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Episode One: A Shaman Explains How She Travels Between Worlds — with Michaela McGivern

In this episode I begin by reading an essay I wrote about my last dinner with Teal, which happened to be at a talk about shamanism. And about how that lit a fire for me to not only experience my own healing, but understand healing in general.

Just before her death, Teal committed to her own path to become a healer. So it is with great happiness, that I continue that work … with Teal looking over my shoulder from the Afterlife.

Nothing is more mysterious than shamanism. Shamans have traveled between the waking world and the afterlife for centuries … but usually in the depths of the Amazonian rainforest and places like that. Michaela McGivern is that happy exception. She lives in a the small town of Sebastopol, in Northern California.

In this interview she explains with grace, charm and pluck just how she came to be a shaman, and what that means in her everyday life.

What I love about speaking to people like Michaela is that they take for granted things the rest of us find … well … incredible. And yet, to listen to her is to find peace and solace in her words. From her perspective, this entire life is a great soul lesson unfolding. And so we grow.

You can check out the remarkable, magical story of how Michaela and I crafted this podcast together on this blog post. 

In this episode, you’ll hear Michaela and I discuss:

  • How shamans work with energy and why that matters to us
  • How she got her own healing gift
  • A helpful perspective on your suffering and pain
  • How to shift from victimhood and blaming others to a sense of empowerment
  • How we can connect more deeply with our own guardian angels, power animals, and spirit teachers, as well as deceased loved one
  • How to see the divine energy even in our politicians … as well as in their shadow aspects
  • What to do about energies of deceased people who linger in our auras — and what that feels like
  • The soul agreements we have with those we love


The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

My Son in the Afterlife

Won’t you please let us know in a review on iTunes how you liked this episode? Thanks so very much! 

About Michaela McGivern

For 40 years, Michaela McGivern has worked in medicine. She is both a trained shaman and an occupational therapist in modern hospitals. She is a certified Medicine Bag Carrier and Practitioner of CoreIndividuation. She was trained to be a shaman at The Four Winds and The White Flame Institute. She is a Reiki Level II practitioner, Advanced Theta Healer, and a Certified Sound Healer among other specialities.

You can book a healing live or virtually with Michaela through her website,


Suzanne: This is Before the Afterlife, all about healing, spiritual growth and how to be happy before you go. I’m your host, Suzanne Falter. We are coming to you from Oakland California and points beyond.

Shamanism is one of the world’s great mysteries. Here people who can travel freely between the waking life and the afterlife and come back to report what they have learned. Their healing powers have been known about for centuries and they seem to exist all over the world. We’re going to talk about Shamanism today on Before the Afterlife because a particular and intense experience I had with it myself in 2012.

I first learned about it the night that my daughter, Teal, collapsed from a medical unexplainable cardiac arrest. That night, we settle down to dinner in a restaurant in San Francisco to hear a talk by a local archaeologist about the shamans in a small village in Ecuador. Now, we had no idea that our lives were about to be forever altered or that this was, in fact, the last time Teal and I would ever speak to each other.

Teal had epilepsy and that night in the restaurant she was in a strange altered state. She arrived in an hour late and she had little to say, which was very unlike her. She couldn’t say why she was late or where she had been. Instead, she attacked or dinner voraciously. In fact, Teal was in an altered state, most likely caused by a series of small absence or petit mal seizures. She felt these seizures were her connection to God and they had been fuelled by her own access to the Divine, which she had been exploring intensely in the previous year. Her fervent wish at this time in her life was to become a healer. Each time the speaker on stage mentioned how Shaman’s travel between the world, Teal would turn in her chair and stare at me very pointedly as if to say, “Are you getting this Mom?” This was during the last exchange we had before she collapsed a few hours later. She remained in a coma until we finally took her off of life support 6 days later at the advice of our medical team. So, I was left with many things. Grief, of course! But also an aching to understand this ministry of healing that my daughter was so drawn to. And what exactly happened to her brain that could help her access her own healing energy and the Divine. Also, I just want to know about more about Shamanism, in general, and how it’s used today in contemporary life. Now, not surprisingly, we have Shaman’s right here in California. Recently, I had the privilege to speak to a local shaman. Michaela McGivern, who shared with me many incredible stories about her path as a mystic a psychic and healer. I chose Michaela for our first podcast today because she is so very gifted at articulating just what goes on as she and other shamans cross the great divide and how you and I can use that wisdom in our own everyday lives.

Here’s Michaela speaking about her early days discovering Shamanic wisdom and what she calls a Divine confirmation of what is possible in life.

I am back with the wonderful Shaman from Sebastopol, California, Michaela McGivern, who has graciously joined me yet again for another adventure into the afterlife. Michaela is there something you would like to say to give a little bio about your background or anything like that just briefly, just so people will know you a bit better.

Michaela McGivern: Sure! As a child, I grew up in Ohio and I was really fortunate we had all this land around us and I prayed alone and in the woods and one of my favorite games was actually to play with the elements of the sky and the clouds. I was maybe 4 or 5 and I had this communication going on with this sky and the sun and the clouds and I would ask them to do certain things and they did! And I kind of thought this was cool. I also thought this was just normal! However, I didn’t have enough common sense to not tell people I did this. I just thought it was my fun game. The cool thing is, Shaman’s do that all time. They work with the elements because you’re in communication and I could feel all kinds of things and later when I was in college and I was experimenting LST for the first time I was outside my friends and we were into philosophy and theology at the time I and religious study. So, we were always kind of curious about exoteric things but rocks have consciousness and they are saying to me, “Well, how do you know that?” and  I’m like, “Because I can feel it, I can talk to them, I can hear them.” And they were like, “Well, how do you know they have consciousness?” Because “I experienced it! Well, that’s not enough?” and I was really baffled because I had a direct experience with the rocks had to say and what they were doing and I could feel trees and I could talk to trees and hear them. I was like, “How was I supposed to prove these stuff?” I have no idea. So, I think after that year. I kind of shut down my psychic abilities because I thought I was going a little crazy and I remember one day I was listening and in a meditation, I started hearing things and I got so freaked out, I ran into the psychologist office and I said, “Am I having a psychotic break? Am I schizophrenic?” I had no one to mentor me into this realm of connecting with the invisible. Although I have plenty of experiences, I could see angels in church and I could hear them singing around the funeral I was at ease but as I got older, I didn’t have any contacts to put it in. So, I put it aside and I went into Western medicine and work as an occupational therapist for 10 years, and work with people who were brain damaged, predominantly. And my curiosity as I mentioned earlier was really open to what is this journey about for this person. How is it that their life path has taken them into this situation, where they are grappling with the most basic things – How do I dress myself? How do I walk? How do I communicate? I was like, Wow! What are they learning from this? And there was a curiosity about wanting to know why some people’s life journey’s took them down really challenging roads and other people just kind of sailed through – graduated Magna Cum Laude and had these great jobs, had happy marriages and children and I was like,  “Why do we have such vast differences in all of our experiences?” So, the next decade I lived in Europe and I was exposed to a woman who taught singing and she was working with how sound opened up different chakras. And that was a really direct profound experience for me and from there it went into working with the energetics of medicine with the position I talked to you about earlier who had referred me to an energy class, working with chakras and energy with people of the trauma and then I finally went. I just got to check this out and I came back to the States in 2000 and just start studying all kinds of healing techniques, hands-on energetic techniques and going to Four Winds for their school, I would study with a woman named Bonnie Serratore, the Contemporary Shaman Institute and then most recently, I worked with Desda Zuckerman. And each time, it’s a new possibility for what we are doing in this lifetime and every other lifetime keeps opening. So, the journey gets richer, the more I understand about what we are doing as souls. Is this just a learning path? So we are choosing different experiences and it’s just an experience whether it’s a terrible experience or whether it’s very rich and sweet, it’s just an experience for our soul to know what that’s like and decide what to do with it.

Suzanne: So, that’s a very different perspective from our usual frame of thought which is why is this “delete, delete, delete” thing happening to me. We aren’t asking what can I do with this to evolve? We’re saying, that damn driver cut me off or how could the IRS audit now.

Michaela McGivern: Exactly! I think what I’ve learned to ask is, “What was my agreement with this person?” So every interaction we have, there is some kind of soul agreement to be in a relationship with that person, to experience something with that person and when you look at it that way, it’s no longer the driver that cut me off.  It’s “Wow! Why did I invite that into my life and what am I learning from it or not learning from it.” I was like, “How did I co-create this experience with this other person?

Suzanne: Wow! That’s a profound thing!

Michaela McGivern:  When you look at as co-creation, it’s no longer the blame game. It’s a matter of, “What am I learning from this? What am I unconsciously setting up for myself to experience or consciously and am I moving at a victim who did into my own self-realization and power, or am I going to stay in a place where I don’t really have much power and I want to blame the word for it.”

Suzanne: Yes, I get it. It’s not so comfortable now but it’s where the juice is. So, now you said in our other conversation that Shaman’s travel the world between realms, you said it in this conversation. How can we use that? How can we harness that aspect in the afterlife? How do we invoke that? How do you invoke that?

Michaela McGivern:   Let me turn the question in two directions. You asked, “How do we harness that in the afterlife? How do we use that now, in this life and then the afterlife? It’s another discussion. It’s my observation and experience that each of us has lots of guardian angels. We have power animals, we have teachers that are with us at all times. Some come and go depending on what phase of life you’re in, what you’re learning and they’re always there. So in this lifetime, oh and then you have who people love you, like my father and grandfather and mother.

Suzanne: Deceased people who love you?

Michaela McGivern:   Yeah! Deceased people who love us, who want to support us and I have called upon my father to help me with a business deal because he had a good business sense. I have a friend who doesn’t like to go shopping but her mother liked to shop so when she needs to get something she asked for her mother’s help and her mother recently told her to go to a specific store to find this red object she needed. She’s like, “Thanks, Mom!” and there it was! She came on with the perfect thing. So we have guardian angels. I have a parking angel.

Suzanne: I have a parking angel, too and boy is that useful in Northern California!

Michaela McGivern:   Great! Especially in San Francisco and I call upon them and I always thank them. So, in this lifetime, there’s lot’s of help, but I will say as a word of caution to people, to ask specifically to your guardian angel. Don’t just put out the anonymous call for help because you can bring in help that isn’t necessarily of the friendliest dimension. So you might say, “I need help from my guardian angels  or may I please have help from my mom?” Go directly to the Source, or if you have a great relationship with the Buddha or Jesua or Mary Magdalene. Call upon them, they are totally willing. They are willing and available 24/7.

Suzanne: I always have this very logical left brain thought about this, which is, “Well, wait a minute, if Mary Magdalene is keeping an eye on me what about the other four billion people in the world? How can she be in all those heads at once! You know? Or wherever?”

Michaela McGivern:  It’s about consciousness. When you move into the realm of conscious awareness, there are no limits to it. So when you move into the field of love, love doesn’t have a real estate plot. It just is and when somebody is moved into that realm, who’s moved like Jesua and Mary Magdalene or the Buddha, they are that energetic of loving consciousness. So, you just have to connect with that energy.

Suzanne: It’s like air in other words?

Michaela McGivern: Exactly! It’s always there.

Suzanne: Wow! That’s just an incredible concept but I feel it and I get it because so many times, particularly since my daughter died, I’ve been returned to love and I have experienced myself really looking at people on the street or wherever and looking around and really feeling everybody as kin and really understanding the level of our interconnectedness which is so buried from our usual consciousness, which is full of static and news and conflicts and Twitter and what am I going to make for dinner and everything else.

Michaela McGivern: Right! And I think you see people in that light, which you are really seeing is their divinity and even our beloved politician or unbeloved politicians are made of Divine energy.

Suzanne: In this election, it’s really hard to believe!

Michaela McGivern: Sometimes, I have to really remind myself of that thing and then I have to think about, “Wow! How are they serving us with their shadow aspects?” They are still made of a Divine but the Divine also consist of shadow, it isn’t just light. And if you look across the globe, there is more chaos and more shadow, literally just fulminating from the Earth. It’s like, “How can this be happening?”

Suzanne:  It’s true! It’s really true! It so feels like this, Michaela.

Michaela McGivern: And it’s like, how awake are we going to be to participate in that energy, that we have the capacity to be as insensitive as Donald Trump, or as violent as one of the ISIS people. We have that capacity in us. How do we express it? Or do we just suppress it and pretend it’s not there and when I look at that within myself, I see that my capacity to go in that direction comes out of judgment. So, my tendency to judge which I think all human beings do, comes out of a sense of separateness. Oh! I am not that, but in fact, I am that.

How can I see people with their Divinity as a whole, human loving means? Because sometimes it’s hard. Because sometimes, I can’t see myself that way. And so if I can come hold myself in a more loving, compassionate way, I usually have a greater capacity to be less judgmental. Politicians are still my cutting edges.

Suzanne: What else would you like to say about this, communicating with the afterlife and how do you use that in your work?

Michaela McGivern: It’s actually one of my favorite things to do with clients when they have an energy that’s in their structure, that is somebody who is dead. Oftentimes, people are hanging around because they want help, so what I’ve observed is that, sometimes, people who passed over will come and hang out with one of my clients because they know that the clients are going to come to me and they will be able to have a conversation with the client in our session.

Suzanne: Oh that’s neat! We’ve experienced that with you and I, with Teal dropping in. She drops in. She dropped in right before we had this conversation today.

Michaela McGivern: Oh, hi Teal! How are you doing? We will be talking you. So there are so many different capacities that people who have died will serve in. Sometimes, it’s like they will come back and they will give you a warning about a business deal. You know you got to go look in this closet underneath. This drawer there. the will or there’s the documents you need or this is not a good arrangement or hop on down to the market and meet up with so and so to help you out with this particular thing. They also have showing up.  I’m thinking of recent situation where are young man in his 30s died and was kept alive similar to your daughter for about a number of days on life support

Suzanne: In order to donate organs or just because they weren’t sure if he was actually going to pass away?

Michaela McGivern: I don’t know if they were going to donate organs. I think they just didn’t know what was going to happen. And so what I did with that family was the person who died had a message for each person in the family and they were very different messages – from neutral to like back up babe, to you have always been the closest thing to me, to some advice, and each message was very personalized. And it was just with that person needed to hear. Although one situation they didn’t like hearing it, but it was what that person had to say to them. So, sometimes they can be in that capacity. They want to have completion before they move on before their soul and spirit tell them to move on. They want to get the last message across. In other cases, I can think of my mother’s father who I never met, who died in an unfortunate circumstance and he was in one of the realms called the plant realm. He was stuck and he had been there for like 60 years. He had no way to figure out how to get to the light. So I went on a little search and found him. He wasn’t anybody’s structure but I actually went looking for him because I was like what happened to that guy. And he was just kind of oblivious to the fact that there was another option for him to move on. I worked with people who have died from suicide and they often have deep remorse, confusion, grief, shock, like their soul can’t quite groak what happened and so they get stuck. So, in that case, they need someone’s assistance to say – “It’s okay! There is no blame. It’s all forgiven when you go to the light, it’s just another experience.” And so that’s enormously freeing for that person who is stuck and also freeing for the person to whom they’re attached. It’s just an experience. It’s okay.

Suzanne: What I experienced when Teal died was that she was really around us a lot and the feedback I’ve gotten from you and other people was that she was really shocked that she died, really shocked. And it took her awhile to believe, and then she was worried about us and she was really hanging out and in fact, she was on life support for 6 days before we took her off of life support and she died because she had brain damage but the amount of brain damage was not knowable. So, in a situation like that, they have to wait before they can really diagnose the level of brain damage, so the person is just put on life support and kept alive in a very controlled environment. And she was talking to me and she was saying, “I’m trying to reconcile my heart and soul.” Because her soul wanted to leave and her heart wanted to stay, and we actually had a little exchange about that. I don’t experience her around me a lot now, four years later, but I mean she was around me all the time for the first couple of years and laughing through me and chattering and I remember one time I was in the restaurant with my son and she came through me and laugh rather hilariously. So he told her to keep it down, would you? I don’t know I just thought that was interesting that she just kind of faded away a bit, you know.

Michaela McGivern: Yes, it’s my observation and also to reading a couple of books, one is The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, and my son in the afterlife was another one. I think everybody’s experience of the afterlife is unique and it’s as unique as people’s experiences here. There are similarities, there’s some overlap. But I think to some degree, what you expect to happen will happen. It’s kind of like,  okay,  well you think heaven has a Rolls Royce in it and a pink carpet and you’ve got, you know all of the bonbons you can possibly ingest. Cool! Or like in my idea of heaven, it’s all about music it’s like it would be the most exquisite harmony going on 24/7 and lots of dancing, so that’s my version. You know, someone else’s might be, Hey! We’re going to heaven. I’m going to get the coolest race cars in creation. So in some ways, it doesn’t matter because, for me, it doesn’t matter because your soul has an infinite number of lifetimes to evolve. And I think what I have observed is that people who have passed on also continue growing and learning and evolving. They are still a soul. They just happen to be in a body for a while. And maybe they go on to continue to be a guide, maybe they come back in another body, maybe they become an animal, maybe they go into another dimension, they’re just growing. So, Teal for example, with your situation, Teal was very, from my perspective was very concerned with how she could support you in your grief and your loss and your healing. She wanted to do that for you. And it is also kind of her contract with you. And in order for you to grow as a soul, you had to go through all that grieving and shock and denial and anger

Suzanne: And letting go of so many things. Letting go, immensely.

Michaela McGivern: So, that the door could open up to these other experiences that you would share with people. So, she was very much her agreement with you, was to in an essence, usher you through this loss into another realm of knowledge.

Suzanne: This is so true and so eloquently put. Thank you for that because you know I’ve become a much more dedicated essayist and blogger since her death, which happen immediately the day after she died. I started writing these essays and I have written essays in the past but never with such a spiritual theme of doing whatever it took to become a better person and really trying to learn as I went and share my lessons which I continue to do because hey we are all a work in progress, I certainly am. The writing always feels like there’s an angelic dimension to it and it always feels like this is about this calling, this calling  to really become the best person I could possibly be, and it’s my invitation to everybody who listens to this podcast, to take what you can and work with it in your own life because you might here one thing even if it’s just you know the title of a book or this concept about people visiting us when we needed or an understanding of expansion or the oneness you know what Teal used called the Unified Field of Love, you know all of this is about coming into a deeper, greater place of acceptance of the real bliss of life. I think that is so wonderful about chatting with you and getting this sort of Divine confirmation about what’s possible, what is possible. So interesting.

Michaela McGivern: Yes, it’s so beautifully put and I think that one of the reasons I do the work I do with people is so people can let go of the things that have been holding them back so they can expand into that more Divine happiness of who they are, to share their gifts, to feel more embodied, to feel less traumatized or not traumatize, to feel creative, to have fun and to really find that Being in this lifetime is really joyful, magical experience.

Suzanne: On that note, we should put this conversation on pause until our next episode together because you and I have a lot more to talk about. Apparently, it’s an infinite amount. Okay, thank you much, Michaela and we’re going to have all the links to everything you discussed as well as the links to your site and the ways for people to find you if they want to be in touched directly.

Michaela McGivern: Thank you so much.

Suzanne: My pleasure. Thank you.