choice to end the relationship, it is still traumatic. Our brain wires to relationships, especially your primary romantic one. The basic definition of trauma is a rewiring of the brain so as we go through transitions like leaving a partner who we live with and work with, our brain has to rewire itself. The act of making these God’s Eyes is literally a rewiring. As I weave together sticks with my hands, my brain is able to weave new patterns and find new pathways.

I believe making anything with your hands is healing and the hands have a certain knowing of their own that is not connected to our brain but is the feeling of life moving through us. When I question if I am crazy for making all these God’s Eyes, I come back to my hands. To trusting life and weaving new pathways. It’s a healing process.