Subject

Anthony Ashworth

Interviewer

Jessica Raschke

Location

Moss Vale, New South Wales

Photographer

Hamish Ta-mé

Date

February 17, 2014

Anthony AshworthAnthony Ashworth

Anthony Ashworth: Sacred spaces and shamanic journeys

Anthony Ashworth’s energy is so much more larger than life that it’s not surprising that he finds it easy to penetrate the walls of everyday reality to clearly see and connect with the spiritual ethers. But it wasn’t always that way. Anthony once steadfastly identified himself as a “humanist rationalist atheist”. Until one day he attended a spiritual camp and his core beliefs experienced a life-changing transformation. Among many things, his key passions are shamanism and sacred spaces. I chatted with Anthony at his home in Moss Vale, which he shares with his wife, Ganga Karen Ashworth, amid his many altars, books, idols and icons, and a gentle breeze.

Jess: I’m having chats with people who, for want of a better term, are living soulful lives. What I mean by ‘soulful’ is how people bring meaning to their lives. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?

Anthony: I’m an immigrant. My family migrated to Australia from England, but I was born in Zambia in Africa. We moved there when I was three and a half or four. We briefly moved back to England. Both sides of my family had come from England, Ireland and Scotland. We moved to Africa for the mining boom, a bit like the Western Australian one that we have at the moment; there was a big silver gold and copper boom in Africa. My Mum’s dad was an engineer, boilermaker and sheet metal worker, and my Dad’s dad was a journalist, so he worked for the mines’ newspapers. My grandfather built stuff and that’s how they made money in Africa. I have an older sister who was born in England. Dad’s Irish and English and Mum’s English and Scottish, so we’ve got a lot of Celtic stuff mixed up in a bucket.

Jess: How was it living in Africa?

Anthony: It was quite problematic in Africa, my parents were worried about the future so they decided to move to England. We were like the £10 Poms; we were sponsored to come out here. And I think some of my earliest memories are from England. I have been back to Africa since then and I certainly remember the smells, but also my family used to make movie films, so some of my memory is coloured by those. I’m not sure how much is my memory and what are the films. We came out to Australia in 1965. We arrived in Perth on Anzac Day, we were wondering, “What the hell is going on with this thing called Anzac Day?” And my parents had ambitions to move to Brisbane, they had seen a film about Brisbane but we ended up settling in Sydney as we had friends there. I made the Northern Beaches my home from the age of seven until 22. I got kicked out of home because Mum and Dad moved to the country. But I stayed around the Northern Beaches. Most of my life was spent at Killarney Heights and my parents – I’m eternally grateful to them – bought a house that backed onto the bush, thousands of acres of beautiful bush that went out to the harbour. So that was my childhood, hanging out in the bush. We mucked around on bikes and scooters on the roads, but a huge amount of time was spent in the bush. It was very free range; I call it being ‘free range children’. When it was 6 o’clock, it was time to come home for dinner. As long as you were home before dark you could pretty much do anything you wanted all day, outside of school time, of course. So that was a really beautiful childhood. And it’s probably one of the reasons I have landed back in the Southern Highlands; the bush is like the bush I grew up with, sandstone country, and full of Mimi spirits or nature spirits.

Jess: It really resonates with you?

Anthony: Yes, this deep childhood memory makes me feel comfortable. My childhood was sometimes hard for me because I don’t really fit into a box. My parents sent me to a boy’s private Catholic school, St Aloysius, which was somewhat horrendous. I tell my wife about it – I just lived it – and she cries when I tell her how violent it was. We were beaten from the top down, and we beat the hell out of each other as a consequence. We used to get strapped with a leather strap for getting a maths answer wrong. As I said, it was hard for me because I didn’t really fit into a box.

Some people like to define this way of being as being an ‘Indigo Child’, which I do relate to, but basically I’m a bit anti-authoritarian. To have me sit still at a desk for huge slabs of the day didn’t suit my personality. So I somewhat struggled at school. I did okay. I think I must have been half bright because I didn’t do a lot of work but I always managed to just pass comfortably. And it was violent. I landed up with the ‘dags’, the uncool group, so I would be in a lot of conflict with quite a lot of the bigger or older guys, but I would be able to stand up for my friends, and myself, as I was a tough little bulldog.

I was a humanist rationalist by the time I was coming out of high school. For whatever reason I didn’t go through adolescence, I didn’t rebel. My sister rebelled quite strongly, but I was comfortable going out with my parents to restaurants, I went to their parties, I wasn’t a strong cliquey teenager, I suppose. I think I went through adolescence later in my 30s. Basically I adopted my father’s non-belief system, he was a humanist rationalist and an atheist, and so I became a very good humanist rationalist atheist.

I remember one of my mates at high school was studying to be a priest. We got on better than most people because he enjoyed the fact that I had at least taken a stand and had thought about it. So we would be able to drink and discuss our different points of view. In terms of career, I again took on my father’s ways; I became an architect and designer.

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Jess: So your father was an architect?

Anthony: Yes, and then I got a degree in interior design. So I wasn’t very studious at school but I spent 10 years after school studying. I went from doing my HSC at school and then I did another year at tech, where I did a lot better. I matriculated, about which my parents were delighted, and then I went to university to study architecture and dropped out after the first year. I was too young and busy enjoying life. So I went to work for my father. I wanted to be an environmental biologist, that’s what I signed up for at uni, but during the Christmas holidays I’d had a huge argument with my Dad, he was getting sick of me basically doing nothing, so he said, “Why don’t you come and work for me? I’ll pay you.” So I did. I don’t know whether it was the right thing to do or not. I blew the environmental biology and decided to study architecture. At the time there was another architectural recession, so I had a job. But I wasn’t quite ready for it, to be honest. So I did architectural drafting, which I excelled at, I found it really easy. Because I have always found it really easy to draw, a bit like my Dad. And when I finished that I was going out with a girl and she was going back to uni to study fashion design. I’d read all the brochures on interior design and I thought, “I’ve just go to do this.” So after that I did another four years, full time.

I finished there, and then I broke up with my girlfriend, which completely broke my heart; that was my first heartbreak. And unfortunately I went into another relationship very quickly. I got married, I was married for nine years, but for a great deal of the latter part of that we were separated because she was doing a Masters degree in Canberra. I had my own business at that point, and as soon as I left college I opened my own interior design business – I don’t know what I was thinking! Dad retired and I took on one or two of his last clients and built that business and was quite happy doing that. It was all corporate staff, but I was happy in my naïve world. My wife tried to get me to this spiritual retreat called Camp Eden. And I’d resisted because I used to smoke cigarettes and you couldn’t smoke when you went there, you couldn’t drink, it was all vegetarian, and I didn’t want to know about all that. In the end I stopped smoking and she wanted me to go to Camp Eden, as she had been there, herself.

Jess: Why did she think you should go there?

Anthony: To fix me, because I was broken [laughs]. Like a lot of women trying to fix their man! She desperately wanted me to go to find myself. I think I was very naïve. I went back to Camp Eden three times in all and I remember being with older, more spiritually mature people. And you go through a process when you get feedback and a lot of people said, “I love your naïveté.” I did not really understand what they meant at the time, I later realised it was a compliment, and it was about me owning my inner child and the exuberant – perhaps naïve – ways that I embrace life and the world. This camp and the experiences I had were a pivotal moment in my life. I went to this retreat centre as a burnt out design executive with my own business. When I got there they said, “Can you let go enough so we can experiment on you for six days?” They told us what to do pretty much 24 hours a day. For example, “You are doing meditation at 10am and you are having a massage at 12pm.” I’d never had a massage, I’d never meditated, I’d never done Tai Chi, I’d never done yoga, none of this stuff. It was all hippie dippy rubbish as far as I was concerned; my opinion of religion and spirituality was that it was a crutch to lean on for people who couldn’t cope with life.

I remember ringing my wife [at the time] and saying, “I was doing Tai Chi this morning and I felt the golden ball of energy. I felt it in my hands!” And she said, “Get out! You! You felt it?” And I said, “Yeah!” It was the beginning of a deep stirring within me.

So I went there and there was very little contact with the outside world, but I remember ringing my wife and saying, “I was doing Tai Chi this morning and I felt the golden ball of energy. I felt it in my hands!” And she said, “Get out! You! You felt it?” And I said, “Yeah!” It was the beginning of a deep stirring within me.

Then the next day I sat down for my first meditation and it was a guided visualisation where this wonderful teacher took us on a journey into some yummy land and it was all birds and flowers. She taught us a basic mantra which was, “I am, I am.” But I did everything right, it seems, I don’t know how, it must have been a past life recollection, but I sat down and took a handle of this spiritual technology. So I was toning, “I am, I am, I am,” and I went off into my own world and I had full-blown spiritual experience. Kundalini rising, a shamanic awakening, a realisation. I didn’t know what it was at the time. The only way I could describe it was that it was like every orgasm I’d ever had bundled into one, it was every drug and substance I’d ever taken. My cells just exploded into orgasmic life and it was the most ecstatic experience. It was extraordinary, and what was really weird was that everyone in the room witnessed what I experienced and were totally awestruck by it. Afterwards I got some counselling from the woman who ran it and she said, “Go and spend a little bit of time on your own, just chill out.” I thought, “What am I going to do with this? This doesn’t fit into who I am, this stuff just doesn’t exist.” So my whole nonbelief system had been swept away in one go and I thought, “Where do I go now with my life?” Because I had really cherished my atheism and my humanist rationalist self and it was all swept away, my old foundations totally eroded, gone.

Jess: It’s very interesting because the spiritual life can happen in two ways. Usually it’s an innate calling where people feel an affinity with all things spirit from a young age. They might not know how to give it a name or how to identify it, but there’s an awareness, whereas in your case it just came on suddenly. That’s another way it can happen.

Anthony: I guess there was an awareness of something ‘other’ with my connection with nature and the bush, which was profound. I came alive when I was in the bush. But I had none of this stuff like what you see around my house, altars and gods and goddesses, because I was raised in a very secular childhood home, there wasn’t any religion and spirituality in my home at all. Having said that, my father is deeply spiritual in the way that he sees the world. So I had no clues around this, it was so foreign to me. In fact I was quite judgemental of all of this sort of stuff [sweeps arms to gesture around his living room filled with spiritual symbols]. So that was a pivotal moment in my life where I changed sides, I started to back the other team.

Jess: It was an extreme change!

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Anthony: It was an extreme change and it took me some time to make sense of it. From there I ended up in a yogic tradition for a long time. Around the same time I did some breath work, and that was an extreme experience, as well. So I was obviously very open to all of this sort of stuff, I was easily moved in some way. So then I had to make sense of it. The teacher at the time said, “You might like to go and explore Eastern philosophies from China and India and see what resonates with you.” So I went off and started some Tai Chi but fairly quickly migrated to yoga. And then I found Yoga in Daily Life and a spiritual master. I started doing satsangs, which they were doing in a house in the bush, so I thought, “Spirituality in the bush, this is alright!” I describe myself in those times as a ‘satellite disciple’, I was never really in with the guru, and I really did not surrender myself as such as some do. I was there when the guru was there and I helped out too. As an architect I was often involved in advising on fixing up ashrams using Vastu (ancient Indian feng shui). So how to make sense out of all of that had happened? I was an interior designer and there was this spiritual stuff. So I started asking, “What is it that I want?” I started scuba diving because I love scuba diving, it’s really important to me because it’s such a focused experience. When you’re scuba-diving you can’t be thinking about what’s going on in your life, you are present with the environment and you are focusing on what’s going on, just staying alive, it’s compulsory, forced meditation.

Jess: It’s a bit like rock-climbing, you have to stay focused.

Anthony: Yes! And scuba diving used to juice me up. So I wondered, “What can I do with this, can I do underwater yoga teaching?” [Laughs.] I was resistant to becoming a yoga teacher, because it seems that every second person who has a spiritual awakening wants to become a yoga teacher, in my view. And then I discovered this thing called Vastu Shastra, which is ancient Indian feng shui. Then I went to India to see a whole set of masters on this subject. So my exploration of sacred space began. I travelled a lot with my first wife and we’d been to a lot of wonderful sacred sites.

As I’ve said, I was interested in meditation and yoga, but I never felt good enough. They were all very yin people, it was all very quiet and nice, but I’m loud and I always felt like I was trying to fit myself into that box. But I didn’t quite fit, it was a mismatch, but there was something there that I wanted. It was a spiritual community, there were people who were interested in spiritual technologies and that’s why I hung in there.

So the deeper I went into Vastu and feng shui, the further I went into understanding ceremony and ritual. I used to feel that whenever I was doing something devotional, I got this charge. As soon as I put my hands together I’d feel the spirit and I’d get a charge that just went up like a little mini orgasm. So who wouldn’t do this all the time? It was fantastic! And I would meditate and have quite deep meditation experiences. One night I was meditating with a guy and he had 1000 faces flash across his face, I don’t know if it was past lives, I don’t know what I was seeing. I would have these kinds of experiences, rebirthing experiences, that were very strong. So I got into ritual and ceremony, and progressively as I spent more time with that I began to discover shamanism. That was something that I would really love because it was experiential. That’s probably why I was drawn to the yoga tradition because it was experiential. I wasn’t drawn to traditional religions because they weren’t experiential. I went to a Catholic school and I used to sit in mass and the thing I loved was the singing, I loved singing in mass. But I didn’t get a sense of God or spirituality when I was sitting in a Catholic boys school mass.

Jess: That’s often the case for many people, isn’t it?

Anthony: Yes! Absolutely! So from feng shui rituals and the like I started to study around shamanism, and that has overtaken my life. That’s what I’m most passionate about. And recently, over the last eight years or so, I have really begun to embrace the divine feminine and the whole idea of the Goddess and the sacred feminine. A few years ago I went to a Goddess conference with Ganga. I was one of three men attending and the first ever male presenter and there were hundreds of women.

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Jess: I could imagine!

Anthony: But in a lot of my spiritual journey I have been surrounded by women, there aren’t a lot of men who have the time or interest. Of recent times I’ve embraced men’s work, I’ve been to a couple of men’s conferences and held a men’s group here. We had a men’s group going for many years and that broke up and we started a separate more spiritually focused one, I found some really soulful and spiritual men. So that’s been a really beautiful part of my recent journey.

Jess: It sounds like an extraordinary journey. It is taking you in all kinds of directions and to all kinds of places, but there’s something cohesive underpinning all of it.

Anthony: Yes, a bit of a quest there, or my life is a one big spiritual quest and I’m a bit greedy for big spiritual experiences. I’m 53 now, when I was 50 I took myself on a vision quest. Not a particularly long one, it was three days and two nights. I sat naked in the bush and just had water to drink, no food, no tent, no nothing but a frame drum and myself. It was incredible for me. That brought me home to who I am. That was the most soulful experience of my life.

Jess: So, what happened? Can you tell me about that?

Anthony: I had requested prayers on little prayer flags from a bunch of friends and family. I asked them to email them to me or preferably write them down on a piece of paper or cloth, and so I hanged them up on a piece of wool all around me like a prayer cage or circle. I’d been wanting to do a vision quest for about eight years. And I found lots of people and organisations charge thousands of dollars to do them and I couldn’t justify sitting in the bush to have this spiritual experience for thousands of dollars. So in the end I thought turning 50 is a pivotal moment, I can’t put it off any longer. I’ve just got to go and do it. So I found my little spot in the bush. I set up my prayer flags and then I just wept. It was such a release. I don’t know what was going on but I just cried and cried and I was exhausted after it. Then I just sat in Mother Nature and read all my prayers and the things that people said were so beautiful. “I hope you find what you’re really looking for; you’re so special; I hope you have a true vision that enlightens you.” I’m really into this idea of your environment vibrating back to you what you put into it. So here I was in the bush, which was alive with these deep spiritual intentions and it just did something big to me. Then I had a long rest and then I felt I needed to shake, so I did a lot of jumping up and down and shaking on the spot, for probably an hour or more to just shake everything old and unwanted out of my system. At one point I sat down on a blanket and it was getting cold, and then I saw two huge funnel web spider holes in my little two-metre diameter circle. That became quite pertinent to me because I perceived them as tunnels into the underworld. It was a shamanic experience, it was all about facing one’s fears, when you’re frightened. So all of a sudden from being a bravado bloke in the bush it was, “Oh Christ, I’m sleeping with funnel webs!”

Jess: Spiders are meant to symbolise creativity as well, because they can create such beautiful silk and spider webs.

Anthony: They can do, yes. Funnel webs are one of the most ancient spiders in the world, really ancient and primal. They seem to have always been around me. Where I grew up in Killarney Heights there were always funnel web spiders in the pool, and again now in the Highlands many more funnel webs around my home. So what they did was bring up a lot of fear for me. It was getting dark and I was getting frightened. And I thought, “I’m getting frightened and I’m not used to getting frightened, it’s not something I do.” But I was. So I intuitively started to go into a gratitude state, I started to feel really grateful for my home, my family, and eventually to all the people in the train of events who provide all the structure in our society. I even felt grateful for John Howard [who was Australia’s Prime Minister at the time]!

Jess: [Laughs.] That’s a concern!

Anthony: Yes! And this gratitude built up in me. And I also retraced my entire life from as far back as I could remember and I got a series of memories of things that I had completely forgotten about. It took hours, it was a beautiful experience. And when I did this gratitude thing an intense bubble of light went “Zoom!” I could physically feel it go back into the dark forest, literally pushing the fear back, it wouldn’t have mattered what happened, if a funnel web spider came out and sat on me or something like that, because I was in this state of absolute connection with the forest and then everything else. I wasn’t frightened because how can I be frightened of anything when everything is so good and beautiful? And then later on that night I had a vision, I had asked for a vision, I had a big frame drum that I was drumming and I also asked for a song. And I got that vision, in the form of a personal myth, you might say. Which I am not sure if I should or can share with you here, it’s very intimately personal.

Jess: Well, that’s up to you. I’d love to hear it.

Life for me on planet Earth is somewhat of a sojourn, it’s a place to play, it’s a place to enjoy life to embrace the gift of living. Start being grateful for why and how you’re here. Really embrace it, enjoy it.

Anthony: It’s pretty out there. It was a very deep personal myth about … well my yoga master said, “One day, when you’re ready, you will have the courage to ask these core questions, ‘Who am I? Where am I from? And why am I here?’” So I asked those questions and I got answers to them, in a really ‘out there’ kind of way. I thought it might be coming out of my subconscious, but spirit oftentimes speaks in metaphors. It was a metaphor for me, it was a personal myth, it was a story embedded with spiritual truths. And so what I got out of it, rather than what it actually was, is that life for me on planet Earth is somewhat of a sojourn, it’s a place to play, it’s a place to enjoy life to embrace the gift of living. Start being grateful for why and how you’re here. Really embrace it, enjoy it. And then I got this huge almost God-like booming voice saying, “But don’t be acquiescent. Don’t be spiritually lazy. You’ve got to stay on the path, you’ve got to keep working on yourself and working with spirit.” It was basically saying look at where we live, we are living in heaven on earth. That’s the big thing I got out of it. I think I’ve been a lot more authentic since that day.

Part of my spiritual practice is bathing. My bathroom is now a place where I connect with my soul at least once a week. I have a bath somewhere between two and three hours long. I’ll take in candles and incense. I’ll often start by listening to a philosophical lecture because it relaxes me, I’ll have a glass of wine or some herbals or tea. I put massive amounts of bath salts and essential oils into the water. Bath salts relax my muscles, they support my body, and so I become less body conscious. And then I slowly move from ordinary states of being to become ecstatically tranced. I tone and sing, and I play my flute, I become one with the music itself and eventually I go into a completely ecstatic shamanic state and I am able to travel around the universes and I have amazing deep and sometimes really nice experiences. I get insights and messages into how fucked up I may have been, or of the people I’ve got to be clear with or apologise to for being less than or judging of – it’s often toward Ganga – so I’ll take practical things and messages away. It’s the time where I deeply connect with me. I build up vibrations in there. My bathroom’s a pink 1940s room; everything is pink walls floors, tub, basin all soft pink, I call it my ‘bath womb’! I really go back into the primal womb, I go back into a state of innocence, I just have the loveliest time imaginable, it is truly blissful for me.

Jess: So that’s very profound and you do it once a week?

Anthony: About once a week, sometimes twice I week, I start to get very edgy when I don’t do it. The whole family gets it, and knows how important a ritual it is.

Jess: So for income you do feng shui consultations and…

Anthony: Yes, Vastu and feng shui. And I do dowsing, so I go into people’s homes and I dowse for earth energies. I also do space clearing, which is my favourite thing. I go in and remove negative energies from people’s homes. At the far end of the scale it’s ghost busting, which doesn’t happen often. At the softer end it’s just energetic removal of the dross in people’s homes, where they’re full of thoughts or unfulfilled dreams or negative thought forms. So I go in there with a ceremony and in quite a shamanic way. What I do on behalf of the clients is bring my soul into the soul of their home and ask what it needs. It’s done very respectfully, I don’t say, “Energies leave!” I create a beautiful mandala, which is made up of rice, powders and flours. That’s a little model of the universe. So I set that up and I tell the home, “Someone loves you.” I cleanse the four corners of the house and I sing mantras to clear and lift the energy.

Jess: So what kind of feedback do you get from clients after you’ve done a space clearing in a house? Is there a follow-up?

Anthony: Yeah, I get really great positive feedback, but sometimes I’m scared to follow-up, my old wounds come forth, I get scared I’m not real, it’s not real, I feel I don’t want to be exposed as a fraud or for not being helpful, so I sometimes won’t ring up specifically. However, it’s usually that I get feedback anyway. For instance, I had a woman recently ring me up and she said, “My mum recommended you. I’m just about to go into another relationship and I’ve had three relationships. One divorce, one husband died, and I’m about to go into another one.” Apparently there have been two or three couples that have all been divorced in this house. So the neighbours have been telling her to move out of the house, “It’s the divorce house, it’s the relationship death house.” So she got me to come in. I did what I call basic feng shui acupuncture, I go to the key points and change a few things. I gave her a few things to do. I told her to have a party in the house, “You need some joy in this house, the house is sad.” We did a few things and then she called me. She’d rung her mum and she said, “I need someone to come and do some ‘ooga-booga’ on this house.” ‘Ooga-booga’ was the extent of her spiritual language. I could tell that she was very tentative, and it was outside of her world. Most people who do space clearing are a bit wacko like me. They get it. But some people aren’t and it’s usually when they’re in a crisis situation like this that they’ll try it. She did the things that I’d recommended and according to her and her mother, who both rang to thank me, it’s completely changed her life. She says the house now feels beautiful, when her friends came to the party I had recommended they said, “What have you done to this place? It feels so much more, and different!” I put some soul into it, the house was soulless. She hadn’t decorated in a way that reflected her or her soul. She hadn’t or didn’t know how to nurture the house nor herself.

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So that’s what I do, I go into people’s homes and bring soul into their home. I’m on a spiritual mission to do that. There’s a lot of cowardice out there where people are too frightened to do what they feel they might like to do, or are called to do, like put a gold Buddha by their door because they’re afraid that people will judge them. I give them permission to do that, which nourishes them into life.

Jess: It permits them to express their soul, to make it visible?

Anthony: Yes. Part of it is working on the house, the other part of it is working on the people who live there. I didn’t understand that in the early years. I was doing effective space clearing, but I didn’t really know why it was working so well. But it was as much about nurturing people and their relationship with the house. For me, having a relationship with your home is the beginning of your deeper relationship and connection with what’s out there in the greater world and universe. Our home is our intimate environment, we’ve got to have a relationship with this space first, and then we can take that deep authentic relationship out there. I think it’s really important and I want to write more about it one day.

Jess: You’ve got an extraordinary body of knowledge and it would be great to get it all down.

Anthony: Well, I’ve been studying for a very long time. But, as you say, how do you make a living out of it? Barely! [Laughs.]

Jess: [Laughs.] Well, it’s what matters to you and it’s what matters to others as well. There’s always a tension there between the spiritual life and the material life.

Anthony: Yes. My archetype is the free spirit, so my work ethic is poor. It always has been. I’ve always lived under a lucky star, I’ve always managed to do well but I’ve never really had to work very hard. I can’t put my nose to the grindstone too long. I can’t work long hours. But I’ve had a lucky life, and I think some of that space allows you to be deeply spiritual. Swamiji used to say, “Householders have chosen the most difficult path.” To purely become an ascetic, to become a monk or a yogi, that’s pretty easy when you can dedicate your life to it, but when you’ve got this balancing act of trying to have kids and a job in a spiritual life, he says that’s a really difficult path.

Jess: I have two little kids under the age of three years, so I try to take my moments where I feel really grateful. I try to do that in each moment, and that’s a spiritual practice in itself so I don’t feel so disconnected from the spiritual life. When I look at them, I think it’s miraculous; it’s really extraordinary that they’re here in the first place. And just watching them take joy in the world or even have tantrums about being in the world. The Buddhists talk about how you can meditate while washing the dishes. It’s all there; you can bring spirituality into the mundane realities. It just requires effort because you can get preoccupied with the fact that the mundane is…

Anthony: … so omnipresent! [Laughs.]

Jess: Exactly!

Anthony: In the ancient and traditional cultures they always allow everybody some opportunity for a retreat. So people who are bound in a family situation, they deserve some retreat every now and again to go off on a Vipassana, a camp or a women’s retreat, at least for a weekend to nurture one’s own space away from the family. Ganga and I have always allowed each other that.

Jess: I read on your website that you do some shamanic journeying to retrieve people’s souls. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Anthony: I started doing it for myself, which was finding pieces of myself that had disassociated, and then doing it for friends and family. And then I realised that this was a spiritual tradition. It’s working with people that have lost a piece of themselves somewhere along the way and may not even know that they have lost something. People in the modern world have lost huge chunks of themselves because of the way that they were raised. Children are taken away from their parents and shoved into school. Just through living a western lifestyle we disassociate little pieces of our soul, they get scattered and left behind and usually because there’s a trauma or a sickness or it’s just too hard. So an example is a child who has been abused, physically, sexually or verbally, you can see when a child just shuts down. They might tolerate that once, twice, three, four times, but eventually they will go, “This is too hard, I can’t cope with this and I’ll put that little piece away.” That sensitive part of them that just can’t cope.

I believe that soul piece gets tucked away and it can be in the underworld, it can be in this middle plane, it can be in outer space, or can be in the upper worlds. I will go into an altered state of consciousness in order to journey, I will take my guides with me, I take a gold crested black cockatoo like that feather with me [points to feather], because it is a symbol for soul retrieval, and I travel around the universe. I find my journeys are really quick; I don’t have to journey for very long. I get to the information fairly quickly. Then I’ll have a dialogue with the soul piece that’s missing, which is often in a child-like form, but not always. Then I coax that soul fragment to come back and be integrated with the person. The soul may protest, it will say, “I don’t want to go back the lady hits me and shouts at me.” So I have to offer an incentive to that soul. “Come back, it will be alright. Your master really loves you. And you are a part of each other, so come home.” You often have to treat the childlike energy childishly. I think all of this happens energetically, I don’t think it’s literal. You often blow the piece back into the person. And then you tell that person the messages you’ve got. And once you’ve done that, I’ll get some metaphor and the person will say, “That reminds me of when this happened.” So we make a contract with that soul fragment. If it comes back then that person will look after it. So I’ll say to the person, “You found a lost part, what are you going to do to nurture it and look after it?” It can bring about radical changes in a person, in the way that they see themselves and in their relationship to the world. I’m not quite sure what to label myself; in my heart I would like to call myself a shaman, that’s still weird to me as others judge that. So I call myself a shamanic practitioner. But really I’m just working on behalf of other people to connect them back in with their soul and with other parallel dimensions, I’m just a messenger as all shamans are.

Jess: That’s fantastic work, thanks so much for sharing your story with me, Anthony.

* For more information about Anthony Ashworth, please visit www.schoolofsacredplace.com

* For more information about Hamish Ta-mé, please visit www.shotbyhamish.com

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