Spotlight: Stacey Couch
by Colleen M. Quinn
At first thought, the fields of biology and shamanism don’t seem to have much in common. But don’t be fooled by outward appearances! The link that brings them together is their connections to the natural world. Shamanism is an ancient spiritual practice that often draws on people’s relationship to nature and animals. Biology also deals with that relationship, although in a very scientific way.
It is then no surprise that Stacey Couch, certified shamanic practitioner, was first drawn to shamanic work through her love of nature and background in biology. As a biologist and lover of nature at heart, Stacey found that shamanism helped her relate more fully to the world she has grown to love, and help others in the process.
Stacey had already spent a significant amount of time doing research in the field: she lived off the land during an internship in Canada, met her future husband while studying seabirds along the west coast, and later researched songbirds in New Mexico with her husband. Through these research opportunities Stacey fell in love with the natural world, teaching her through complete immersion.
She carried out research alone on California’s Channel Island and learned there was something more. During her project there, Stacey got a closer look at the environment and animals, and realized her deep connection to it. A family of Northern Harrier hawks near her station had a particularly moving effect on her.
“I just had this sense of calling, with them being there,” she says. “I wanted to know what they had to say.” It wouldn’t be until later that she would know fully what their message was.
After her experience in California, Stacey and her husband moved to Oregon, which was a difficult time. “I couldn’t get work, which was disheartening, and I was having all kinds of dreams about bears and cougars,” she says. “It was like I couldn’t find what I needed.” It was this unexplained conflict that eventually led her to the Path Home Shamanic Arts School in Colorado.
Going on the recommendation of her mother, who had received a shamanic healing session at the school, Stacey explored the art of shamanic healing with Gwilda Wiyaka, the founder of Path Home. She found that through shamanic healing, there was real substance behind her dreams, and messages in her experiences with nature and animals. Stacey and her husband eventually moved to Colorado so she could pursue her shamanic education.
“I was following my heart and intuition … I had to give up a lot, but I wanted to immerse myself in the experience,” she says.
Stacey’s unique take on shamanic practice took shape when she met a woman who studied shamanism and specialized in animal communication. Stacey also learned with her, gaining experience working with animals of different kinds, while continuing her education at Path Home. It was a perfect bridge between the natural world that Stacey had been a part of for so long, and the path in life she was beginning to take.
Stacey says that much of what she’s learned has come from the animal friends she’s encountered along the way. While continuing her studies at Path Home, Stacey spent time volunteering for a raptor program at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Soon after she started there, a Northern Harrier hawk was brought to the center. For Stacey it was more than a chance meeting, as she recalled her hawk family who had first awakened in her the sense of purpose. She worked with the hawk every day for six months, gaining a hard-earned trust from a damaged but beautiful bird.
Sadly, there was ultimately no other option euthanasia due the hawk’s difficulties, but even in its death Stacey’s friend offered insight and purpose. One of the most cherished things Stacey received was helping her hawk friend cross over when it died. Stacey held a special shamanic ceremony for it. “I learned so much from her and am so grateful to her for that experience,” says Stacey with a smile.
While her experience with the Northern Harrier hawk was uniquely personal, Stacey often helped other animals cross over in death as well. “At the center I worked shamanically with a lot of damaged animals,” she says. “We had to put many of them down; I realized that they were giving their lives for a message for me.”
It was a message well heeded. Stacey continued her studies and became a certified shamanic practitioner in 2007. She began her own shamanic healing practice, realizing her own purpose in the work she does now. She also is the office manager at the Colorado Horse Rescue, a program that takes in at-risk horses.
In her practice, Stacey assists others in healing through a process called a shamanic journey. “A journey is natural for everyone,” says Stacey. She describes a journey as similar to a waking dream, but that the person is conscious and thinking as the journey is happening. In fact, the soul and consciousness of the person goes from the body to another “non-ordinary reality,” as Stacey puts it. “You’re outside your body, in another time,” she says, “You’re able to make choices, and more importantly you choose when it ends.” The fact that the person is always in control is one way a shamanic journey differs from a dream experience.
Usually a person meet sand interacts with beings called spirit guides and power animals, who often bring messages and advice to the person. A journey can be a very powerful experience because of the great deal of information recovered from these guide. A forgotten hurt can be found and healed. Regardless of what is experienced, a journey may only benefit a person, as their spirit guides and power animals are there for their constructive use and protection.
The shamanic practitioner facilitates the journey and assists the person making the journey itself. A practitioner does not control the person or what happens in the journey, but rather helps make the journey possible and do what needs to be done. After a journey, the practitioner talks to the person about the journey and helps derive meaning from it.
“Journeys allow you to literally experience different paths in life, and then make your decisions,” Stacey says. In her own journeys, Stacey has developed relationships with her guides and power animals. “They keep me healing and learning,” she says. “It helps develop that sense of self worth, and to manifest things in their truest way.”
Through this journey work, Stacey offers private sessions that emphasize soul retrieval, that Stacey describes beautifully on her website, www.wildgratitude.com. as, “An ancient technique practiced by all of our ancestors that brings personal power and expression back into your conscious working.” Soul retrieval focuses on healing the spirit, undoing any fragmentation that’s happened due to trauma in one’s life. Other sessions Stacey offers focus on building relationships with one’s power animals. She also does genetic line work, which explores the intricacies of one’s spirit in the context of their family history.
With her deep connection to nature and animals, Stacey’s service aids pets and animals as well. Shamanic journeys and soul retrieval benefit animals as much as people in the way that it heals the spirit. For many of the animals, this healing is of the utmost importance. “People usually come to me when they’re at a crisis point, meaning life or death,” Stacey says. A journey helps find the spiritual wound and helps bring healing.
Stacey’s skills extend beyond individual shamanic work. As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, Stacey performs wedding ceremonies for couples, as well as journeys before and after a wedding. A journey for a couple is a special experience because it helps prepare them for their roles as husband and wife. The wedding ceremonies themselves are also important because it involves not only the couple getting married but also the land that is home to them. It’s a beautiful way for a natural, sacred space to be held for a couple beginning their lives together.
“I know this isn’t the path for everyone, but I do make it available to everyone,” Stacey says in reference to the great importance of shamanic work. In addition to the array of services she offers, Stacey is also offering classes in beginning shamanic journey work at the end of April. These classes include techniques in self-healing – an important skill for any practitioner – and journeying for a ceremony. “We learn what it is you need in terms of healing, and what ceremony will help with that,” says Stacey.
On April 25th, a class called The Journey Home will deal with things people have held onto and need to release, as well as self-nurturing and becoming acquainted with spirit guides. The Journey Abroad class on April 26th will cover personal patterns and working with the identifying roles. Stacey says that these classes are invaluable because it is a different way of approaching the self. “In our culture we have no way to release those things we’ve held onto … this allows us and our relationships to move and change,” she says. More information about her classes can be found on Stacey’s website, www.wildgratitude.com.
Stacey will be teaching these classes at a unique farm cooperative called Willow Farms Healing Arts, located in Hygiene, Colorado. Willow Farms is directed by Susan Nemcek, a certified homeopath who began the farm about a year ago. Susan and Willow Farms provide the local community with the resources necessary to live more healthful, conscious lives through sustainability. The farm has community gardens where local families grow their own food, a pen with goats and chickens, and is surrounding by open land that children run and play on.
“Having things like homeopathy and Stacey’s work with shamanism all in one place makes it feel more genuine,” says Debbie, a local resident who is currently working with Willow Farms. “It’s a safe place to learn.” Susan plans to offer more classes in addition to Stacey’s in the future, including courses in weaving, herbal remedies, and homeopathy. “Willow Farms is building what I’ve never been able to put into words,” says Stacey.
With her classes ahead and her practice growing, Stacey says she finally feels comfortable in her own skin, doing what she loves best. Her process of discovery has led to what she had been looking for all along: introducing others to shamanic healing, helping others through their own healing process, and teaching others this art.
“Now I’m out in the world to give back by telling people what I do,” Stacey says. “And I ended up being who I am."
Stacey may be contacted at:
PO Box 2919
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
About Colleen Quinn
Colleen Quinn graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication. A writer for most of her life, she has been writing for Whisperingtree.net for over two years. In that time, she’s had the opportunity to meet with many practitioners and masters of the healing arts. Using her years of customer service experience and time as an intern reporter, Colleen provides a unique means of expression for each practitioner she meets. She believes that honest interest and open ears are paramount for learning and understanding the world around us. Through her writing, Colleen offers readers a valuable insight into the work of those who are doing so much to help others.