April 12, 2021

Episode #12 - Remembering Our Sacred Connection - with Niki Shefras

Have you ever felt there's more to life than you can see? Are you drawn to being in Nature? Are you yearning for more connection? Well, this week's show could be just what you've been waiting for! Hannah's joined by Niki Shefras from 'The Vida Sana' who provides practical guidance for a purposeful, balanced and beautiful life. They will be discussing how to step out of our comfort zones to remember our connection to nature and our ancestors, honouring the magic in all life and finding guidance during ancient rituals, such as sitting in circle around a fire. This will be an expansive and uplifting conversation, asking you to consider your daily habits and question whether you are open to receiving all the joy and sacred connection that's calling out to you.


Hannah Velten 00:11 Hello, everybody, welcome. Do come in, as usual, come in, sit around the circle. I've got a gorgeous guest for you to meet today. But just before I start talking to Niki, I just want to add to this thread that we're pulling through about Christian and I and our new adventure. And so the other day, it was National Siblings Day. And I noticed it for the first time last year - it's obviously some kind of new thing, probably a money making exercise! - but I thought, well, you know, there's going to be lots of siblings who are missing each other: some of them might be in Spirit, but otherwise, they could be just separate in the physical and I thought it would be nice to make a post about it. But while I was writing the post for this year, Christian was like, right, we're gonna sit down today, we're going to do something together. And we're going to sit down and we're going to write some long overdue letters that we should have written. But I wasn't ready to do them before. But anyway, so on Saturday, I sat down with Christian and we wrote five letters. And it's all to do with finding his lost belongings, which are still in Kita, in Mali. So that's just a little update, things are starting to move. Hannah Velten 01:29 The other thing I just have to tell you about. So I've got my lovely guest, Niki Shefras with me today. And I first met Niki quite a long time ago, it was probably about a year and a half, actually. And the minute I met her, we both had this click like we had to know each other, and we had to connect. And then... I'm just gonna bring Niki on because I want you to see where she is. So we're doing a live outside broadcast this evening, obviously, in the UK. Hi, Niki, thank you so much for coming on. Absolutely lovely to see you, as always. Niki Shefras 02:16 Thank you for the invitation. It's always good to connect with you, Hannah. And yeah, just sitting in my garden this evening. It was so beautiful out here earlier, but we've had snow this morning here in the UK. Hannah Velten 02:31 We did! I was wondering if we'd be able to do the outside broadcast. So on the 21st of March 2020, just before our lockdown in the UK, I went to Niki's house, and joined her... I'd never done a fire circle before, but Niki is Fire Keeper Extraordinaire... and it was the first cacao ceremony I'd done as well... And oh, you'll see behind her, Niki, do you just want to explain the setup you have there and what your fire circles are all about. Niki Shefras 03:14 First of all, it's just that connection with nature. And I feel very blessed with where we live. We've got a stream at the bottom of the garden, so it's a wonderful opportunity to connect with all the elements here, especially around the fire. But also - I'm sure you can probably hear it - there's a total symphony of birdcall and we have all sorts of birds living in the area, so it's really quite special. And with the fire, there's something about being in circle, around the fire, and especially with the cacao, which is a very heart-opening plant medicine, anyway, but it's something about really connecting to our heritage. We always used to connect around fires, we always used to connect in circles and there's a big part of that that's been lost and I think it's bringing that back in, in this culture particularly, that's so important. Hannah Velten 04:08 Yeah. So actually this year we've been able to do the two solstices and the equinoxes around the fire. I mean, I love the fire. The way Niki does it, it’s so magical, isn't it? It's like this liminal space where we come in from the outside and everything that's been happening this year, and we are able to sit in a circle. We've had so many rules and sort of limitations on life weighing us down and just being in nature, around the fire. It gives something special, doesn't it? That takes you out of the comfort zone that we've been in, really, at home. Niki Shefras 04:50 I think it's a couple of things, I think. One is, as you say, it's like you create a sacred space. I mean sacred spaces is all around us, but there's something about creating the intentionality around that and really being open and willing to connect. And as you say, it is this kind of liminal space; it's a doorway to something and it's very tangible. And you've noticed it, when we've sat around the fire, when we open the space and we close the space, it's like when we close at the end, you can feel almost like a bubble disappearing. It's something most tangible, and there's something about being able to connect in a way and, especially when you're in circle where everyone's experiences are valid and welcome, and oftentimes, you find that we share the same stories, and things come up that someone might not be prepared to say, but they can instantly connect with that. So it's a place of deep connection really, and especially around the fire, which is, you know, one of the greatest teachers there is - round Grandfather Fire. Hannah Velten 05:53 Yeah, I know there's a difference between I mean... there's obviously lots of people are sitting around fires at the moment, in their gardens, but there's a completely different thing of sitting around with, you know, a drink and chatting with friends and, you know, with your mates, and then sitting in circle in a sort of ceremonial way around the fire. Niki Shefras 06:20 I think it comes back to that intentionality of what are you coming to it with? The idea when we sit around the fire, as you know, we make offerings to the fire first, and there is a very symbiotic relationship with it and fire heals and transforms. And it's the language of symbolism, it awakens ancestral memories within us. And when you connect to that, you start to ignite, literally within you, your own sense of magic, and remember really what it is to be connected. And I think that so often... you know, we live life (I'm speaking generically here), but we live life asleep. And, you know, when we start to connect with nature itself, and all the elements, and remember. You know, I'm an animist at heart; I believe in the spirit in everything and when you recognise that everything just comes alive and life just feel so much richer. Hannah Velten 07:18 It does and I know you were telling me, you did something a bit different the other night, just to take yourself out of the box. Niki Shefras 07:27 I think it's important to touch on that. So Hannah and I were talking the other day, and I think now, more than ever, our comfort zones are getting smaller and smaller, you know, especially given our current situation (without going into it), our sense of pushing ourselves out of our boundaries is really important. It's really important to do that otherwise we just get too comfortable and it starts to condense and get smaller and smaller, and our experience becomes smaller and smaller. And so it's just a really, really small and silly thing the other day, I just slept out under the stars in the garden. I mean, probably not the best night for it - was a little bit windy and it wasn't clear skies - but it was beautiful nonetheless and what I did find was, in the same way that the fire (as you well know) awakens something, there was something about being outside and sleeping under the trees and seeing them move above me and it awakened a time of when that used to be normal, you know, sleeping under the stars was something normal rather than my comfy bed. I think it's just about pushing comfort zones wherever we can at the moment. So we don't live a limited existence, but we experience what it means to live all of life, in all of its beauty and colours. Hannah Velten 08:47 Yeah, it's almost like being childlike again, isn't it. There's something about sitting around a fire, in community, where it's so deeply rooted - I remember doing it, some time. You know, this connection - just returning to what we have always been doing and what we are used to. Just in our lives now we just don't get that connection so much. I suppose we have more connection with nature, now; we've all slowed down and we've been able to spend a lot more time in nature, but remembering that sacred connection that we had and being the animist there's a spirit in everything, isn't it? Can you just explain a bit more about your beliefs of nature. Niki Shefras 09:40 Everything - it sounds silly to say it - but everything's alive, it has spirit and I think (just to touch on what you said) it's that finding the joy within and coming back to ourselves and remembering what we know is there but we can't quite connect with it. You know, we used to be tribal people. We used to live in a very, very connected way to the lands and for the last few 1000 years, that's become more and more removed, life has become more and more comfortable and our communication with our surroundings has become more and more limited. And I think it's opening up that dialogue, again; it's opening up and finding ways. And I truly believe when you start to communicate with nature, or when you open that dialogue up, it is met, it is heard. And there is a reciprocal relationship. I think I mentioned to you, or maybe not, but one time I was singing by a stream and literally the tree next to me suddenly, before I knew it, it was just full of birds. And I truly felt that there was this connection there; that I was suddenly one and part of everything else. And that might sound odd for some people, if they're not used to thinking like that, but genuinely, the more we appreciate what we have around us, and we are stewards of these lands, rather than taking for granted everything that we have around us, the more we have a hope of living in a harmonious way on this planet, not just with each other, but with our surroundings and everything else. Currently, we live in such a cut off, separate way. And even within ourselves, you know, disconnected from our own hearts, disconnected from each other and disconnected from the place around us when as humans we yearn for connection, we yearn to be connected to something bigger and, I think that's also (coming back to the fire) what it does, it reminds us that we're part of something bigger and greater. And it's so important for us to have that. And I think so many people are looking for it, but may be confused as to where to look, because maybe traditional religions or maybe traditional ways of being haven't served them. I just think that there's something about coming back to that basic dialogue. It can be really, really simple. It can be really simple. And just, you know, acknowledging the presence of something else that's living next to you. Just because it doesn't talk in our language doesn't mean it doesn't have its own language. You know, the trees have root systems under the ground that have an amazing connection between them all. And in certain traditions - Earth-based traditions - refer to the animals, the plants, the trees, and everything else as 'brothers' and 'sisters'; we're all part of the same family. And I think that it's really helpful to remember that. Hannah Velten 12:47 Yeah, and for listeners, if they're listening and they're thinking, 'Oh, my goodness, yes' for what you're saying about that connection that we need to reconnect with, are there any simple practices that you can talk us through, about how to connect or how you speak and connect with your environment? Niki Shefras 13:13 I think it starts with little things. It can be as simple as when you're in the shower in the morning, acknowledging the water, and it's cleansing qualities, and acknowledging how lucky we are to have fresh water. I think, oftentimes, it starts from a place of gratitude. I know it sounds cliche, but it really does. Because with the gratitude, you start to open your heart and you're listening isn't from your mind, you're listening through your heart and your quality of attendance becomes that much richer. So I think, you know, you can start in the shower, just becoming conscious and aware of the water over you. When you're eating and even when you're preparing your fruits and vegetables and your food and remembering where that's coming from; that it's come from this land, that's nourishing your body. It's starting to remember that cycle. And then I think a big one is just really slowing down and listening. I make this practice myself to make me slow down in some ways; you know, the world's very speeded up. It's like the rolling wheel when you're driving along: you're going so fast, it's a blur as you go by. But as soon as you start slowing down, you can pick up the details and the colours and it becomes that much richer. It's coming down and appreciating the essence of things and slowing down and being aware of your surroundings. And you know, the cliches of 'stop to smell the roses', they're cliches because they work. Stop and smell the roses, appreciate how amazing they smell, you know. Foraging is a great one, I mean I forge with a friend. And I'm quite lucky, I've got a garden full of wild garlic. So I come out and pick the wild garlic and then I eat that. And I'm like, wow, I just picked this out. My God. It's pretty special when you think about it. So I think the main ones is just becoming more aware on a micro level, slowing down, opening your heart through gratitude, and beginning to really appreciate the wonder and mystery of all we have around us. Hannah Velten 15:28 Yeah, absolutely. I know when we're around the fire, it's very, very obvious this gratitude that you give to the fire, to the elements, to everything that's around us. Can you sort of explain why you give gratitude to Grandfather Fire, to all the elements are around you. Niki Shefras 16:01 I think part of it is an acknowledgement of the beauty and the magic, as I said earlier, that we have around us. The other part is, again, is that... just as I'm sitting here, a couple of blue tits have literally just just flown up to us! Anyway, the other part is really again, that sense of gratitude, but also you're presenting yourself to something and instead of just going and asking for something, it's about starting that reciprocity, starting that sense of exchange, and coming with a gift and and an offering and a 'thank you'. I was speaking with a teacher of mine and he said, you know in prayers, they never asked for anything, their prayers are of gratitude. The only thing that they asked for is that spring will come again next year, which I think is just beautiful. And again, it's this always asking, but what are we bringing? And how can we bring more? And how can it be instead of always ‘what can you do for me?’, asking ‘What can I do for you? How can I humbly bring myself forward in front of this great mystery, this amazing experience of life? How can I bring myself truly authentically and make my offering and my contribution?’ So, it's this idea of gratitude and cycle and reciprocity. Hannah Velten 17:35 Yeah, I talk a lot on the podcast about asking Spirit for help. And I do always forget - and now you're saying it again - the importance of giving gratitude for what you've already received from Spirit or what you are getting and then asking for support. And I know we've talked about the right way of asking for support from Spirit when you're around the fire. Can you just talk us through the right questions to be asking of Spirit after giving thanks. Niki Shefras 18:33 I think there's a couple of things just to unpack that a little bit. One, I don't think that there's a right or wrong way, I think the way's through the heart. And again, it's coming back to that authenticity and tuning in and just being really real with it. I mean, in my own practice, I know that I've cut myself off, you know, we're all on this learning journey and I have to really consciously tune in and make sure that that's the place I'm speaking from, or, you know, when I do my yoga practice in the morning, I make sure that until I've felt like I'm really connected, I don't want to get up off my mat - I want to make sure that that's the space I'm going to create my day from. So that's one bit, there's no right or wrong. And I've also noticed that since I changed how appreciative I am for things in my life, just things come much more freely and fluidly into my life because I genuinely, genuinely walk with this awe and great gratitude for life. And, you know, it hasn't always been smooth - we've all had our ups and downs - but it's that genuine, genuine heartfelt honesty. But going back to your questions, the questions you ask will dictate to a certain degree the answer you get, so you can ask a question of "why is this happening to me?" Well, what is the quality of that answer gonna be? But if you can ask a question, "what is happening here?" or "What is this teaching me?" Or "what can I learn from this and how can I use this information to help others?" You can see that it's the same kind of thing, but you're just reframing it and framing it in a way that you can have a much more expansive response. Hannah Velten 20:43 Yeah, absolutely. And I think it shows that we're expecting the good, like, "what am I learning from this?" "What am I being shown?" And it's a positive thing, isn't it? And it's about growth and expecting the best, you know, things are happening FOR you, rather than TO you. Niki Shefras 21:10 Yeah, I think there's another element to it. And like, when I look at all the shitty patches in my life, and there have been some really sticky ones, you know, all of that stuff is truly the manure for the seeds to come through. You know, it's not all roses - every rose has a thorn and that is part of the beauty and the growth. And instead of thinking about it in this sort of a 'why me?' context, it's like, okay, in the wider scheme, this is just part of what I need to go through right now and part of my learning journey, this is part of what I need to experience. But making sure you don't miss the gift in that, because there's a gift in all of it. And when I look back at those tricky times that I've been through - there's been some really rich manure in there, I mean, it was tough (don't get me wrong) - but that's what's caused the beautiful flowers to grow. Hannah Velten 22:11 Yeah. Can you sort of tell us a bit about your background, it's probably a good time to do that now. I know you've done a lot of travelling and... Niki Shefras 22:22 Okay. So I grew up in the UK. And at the age of 19/20, I went on a two week holiday to Miami - I'd just finished university, I'd worked my tail off all the way through and so I had this two week holiday. And when I got there, I was like, wow, this is interesting, exciting. You know, I was 20 years old, the world was at my feet. And I ended up staying. And I ended up living in The States for a couple of years and then moving to the Caribbean. At the time, because this is before 9/11, when travelling was slightly different, I basically needed to go across the border to get a stamp on my passport to stay for another six months, and I ended up staying in the Caribbean and running a series of beautiful restaurants out there. And like, you know, I was 21 years old and I had a hundred people working for me, I was just like, I don't know how this happened! So I just fell into this and it was really an amazing experience, and an amazing place to live. And then I was there for almost 10 years, and then I moved to Spain, because it was time to come back to Europe and lived in Spain, and ended up working in a very different field - in professional sports. And I really enjoyed living there. I think, just without going into all the details, what was interesting was living in these different cultures... I also lived in Israel for a couple of years, there's a whole other story... but living in these different cultures and times when I didn't speak the language, or I was an ethnic minority, or, you know, I had this really vast experience of moving in these diverse different spaces and the beauty of it, and what it taught me really was... and actually coming full circle back to the UK, which was by far - by far - the hardest move after living 20 years abroad... the hardest move I ever made… one of the main things was seeing the box and the social constraints of what we live and grow up in, because as soon as you step outside that you can see 'Hang on a minute - it's not done like that everywhere' and you start to realise your societal conditioning. And the more you move and the more you travel, the more you see apparent in different places and it was an incredible gift for me to be able to see what I wanted to take on board and say, 'yeah, that's worthy, I'm keeping that and that I'm discarding, because actually it doesn't seem to enrich my life'. And it was an amazing learning experience, 20 years living in different places in the world. And I feel coming back on that circle, just very, very grateful to be back in the UK. I guess at the time, I didn't think that I would end up back here, but I love it. And what I'm finding - and this is where it all comes back to this nature connection - the more rooted I am to nature and the more I connect with it, the easier I find life, the easier I journey through the different seasons. You know, for 20 years I was living in sunshine place now, you know, winter was like brrr. But actually I revel in it in a different way now. And it's connecting to the cycle of life and the seasons and the gift that each season brings that really makes me feel grounded and rooted in quite a special way. Hannah Velten 26:12 It's funny, because I didn't realise actually how long you'd stayed in the Caribbean before. And of course, Christian travelled really widely in the Caribbean, he was going all over the islands and he did that for sort of 18 months. So I know Christian always joins us in the circle and I know why. And he loves you. I have to say, he does, Niki - it's perfectly obvious [Niki laughs]. And you also speak Spanish as well, which Christian... he was good at Spanish. And I know you actually speak four different languages, don't you? And what you were saying about moving around and observing other cultures, other people's way of doing, is that how you found the circles, these fire ceremonies? Niki Shefras 27:09 Hmm. I think the yearning was there. You know, for as long as I can remember, I've had a really unusual, professional career - which has been amazing - but all the while I had this real yearning for the mystical, magical side of life. It has always tantalised me, I guess, and I've always been yearning to connect with it. And it's always run parallel, but wasn't ever really out in the open, unless I was with certain people, you know? ... How did I find it? I think it was just, again, finding traditions where we could really connect in that way just became more and more important and an actual necessity, almost. You know, something so vital to be able to share that magical space around the fire. Hannah Velten 28:16 Yeah, I mean, I must say until I'd done a ceremony around the fire, or just sat in circle, I didn't know that I was missing it. But now we've been able to do it regularly, if I couldn't sit around the fire on these main cycles in the year, I would really really miss it. It really does give me something. Niki Shefras 28:43 Ah, that's lovely to hear. I think you absolutely touched on it. There's something that sparks that ancestral remembrance within us when we're around the fire. This is why it's such a magical thing in so many ways. It just reminds us. That real sense of 'Remember to Remember' - it's like before we come down and incarnate on this world, in this physical plane, Remember to Remember - bring those things forth. I think that's one thing and then punctuating it around the cycles during the year is really helpful, because it also keeps us in that cycle around the year. It reminds us that spring is time to blossom, be creative, launch projects, bursting... you know, you've got this fragility of the first flowers when they come through, but the absolute strength it takes to break through the ground, you know, and then as you come into summer and the energy changes again and you get these longer days and the heat and it's a little bit lazier, then you have this intense activity at certain points and reminding us how we incorporate that in our daily life, how we incorporate that in our own projects, and why wouldn't we align ourselves with the most amazing, perfect pattern of nature or archetype to live by? I mean, if there's ever a more perfect example of what we need to do, it's here all around us. But so often we ignore it and use it as if it was there for our taking, instead of listening in and tuning into that deeper wisdom that would actually show us how to live more harmoniously with life. Hannah Velten 30:24 Yeah, and the simple process of just marking the parts of the year, it really does slow down life. That's something I've really been noticing. Niki Shefras 30:48 Yeah, I think so. And also having these roughly six week periods, it allows you to stop and take stock and it also acts as a kind of a thermometer on your life: okay, where am I at? What's working? What's not? What's time to let go? What's time to bring forth? What's time to sow? You know, you can do it by the moon as well, you've got these other cycles within the cycles, and it's incredibly potent stuff. And, for me, it just helps me feel more connected. And it's made my living in these lands so much richer. And I didn't think like that when I was living here, when I was up to 20 years old, you know I didn't think that way, but now it's fundamental. And it's like, you know, not just around the fire - remembering to remember - but it's like, remembering the roots of how we were connected to these lands before, you know, the medicine is everywhere around us. It's whatever’s imbued with the ability to teach us, or for us to be able to learn. And it's just slowing down and listening in. Hannah Velten 32:03 Yeah - it's getting lessons from nature. I often do a walk - I imagine you probably do the same thing - I've got a question or something that I would like some guidance on, and I'll go off very slowly on a walk and I'll notice three things maybe, which are really speaking to me somehow: it could be a bird or something that I repeatedly see or something about the blossoms. Do you do that kind of thing? Niki Shefras 32:39 Yeah. And I think that's a really valid point and one for your listeners. You asked earlier about ways to connect and it's such an obvious one in many ways. Ask the question, what's troubling you? Just put it out there, you know, we're not alone in this [Niki laughs}. Just put it out there. But, again, frame it in a way that you allow a response that's expansive to come back to you, and one that can support you rather than what's narrow and going in. And another thing I've done that have been really quite interesting is setting intentions for my walk. So last winter, for example, when it was really cold and muddy, I was just like, "Today, I'm going to play!", because I wanted to, again, find that joy. How do we find the joy in these things, if we don't start bringing it through, and making it happen? It's not just 'today, I'm going to be joyful'. No, you've got to find ways to experience that and bring it forward. I said, 'Right, I'm going to play in nature". I mean, I took my welly boots off and I was in the puddles. My partner said to me, "What are you doing? You're mad. You're going to have wet feet for the rest of the walk". I was like, "No, I can't ignore this calling. I need to do it. For some reason." Oh my goodness, I had so much fun that day. And I think it was because, you know it's such a silly example, but I was intentional about opening up that dialogue and saying, "Right, today, I'm gonna have a really fun, joyful day." And it was it was really fun and joyful. You know, it all sounds silly when you repeat it back, but it was profound at the time [Niki laughs]. Hannah Velten 34:13 But that's all part of just being childlike about it, isn't it. Just being in nature and being joyful about being there and being on this earth and being grounded to it. And it's a really joyous, joyous thing. Niki Shefras 34:31 I think we get so entrenched in our lives and our habits and the daily routine and earning the money and, you know, the adult stuff, and it's bringing that sense of joy and that childlike spirit to things that is so important. Play. I mean, when was the last time we played? You know, this sense of play is so important, but often, it's sort of relegated to just children's stuff. I don't want to stop playing! [Both laughing] Hannah Velten 35:08 I know! If we now move on to talking about the fire, and the circle, and the connectivity between people. You know we're at the moment still in this social distancing and there's a lot of fear still around. But when I first came into the circle, my experience was actually... it was quite unnerving at first, because there were quite a few people that I didn't know, but the connection that you have around the fire and the sharing with people. I mean the honesty that kind of comes out around the fire. What's the sort of alchemy around the fire? What does the fire do? It's obviously ancestral and ritual, but can you put your finger on what it does? Niki Shefras 36:10 A number of things, I think. When we walk into that circle, we drop everything, you know. There's something about the connectedness about the space, creating a space to be able to share and a space that's held and respected and honoured and there's an honouring of each other in the circle. We celebrated and practiced ritually in circles for centuries, you know, aeons. And, I think we touched on earlier, it's like, you tap into not only the individual experience, but the shared collective that comes through; there's something about being in circle that everything seems to get mirrored in them, and you get the possibility to see things and work things out. And it becomes very apparent, very quickly, when there's a lack of authenticity; there's no space for that lack of authenticity, because even that, in itself, is showing something up... it's just such a held space that everyone is totally themselves and is able to bring forth what they need to in that moment. It's a lesson for everyone around there; there's always something in there for everyone in that circle, always. It's just incredible, really, when you think about it, because it's such a simple thing, but it's so, so rich. Hannah Velten 37:52 Yeah. And it's allowing everybody to have a say, as well. So the principle of the fire is everyone takes their turn to speak and you are listened to and I think maybe in these days, we want to be more listened to. And it's a healing process, isn't it? And I know you were telling me about the grandmothers and the warriors and the children around the fire and the basics of the fire in other cultures. Could you explain how the fire is used to heal and have peaceful relations... Niki Shefras 38:39 So, some indigenous earth-based communities... you'd have them sitting around the fire, and you'd have your war chiefs and your peace chiefs and your law Council and all the things that you would need in society (and actually, we have that within us, as well). But you would also have the children and the mothers; the children would have their voice represented, which is as you said, everyone has their voice represented and everyone has this moment to be heard. You would never talk across the fire, so the mothers would never sit next to the children, so they wouldn't be able to cut them off. So all voices were welcome. You'd always have the Children's Fire at the centre of that and for true leadership to really happen, based on the fact that no decision, no action of any kind would be permitted from the council that would do any harm to the children, and that way it ensured that the future generations were protected, and it insured, you know, also like the seven generation principle - that should be in the DNA of every leadership, because when you've got the children at the centre of the fire, you're always ensuring, you know, a harmonious future for them, you're always ensuring that they're protected. Rather than, I think, the centre of the fire (if there is even one) with our leaders today, which seems to be money and economy, and.... anyway, another conversation for another time... but going back to what you were saying, it's a place where all voices can be heard. Hannah Velten 40:36 Urgh... it makes me sad, in that we're not all sitting around fires to make peace and to hear everybody's point of view and those that don't have necessarily the voice in society. I'm actually at the moment thinking more of teenagers and young adults who, quite rightly, are probably feeling pretty lost in this world that they're living in, and the opportunities that are being, you know, restricted. And we talked about this actually, last time we were round the fire, having teenagers around the fire and young adults around the fire with us, as their guides in how to use the fire. Niki Shefras 41:41 Giving them a safe space and a sounding board. I think it's so important now with the teenagers... what outlet do they have? ... a computer?! And in such a difficult growth time anyway. I think it will be very, very beneficial. And just going back a step, I think the leadership model needs to be totally overhauled, totally overhauled, because the priorities we have right now, especially in this culture (not even just in this country), it's just shocking: the lack of principle, lack of integrity, honesty, truth, wisdom. You know, I don't see any of this apparent in them and these are fundamental qualities that need to be met. Hannah Velten 42:38 Absolutely, yeah. Again, we need to get everybody around the fire, don't we, and have those principles. But yeah, I was just thinking as you were talking about losing our way in life. And I know, when I was a 20 something and Christian was also 20 something, we were kind of knowing that there was more to life out there and that we were here to do something. But it's having that clarity, and I was never... I mean Christian and I both spent loads of time outside, we used to live on a farm, we were always out and about, but it was having that sort of guidance and I think if I'd had a fire to sit around with all the different generations, I would have been sort of fast tracked into understanding what was required of me. Niki Shefras 43:41 I think we're missing the elders, you know, we're missing them. In our society (just here in the UK as an example), they're relegated to old people's homes and, you know, almost secondary citizens as such, instead of having a chance to share that wisdom and sharing their experience. We very much value the youth in society and beauty, and it doesn't allow for that wisdom to be passed down. And the other obvious thing is that around the fire people would share their stories, you know, stories would get handed down generation upon generation, songs will be song honouring our ancestors. And, you know, there was a woven history that we don't seem to have. Even just singing in the other cultures. I remember when I spent some time in South America after dinner, everyone would get out their guitars and we'd all be singing ... I don't think I've ever been to a household in the UK where people have just got out their musical instruments and had a jam session. Maybe I was going to the wrong houses! But it's not interwoven in our culture in the same way - it's not exactly mainstream... Hannah Velten 45:06 Yeah, sorry, I was just gonna say that the rites of passage for, say, adolescence moving into adulthood, for getting married and obviously grief and death, there would have been elements around the fire, in community... Niki Shefras 45:28 In our earlier tribal cultures, as you go passing into womanhood or young boys becoming men, they would go on a vision quest, they would go and they would have to overcome something to come back. And talking of rites of passage, these transitional phases... it's very, very big right now, you know, death in our culture - it's not handled in a way that we are appreciating life through it; it's this finality because we don't understand life. And that's why we're so fearful of it, and it's not celebrated in the right way and it's handled in a way that doesn't feel natural to me. And I mean, this is something you know only too well; how can we shift that? I think that whole idea around death right now is very obviously (dare I use the COVID word?) about keeping people safe at all costs. But at what cost? Isn't it better to die surrounded by your loved ones in a way that your passing is nurtured, rather than in a place where you might be on your own, in the middle of a ward somewhere, with no one around.... there's a whole other conversation, but there's something around how we deal with our rites of passage in this culture. I don't think we do; it's really lacking. And I think that really counts for a lot. Hannah Velten 47:24 Yeah, cuz I've done quite a lot of research into the indigenous ways of celebrating death and a grief process and I was actually talking to somebody the other day about, like, after a year, you have a ceremony of the tears [Wiping The Tears], I think it was called, where you're celebrating all the firsts that happen after a year of death: the first birthday, the first anniversaries of this and that, so that would be a whole year that you could have to mourn. Whereas we don't have that, do we. We're given a few months, then it's 'you should be alright, now, get on with it.' Niki Shefras 48:12 Well, we don't have these initiations or these ritual practices or these transitions... there's no transition to support that. And I think it's really important to look at how we can bring them forth in our culture. Hannah Velten 48:31 Yeah, absolutely. We were just talking about being in circle and releasing things into the fire, so the alchemy that happens around the fire - that seems a nice way to sort of finish the discussion... so, what can you release to the fire? I know we've done quite a few different things. Niki Shefras 49:00 I think it comes back to a dialogue and anything that you want to release, so often times I might put something in the fire, saying a prayer of something that I want to let go of, whether it's a way of being or an emotion of something stuck and make a ritual practice over that. You can also release into the fire your prayers, your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations, dreaming in a beautiful world and dreaming in a more harmonious way of living, dreaming in whatever it is you want, and make an offering at the same time. So anything really. I mean it's your dialogue, it's your conversation. Hannah Velten 49:49 Okay, so if people as sitting without access to a fire, can you do this with candles? How can you adapt this to everyday living? Niki Shefras 50:04 You can make a ritual practice with a candle. Even when you light that candle, what are you lighting the candle for? You know, when I light a candle in the morning, I say a little prayer of what I want to bring in that day - it could be anything. You can make an offering, if you like. Again, it's that dialogue; the flame's still there, it's the one flame of all the fires, they're all connected. It's not just your separate flame in your room, no, it's all connected. Hannah Velten 50:39 Ah, that's key, isn't it, actually. Because I do think when I'm around the fire that I'm not just connecting to everyone around the fire, but also to the ancestors. And I know that when you light a fire, you always use the ashes from the previous fire, don't you? Niki Shefras 51:05 Yeah, when I'm making the fire at the beginning I'll always keep some of the ashes from the previous fire and use them. So it's like all of the thoughts and the beauty and the intention, it feels like it gets stronger and stronger and I add some rose petals and some cedar and some tobacco and use that at the heart of the fire, and with prayer. And I think that, again, it comes down to that intentionality of how you build it. And again, for someone practising in the home, if they don't have access to the fire, you can (in the same way you can access all the elements) build a little altar: you can have your candle on there, you could have a little cup of water, you can have something that represents the earth - be it a crystal or a plant, a flower [and something representing air, like a feather] - you can start to bring these practices in and start honouring it and the way it works for you. It's all about how it works for you and what feels seamless and fluid in your life. So make a small altar and make that a place where you start to enter into that dialogue and connection on a daily basis. Start doing that. It's like anything - friendships grow over time - these sacred things take time and love. And so I think that that's a really nice way to do it; have an alter practice. Hannah Velten 52:28 Yeah, that's a really lovely idea. And if we're talking about the ancestors again... if we're sort of receiving and giving to them as well, what can they help us with? Or what can we learn from them? Niki Shefras 52:51 That's a big question....We can have ancestral traumas in our lineage, and they're almost like shadows that exist within us and it's how can we heal our own stuff that then heals everything back and forward, so then our children don't then carry those traumas through. So again, in the same way you have that dialogue with nature, with the fire or with the elements, you can have that same dialogue with your ancestors. I say a prayer for mine; for those who haven't lived well, died well, or passed well, I say a prayer that they might be guided to the light, that they might find wholeness and peace and love. What can we learn from them? So much. But I think the key point is we're here, right here, right now; it's almost like that seed of potentiality. You know, you can use the analogy of the seed in the same way where you can put all the elements around it and it grows into something strong, but it's the past, present and future in that one seed and the same as us: we are the past and present and future; we are all of our seven generations behind us, and the seven generations forwards and we here, right now, what can we do to mend those things within ourselves that we might live a better life and hopefully shift something, so that forward, for our children, they might learn, grow and build a better life for themselves? Hannah Velten 54:29 Oh, absolutely. It does rely on us doing the work, doesn't it? And... urgh... we've run out of time, Niki. The episodes always go so, so quickly. But if people are interested about you and the work that you do, do you have a website you can send people to? Niki Shefras 54:50 Yes. thevidasana.com - 'vida' means life in Spanish and 'sana' is healthy or whole, so it's all about healthy, whole and connection to ourselves, each other and our environment. Hannah Velten 55:12 Well, thank you so much for joining us. And if anybody gets the opportunity to sit around a fire with Niki, please do take it. Next week, I have a lovely lady from the Gold Coast in Australia and I talked to her about her son who died suddenly. But she, like myself, and we've just touched on it with Niki actually, about taking the gifts out of difficult times and the gifts from loss and what we can learn to make a more purposeful and joyful life moving forward. So that's next week with Karen Chaston [pronounced Chaseton]. And I must thank again Niki, thank you so much for joining me for your beautiful garden. And, you know, the birds were quite well behaved. Niki Shefras 56:04 And thankfully... when we started, they were doing hammering over there, but they stopped so we were lucky. Hannah Velten 56:14 {laughing] They can carry on now, can't they. Niki Shefras 56:16 Thank you so much. Always good to see you and connect with you. Hannah Velten 56:19 Alright, lovely. Thank you very much. And thank you everybody for listening. And we'll see you next week. Bye. Thank you for listening to the Finder of Lost Things. I think we've been triggered so long and so hard by COVID and it's gonna carry on. People are getting used to stillness and they're getting used to a more solitude. But how do you use that time for the highest good. This process that we're going to explore will bring back the joy and purpose to life. That wholeness you know, that sort of harmony and flow and togetherness. People are really ready to find their lost parts now. You can find me at www.hannahvelten.online

Niki ShefrasProfile Photo

Niki Shefras

For the past 25 years, I have travelled and lived all over the world working with forward thinking, highly successful entrepreneurs accelerating their projects and business strategies. My journey has been a colourful and a non-linear one of diverse professional opportunities that propelled me into new industries across various continents and cultures. I ran an enterprising Management Company in the Food & Beverage sector operating in the USA and Caribbean. For over a decade I was immersed in the world of professional football in Europe, organising international friendlies, tournaments and pre-season training camps for top tier football teams; before returning to the UK as an advisor to a portfolio of luxury brands, accelerating their projects, and creating tangible value out of their ‘blue sky’ thinking. All this has left me highly experienced, multi-disciplined, and fluent in four languages.
The one constant has always been my fascination with, and appreciation for wisdom from the natural world and sacred realms. It was rapidly apparent that this wisdom was completely absent from the one-dimensional professional worlds I'd been revolving in, so, after decades of acumen acquisition, I created the concept of The Vida Sana; a lifestyle, state of mind and way of being that brings balance & beauty to the mind, body, spirit & soul. I am delighted to bring real value to the people I work through life alchemy coaching and exquisite events and environments that inspire and empower transformation fusing wisdom from the natural world and my multifaceted business skills.

Life lover, truth seeker, wisdom weaver, I am a serendipity manifester passionate about nature, travel and adventure, I enjoy everyday miracles and bringing the sacred into the ordinary. These days, when not working on diverse and interesting projects, you will generally find me getting purposely lost in nature somewhere, sat around a fire, or letting my creativity flow in a myriad of ways, be it in the kitchen trying to make a “naughty” recipe healthy, or with a brush or pen and blank sheet of paper.