Kick-Ass Angels…or How To Survive Chaos in Turbulent Times



Kick-Ass Angels… or How to Survive Chaos in Turbulent Times


Valentine McKay-Riddell, PhD





The other day during a session with one of my students, the conversation veered into how to survive “turbulent times.”  Since I’ve had considerable experience with this particular challenge I decided to share what I’ve learned with her—and with you.

At a friend’s suggestion I recently opened the door—and my heart—to a visit from five powerful Archangels (named here in case you should receive the same invitation):

Archangel Michael

Archangel Gabriel

Archangel Rafael

Archangel Uriel

Archangel Metatron

I am a “born-again” Pagan and eclectic spiritual counselor, but as an Irish Catholic child I was no stranger to Angels.  I prayed to my Guardian Angel every night and have certainly led a rather charmed life, so someone’s been working on my behalf all this time.  Nevertheless, this past year has been more challenging than usual, and I thought hosting five Archangels might improve the energy.  I built a beautiful altar, decorated it with a photo of each Archangel, fresh flowers, candles, crystals, and shells, and breathlessly awaited the arrival of my celestial visitors, certain that their visit would result in an amazing assortment of blessings, gifts, and tips on how to reach Nirvana in five easy lessons.

Little did I know that these are the top five Ninjas in God’s Army.  And since one of the three wishes I’d been told I could make was a wish for the opportunity to create positive change and growth in every area of my life, I shouldn’t have been surprised when things started happening…but I was.

The Angels arrived on November 4.  They stayed until November 9, when I sent them on to three unsuspecting and equally hopeful friends.  On November 13 I had the third interview for a core faculty position with a Bay Area school at which I’d love to teach, leaving me with great excitement and high hopes.  That evening I thanked the Angels for their gift and prepared to sit back and enjoy whatever further blessings were immanent.  The next day all hell broke loose.  A serious financial deadline came due with no way to pay, necessitating frantic calls to a local legal services provider; I discovered that a professional colleague wasn’t quite as open and above board as previously thought; and my stomach—always the first canary in the mine of personal stress—began to react.

Later on, after I’d managed to find the money needed to pay the debt and the dust began to settle, I wondered what on earth had gone wrong.  How could five Angels—Archangels no less—be so tough?  But after giving the situation a little more thought I realized that I had received exactly the opportunity to create positive change and growth that I’d asked for.  Nobody can move into the future with a huge debt hanging over their heads.  In a rather harsh way, this unpleasant event forced me to take a good look at my obligations and deal responsibly with them.

As for the five heavenly Ninjas, one of the three friends to whom I “paid the Angels forward” had a very pleasant and calm visit; while a second friend reported emotional, physical, and financial earthquakes that resulted in major life-changing decisions; and the third friend hasn’t been heard of since his Angels were sent.  (Heaven knows what’s happened to him!)


Angels or no Angels, it is very clear that we are indeed in the midst of a major “reset” of our priorities, our ways of thinking and being in the world.

Shamanic teachers Jose’ and Lena Stevens send New and Full Moon updates and a monthly forecast to everyone on their email list.  For many months they have been warning those of us who didn’t get around earlier to reading Nostradamus’ dire predictions that this would be a time of great change.  And in case you’re not into shamanic predictions, lunar updates, or the ramblings of mad monks, just look around at the crazy weather, bizarre political scenarios, state of the economy, global uprisings, and violence right here at home.  Clearly this is not the world we’ve inhabited for half a lifetime or more.

How to survive such chaos? 

  • First of all, as the Greek philosopher Epictetus once wrote, we must look our challenges in the eye and see them for what they are.  Only then we can act in the best way available to us.
  • Next, we need to take care of ourselves.  Healthy food, plenty of rest, time to play, the company of good friends, and quiet downtime for reflection are a must—especially during the stressful holiday season.  Even in a good year, the holidays push us to rush around, overspend, overindulge, and take on far more than we can comfortably handle.  This year in particular it’s important to pay attention to the little body signals that tell us it’s time to stop and breathe.
  • Then we’ll want to take care of each other.  Relationships are often challenged during difficult times.  It’s as though we believe that if he hadn’t done this, if she hadn’t said that, if they had been less rude, kinder, more thoughtful, etc., our lives would be perfect.  Fact is, other people’s thoughts and actions really have very little to do with us.  Most people are thinking about themselves much of the time, and almost anything they might think or say about us is really about them—it’s called projection.  If we can remember that and bite our tongues before lashing out in anger or self-defense, we’ll avoid a lot of grief.  Breathing deeply and slowly while counting to ten, or even just walking away till everyone has calmed down, has saved many a relationship—and a life!
  • Finally, and probably most important, we need to strengthen our ties to Spirit, whatever name we give that source of inspiration and guidance.  Whether it’s God, Jesus, Buddha, Great Spirit, Source, Creator, Pagan gods or goddesses, angels, ancestors, animal guides, fairies, or spirits of earth and sea, our rituals of worship and connection will ground us in the present moment, and that is the best place to be at any time, turbulent or no.

Meanwhile, help is at hand, even without Angels!

Wholebeing Wellness offers immediate and skillful support in dealing with the kaleidoscopic feelings that can emerge during stressful times.  Over twenty years’ experience in shamanic and wellness counseling and spiritual guidance and more than eight years’ experience in teaching clinical and transpersonal psychology allow us to provide a broad range of healing practices for body, mind, and spirit.

December discounts of 20% off our reasonable basic rate, free first time consultation, and sliding scale fees for those in need make it easy to sail smoothly through these turbulent times. 

Local and distance consultations, treatments, and training are available, and some of the healing practices we offer are described on Orenda Healing International’s website,, under the subheadings Healing Modalities and Wholebeing©.

Call or email for an appointment today! 



November Forecast

Oct 2013028
River Rafting, Lew Riddell, October 2013

Here is the forecast for November, from Lena Stevens of The Power Path.  Very good advice for turbulent times!


The Socially Accepted Violence Against Pregnant and Labouring Women

Vital information for the well being of mothers to be and their babies! Because of fear and lack of understanding of the birthing process and what was expected of me, my first delivery was excruciating. I actually tried to walk out of the hospital! Second time around I knew what to do and the staff were all supportive. A transformative experience!

Fasten Your Seatbelts!

November MoonFasten Your Seatbelts!

Jose and Lena Stevens’ latest word on tomorrow’s full moon and partial lunar eclipse is a timely heads up for us all!  If you’ve been experiencing more challenges than usual, this could help to explain why.

Funny how we’ve read about it, talked about it, maybe even longed for it– yet when dynamic cosmic change starts happening we mostly want to find a hole to hide in.  But don’t be fooled– that hole is Alice’s Rabbit Hole into a brave new world full of all kinds of fascinating beings and events!  The trick is to trust in Spirit, in that higher part of ourselves that knows just what to do.  Meanwhile, take it easy!

Be kind to yourself and others.  Be gentle with everyone.  Take a walk among gorgeous autumn leaves or sit by the sea and watch the waves roll in and out.  Eat a little comfort food.  Curl up with a good book or a favorite video.  Listen to soothing music, and take a long, restful, scented bath.  BREATHE… just BREATHE…!

Everything will be all right in the end, and if it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end!  (John Lennon)



Some days we’re sailing along on smooth waters.  Some days the water’s a little choppy.  And then there are days (or weeks!) when it feels like we’re at sea in a typhoon.

This past week has been a bit like that– just one thing after another and none of them immediately resolvable.  But I like to remember the wise words of a surfing friend:  When the big one’s coming at you, head right into it!

Not that it’s easy to do.  “Heading right into it” can sometimes be even more terrifying than the  monster wave itself.  But to continue with the surfing motif, if we turn tail– or even turn broadside– we’re liable to be dashed on the rocks and seriously wounded.  Facing the wave  not only gives us the opportunity to see what’s coming at us but also allows us to present the least vulnerable aspect of ourselves to that tower of water.

So how do we do this?  We face the incoming wave, take a good hard look.  Is it as big as it seems?  Is it as potentially lethal as we think it is?  Is it really unavoidable or can we paddle around it?  And if not, what’s going to be the quickest, safest way to move through it, get behind it, and wait for the next wave– the one we can ride in to shore?

Confidence seems to be part of the answer.  After all, we’ve survived big waves before with only a few scrapes and bruises.  Why not this one now?  And help is always available if we remember to ask.  (I sometimes wonder how many, ancestors, guides, and guardian spirits have followed me through life, shaking their heads at my crazy decisions, but loyal to the end!)

This past week, faced with yet one more daunting challenge and beginning to actually feel sorry for myself, I suddenly thought, Hey– what if this particular challenge means something different?  NOT that I won’t be able to handle it, that I don’t have the resources, but that I actually DO have them and WILL manage?  What if it’s a hint that the very near future is going to bring me exactly what I need to deal with this?  A sort of “pay to play” concept!

It was a Kairos moment– a point in time when one train of thought suddenly collides with another completely opposite one.  I was so surprised I forgot about feeling  overwhelmed and hurried out to the kitchen to share the good news with Lew.

Often when we ask for help we expect the burning bush and ethereal voices telling us exactly how to proceed.  “Thou shalt (or shalt not)… etc.”  (Truth be told, I’ve yet to encounter a burning bush.  But more times than I can remember there have been interventions similar to this recent one.)

As I look back over this event I realize that a key ingredient of successful “surfing” is the inner knowledge that we deserve the help we ask for.  We deserve a good and fulfilling life.  We are not here on the planet to be punished for past misdeeds, to suffer for our own “mistakes,” or to take on the burden of others.  We are here to laugh and to love, to eat good food, to appreciate the beauty of flowers, trees, running water, pure radiant air, and all the creatures with whom we share this journey– to be joyful, to LIVE.  Life is an opportunity to celebrate all that is beautiful about this world.  And strangely enough, when we celebrate (rather than tolerate or even denigrate), more good things begin to happen!

(Photo courtesy of QuinnPuertoEscondido)

Reviving Your Inner Optimist

CrabapplesYesterday morning my husband and I were discussing optimism versus pessimism.  A Vietnam vet with PTSD, my husband tends toward the latter world view, while I’m the proverbial Pollyanna– a trait for which I’ve been ridiculed for most of my life.  The good news about being a Pollyanna, though, is that your life (should you be someone who enjoys life) can be longer, happier, and more productive.  Not a bad deal, is it?!!

I mentioned in my last post that we’d be discussing various physical conditions and their causes and cures.  Depression, it turns out, is one of the major causes of dis-ease.  Not only does chronic depression affect the afflicted individual– it hamstrings his friends and family members as well.  This particular condition is called “compassion fatigue”– or in the words of Anne-Marie Botek, author of a book and website on the topic, “caregiver burnout.”  But there is hope– a bright light at the end of that gloomy tunnel.  Here is an article by Anne-Marie Botek, with links to additional tips.  Although her focus is on elder care, the excellent advice she offers can be helpful to anyone who lives with and loves a depressed person.

3 Ways to Bring Out Your Inner Optimist!

By Anne-Marie Botek,

Optimism; a word associated with sunny smiles and a Pollyanna-ish outlook on life.

But, what does it really mean to be optimistic? And—more important to the stressed-out caregiver—how can you be optimistic in the face of seemingly endless negativity?

Being optimistic does not mean that you have to constantly walk around with a smile plastered onto your face, burying your true feelings and pretending to be happy.

Rick Hanson, Ph. D., caregiver, and author of “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neurosciences of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom,” says that being optimistic means that you see the world accurately, taking in both the good and the bad. And yes, you can train yourself to be more optimistic.

Pessimism, on the other hand, is an unhealthy obsession with the negative, which can snowball until a person feels completely helpless and totally trapped.

Hanson says that it’s unfortunately pretty easy to fall prey to pessimism because the human brain has a built-in survival mechanism—called the negativity bias—that makes us instinctively focus on the bad or threatening aspects of our environment while ignoring the good.

Caregivers can become so overwhelmed by the bad that it can be nearly impossible to see the good. Hanson offers three simple tips for caregivers who want to teach themselves to become more optimistic:

Think, Do, Be Positive!
How to Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
11 Ways to Stop Depression

3 Ways to Bring Out Your Inner Optimist originally appeared on

Thoughts on whole being wellness

IMG_0063Occasionally someone asks, “What is whole being wellness, actually?”  The best answer I’ve been able to offer has its roots in shamanic theory and quantum physics (which are both based on the principle of the interconnectedness of everything):  what goes around, comes around.  We get back what we give out.  Why?  Because the energy that we emit, the energy that we are, attracts similar energy.  Therefore if we consider ourselves robust and healthy creatures, that tends to be what we experience.  If on the other hand we believe we are weak and vulnerable to every passing disease or accident, we’re liable to see a good bit of that in our lives.

Take “flu season,” for example.  What on earth is that?!!  Folks rush out to get a flu shot, assuming that this will immunize them against the flu (remember, there are many variations on the theme of  “flu”), and then they’re unpleasantly surprised when they come down with it.

Think about it.  You’re going along, having a fabulous time all summer–enjoying swimming, picnics, camping, neighborhood barbecues, outdoor music festivals, gardening, or just hanging out with your family and friends while you watch fireflies chase each other around your back yard.  Weeks pass and soon it’s September and everyone’s back to school or work, the days grow shorter and the nights a wee bit cooler, the garden sinks back into compost, and our thoughts turn inward.  Encouraged by the medical icons of our culture, we begin to think of…yep!  Flu season!  Time to get our annual flu shot.  Especially if we’re “over 60, an infant, or have health issues such as asthma or a heart condition.”

How much of the flu is actually the virus itself, and how much of it is our thinking about being sick?  Our fear of illness?

Shamans teach that we call into our lives the very things we fear.  Sounds scary, right?  But if you consider the possibility that we are so much more than our bodies, that we  are spirits having a human experience, and that as such we are far more powerful than most of us care to imagine, you begin to understand that we can think ourselves into states of  illness or wellness.

So whole being wellness might best be described as the ancient Greeks and Romans described it:  Mens sana in corpore sano.  A healthy mind in a healthy body.

And what constitutes a “healthy mind?”  I believe it is the mind of a person who is open to new ideas, yet able to follow life-affirming and positive core beliefs.  It is a mind that turns to gratitude– at least once a day and preferably more often– for life’s many gifts.  It is the mind of one who can laugh at himself and laugh with others– one who is more often joyful than sad, and when sad, can calmly investigate the cause of that sadness and find balance and comfort in connection with Spirit, God, Goddess, Source, Great Mystery– whatever name you want to give your higher power.  It is the mind of a person who can work hard for what she believes in, play like a child when the work is done, and go with the flow of events in her life, knowing that she is guided and protected by Spirit no matter what happens.  It is the mind of someone who trusts Life, who offers unconditional love to others and accepts it without condition.

This is what whole being wellness is, and what Wholebeing Wellness counseling encourages clients to achieve.

The next several posts here will address specific physical conditions with suggestions of how to move out of dis-ease and into healing.  Questions are always welcome, so feel free to share yours!