Rising Through Resilience: Karen V Johnson On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine


My life is a series of impossibilities that became possible. I was told it was impossible for a woman from a small town to become a lawyer. It cost too much and as a woman I wouldn’t be able to get a job, but I did. Then I was told it was impossible for me to become a judge, once again that woman thing, and not enough connections, and yet I did. Then I was told I couldn’t write a book or find a publisher, and yet I did. I came to believe that whatever I focused my attention and desire upon, I could do. Others might give up, but if I just held on, I could make it.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen V. Johnson.

Karen V. Johnson is a graduate of Georgetown Law Center (J.D.), a former Fulbright Scholar in Afghanistan, and holds Masters Degrees in Public Health and Public and International Affairs (MPH, MPIA). Karen is a retired Federal administrative law Judge who practiced criminal and energy law for more than 30 years. She also is a former U.S. Army officer, Major, USAR (inactive). Karen was personally trained by Alberto Villoldo, and is faculty at the Four Winds Society and a Master Practitioner of Energy Medicine. She has trained extensively in the techniques of Illumination, Soul Retrieval, Extractions of Energies and Entities, Divination, and Death Rites. Living Grieving: Using Energy Medicine to Alchemize Grief and Loss (Hay House, July 7th, 2021), is her first book. www.karenjohnson.net

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I’m a graduate of Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C. and hold Master’s Degrees in Public Health and Public and International Affairs (JD, MPH, MPIA) from the University of Pittsburgh. I’m now a retired federal administrative law judge who practiced criminal and energy law for over 30 years and a former hospital administrator and Fulbright Scholar in Afghanistan.

My precious twenty-seven-year-old son, Ben, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to the other side on November 2, 2014. He died of a heroin overdose. I didn’t bow to social expectation and “accept it” or “get over it” in a way that made people around her comfortable. Instead, I did the unexpected. I retired, sold my house and all my household goods and went on a two-and-a-half-year journey that took me all over the world, finding a spiritual practice along the way. Based on what I learned from shamans, sufi masters, the entities at John of God in Brazil, I wrote a book, Living Grieving: Using Energy Medicine to Alchemize Grief and Loss, published by Hay House, July 20, 2021.

I was called to study shamanic energy medicine with the Four Winds Society after Ben’s death. I now teach shamanic energy medicine with the Four Winds Society and have a worldwide shamanic energy medicine practice. I have been teaching shamanic energy medicine for five years and has taught hundreds of students from all over the world, many of whom struggle with grief. I also teach virtual on-line Transforming Grief and Loss classes focusing on the mourning and recovery process for those left behind.

Teaching and ministering to friends, students, and clients has increased my knowledge and compassion for those who have suffered great loss. As part of my shamanic practice I help those who have passed to transition to the other side and help survivors with their grieving process.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

This story is about how I learned to consciously choose light emotions of love, gratitude, joy and most of all hope.

While at John of God casa in Brazil, one day I was one of the volunteers sitting on benches praying as new lines of wounded people went before John of God hoping for miracles. All dressed in white, I arrived at the Casa again at 6:30 A.M. to stand in line and wait for the doors to open. The lore was that the adjacent room was where negative energy was taken out by entities and the JOG room was where you were attuned to higher frequencies. Those of us who were there to sit in current for the first time were advised to start out by sitting in the adjacent room.

But I knew where I wanted to sit — I wanted a front row seat in the room where John of God sat. I wanted to see him incorporate these healing entities! These entities bring with them numerous other entities who participate in the healings. JOG mainly channeled Dr. Oswaldo Cruz, a Brazilian physician bacteriologist, epidemiologist and public health officer and the founder of the Owsaldo Cruz institute; Saint Ignatius de Loyola, the patron of the clinic; and Dr. Augusto de Almeida. The JOG room was filled with huge crystals and statues of the Madonna and Jesus and St. Rita and other statues I might have recognized if I had paid any attention in Sunday school. There were also 13 high backed chairs — six on one side and seven on the other side of the aisle leading up to the chair where JOG sat. I supposed this was invocative of the 13 disciples around Christ. I remember reading that Oprah Winfrey sat in one of those 13 chairs when she visited the Casa.

As people milled around trying to decide what to do, I walked right up to the front and parked myself on one of the pews like I belonged there. I looked like a regular — I had a pillow for my back and a white blindfold to help keep my eyes shut. I found myself eyeing the 13 chairs in front of JOG, some of which were empty. I considered whether I could get away with plopping myself down in one of them but that seemed too bold even for curious me.

I wiggled and stretched and adjusted my pillow and blanket several times to settled in for a lengthy 3- or 4-hour meditation session. Even though I brought a blindfold with me, my intent was to keep my eyes open watching everything until the last moment possible or until one of the proctors patrolling the rooms made me shut them. I noticed a monk in red robes sitting in one of the fancy chairs who sat down, closed his eyes and seemed to already be meditating. He didn’t even have a pillow! Well, I huffed as my legs started to twitch uncontrollably– he has more practice!

I had never in my life actually sat and meditated for three or four hours and never had the slightest desire to even try. But now, based on my ulterior motive to spy on the process, I was motivated. I wasn’t entirely sure I would last the entire time, but I was assured that if I raised my hand one of the nice volunteers would come and usher me out. Fantastic!

Once, I had signed up for a day long meditation session at a Buddhist temple. It seemed like that was what spiritual people did to become mindful and in the present moment. Even though I had never mastered even five minutes of consecutive meditation without my mind bouncing around frantically like a bee in a bottle, I decided to ramp things up. I wanted to be one of those spiritual people so I thought I would try out a full day of meditation. I thought that being surrounded by others meditating for hours, meditation skills were sure to rub off on me.

I was assigned a spot on the floor with a thin cushion around eight in the morning. We were instructed how to sit and how we were to stay focused and not let our minds wonder off. We would meditate for an hour and see how things were going. That was the longest hour of my life. My butt hurt, my back muscles had fully contracted, and my legs were twitching. I didn’t get much out of the postmortem because I was fully focused on stretching my body. Before I knew it, the gong sounded, and meditation started up again. It was mind numbing torture. I began to plot and plan ways to leave without offending all the really nice Buddhists. I thought a good story about an upset stomach and diarrhea would do nicely.

The gong sounded and just as I began to rise and peddle my story, it was announced that the next meditation would be a walking meditation and then we would have lunch. This was great news! I looked over the lunch buffet during the break and decided that Buddhists really had strange notions of lunch. No chocolate, no desserts, no pizza, nothing worth sticking around for. But I had a new escape plan. I joined the walking meditation line with my arms folded just like the others and as we shuffled passed the cubbies where our shoes were stored, I furtively grabbed mine and keeping to the pace made a beeline for the exit door.

Since my aborted attempt at a day long meditation, I had confined myself to working my way up gradually to ten minutes. But here I was again looking at several hours of sitting quietly in meditation. At least we weren’t sitting on the floor. We had wooden floors with back and were allowed to bring in pillows and blankets and even eye masks if we had trouble keeping our eyes shut. There were many staff at the Casa making sure everything ran smoothly — ushers, people who lead prayers, translators, and people who watch over the people sitting in Current to make sure everything is OK and their eyes are shut to prevent us from seeing energies and entities being removed from people in line. Since that mostly happened in the room beside the one where John of God sat, I wasn’t too worried. As I sat angelically in my seat, sneaking peeks from time to time from under my eye mask, prayers were being said in preparation for the arrival of John of God, the entities he incorporates, and the long line of people seeking healing.

During the prayers, I noticed one of the staff ladies placing a very large long-stemmed red rose on a three-foot statue of St. Rita holding a cross. St. Rita is the patron Saint of JOG and a very big deal at the Casa. The lady with the rose must have thought the cross was attached to the St. Rita statue so she prayerfully kissed the rose and dropped it onto the cross. BAM — the cross sailed through the air and did a triple backward somersault before landing on the floor with a loud THWAK! At the same time the rose flew in the other direction and landed beside the feet of the monk. I saw him open his eyes in shock and thought, Ha, so much for Mr. Perfect Meditator.

Now I was thankful I saved myself from trying to grab one of those fancy chairs for myself — I was being rewarded for being so virtuous. Clearly, they were way too close to the action and to all the breakables! As I tried once more to settle in for the duration, I thought to myself it was a good thing this happened before JOG and the entities arrived for the day! No telling what a bunch of entities ticked off by the assault on St. Rita might do! I peeked over at the monk to see what he was up to but of course he was already back in his zone. Show off.

When JOG arrived at the Casa, the Current room became highly charged. We were told to imagine divine light coming down through our crown chakra through to the earth and back up again and out though our hearts. We were instructed to keep our hands, legs and feet uncrossed and told that by keeping our eyes closed we have less chance of picking up any negative entities released by the people coming through the line. As the shuffling and small movements of people settling in ceased and the 13 chairs filled the energy around became dense and colors appeared under my closed lids. Golden and rosy hues that swirled.

Even with my eyes closed a felt the vibrations and saw the colors of the energy shift and change. The air before me became incandescent. It glowed and glittered and began to shimmer with the same lovely golden and rosy hues. As the chanting progressed multihued lights glittered and glinted into the room. The ceiling was gone, replaced by what appeared to be stratums of clouds through which the lights entered. The air seemed to condense and I found it difficult to breathe. The vibrations intensified and my ears filled and began to ache. I began to shiver and my skin was covered with goosebumps. I was on alert — something was coming — I longed to stay, but the urge to flee was strong.

As I watched the lights rain down some emanations seemed familiar and pulsed with an energetic glow surpassing the others. It seemed to me that they must be timeless and ascended spiritual masters. Thousands of other lights appeared among them that also pulsed and shimmered but with less resplendence. Touching someone here, hovering around someone over there, swishing and whirling blessing and healing.

As I sat in Current, JOG entered the room. He is said to be a powerful full-trance medium that can fully incorporate different healing entities. I wanted desperately to see him incorporate — I suppose the skeptic inside of me had to see it to believe it. Momentarily opening my eyes I saw staff supporting John of God for a few minutes while a white filmy light enveloped him. He then sank into his chair. From where I was sitting the incorporation was seamless except for making JOG a bit weak. Other lights came into the room surged and whirled, around and among and even into those seated around me in current. I decided to close my eyes as they flowed touching and probing, lifting darkness and purifying the atmospheric essence.

As the people lined up to see JOG enter the room, the Entities engage with them extracting negativity and bringing healing so that by the time they reach JOG people have already received some clearing. Our job in Current is to keep the vibration of the room high and at a level where the Entities can exist. I could no longer sustain my awareness of the room and I vibrated into an unconscious state similar to sleep but not sleep. Perhaps it’s best described as a trance state of awareness but unawareness. Four hours later, awareness returned, and I noticed my back and legs were stiff.

JOG had disincorporated and the entities were gone. My awareness shifted to consciousness and I became cognizant of instructions given to me in my trance state. I was shown the charge of emotional energies. On one hand, the lower energies of sadness, despair, depression and anxiety. On the other the higher energies of love, joy, and gratitude. I was given a life review of my emotional states and the choices those states created around me, either limited and fear-based ones or limitless, creative and joyful ones. At every juncture I made the choice to go to the dark or to the light. The choice is and always was mine. It was a simple yet powerful revelation. Although I sought the light, my yearnings were often overtaken by dark impulses arising from my subconscious to pull me down into old patterns and behavior. I was told to choose the light, day by day, week by week, until there is no more choosing, only a state of being in gratitude and joy.

But what about my three issues: grief, bronchitis and spiritual problems? After my intervention I had another bout of bronchitis and I fell into deep doubt and despair. The vision of choosing seemed an empty one. How was I choosing illness and how could I transform grief? One morning as I walked to the Casa to meditate, a woman I didn’t know and hadn’t seen before, dressed all in white, looked directly at me and said, “Bronchitis is a result of deep grieving — they are connected. As you learn to live with your grief, your bronchitis will go away.” I was shocked, how did she know about me, how did she know I had bronchitis or grief, who told her? I described her to others in our group, but no one knew her. I heard she had been coming to JOG for many years and often surprised people with such revelations. She was tapped in.

Later that day, I introduced myself to a man in a motorized wheelchair who likewise had been coming to JOG for many years and who always seemed to be surrounded by people. I was told he had lived in Abidiania since 2001 at the request of John of God and was full of wisdom and healing energy. I thought I would just say hello and move on by. It wasn’t my nature to ask for help or open up readily to a stranger. He looked deeply into my eyes and asked what I needed to heal. I found myself talking about Ben and the deep grief I was carrying around. I asked him what I could do to heal myself, I couldn’t seem to find the way.

He looked at me and said: “But you have found the way. You are writing and teaching and touching people. These are blessings you were given — to learn how to live and love with grief and to show others the way. This is your way beyond grief. You are ready spiritually and you have much to do here. Remember the other blessings you were given here at the Casa to clearly seeing how your choices raise or lower your vibration and begin to consciously choose light emotions of love, gratitude, joy and most of all hope. In that vibration your physical illness cannot survive.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is rampant. More people in the U.S. died from overdoses in 2017 than were killed during the Viet Nam war. Overdoses are increasing in every state and every county in the U.S. by an alarming rate. A statistic from the Center for Disease Control is that 116 people die every day in the U.S. from opioid-related overdoses. These numbers are huge and alarming.

In addition, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in global illness and death. People are grieving the loss of loved ones, freedom and financial stability. The number of people touched by epidemics and pandemics is monumental, and our culture does not teach us how to die consciously or embrace grief.

What the statistics don’t show are all those left behind who are touched by death and loss. For those singled out by loss, there is little support or knowledge of this new terrain. So many cries of “Why us” and “Please help me” go unanswered. There is a huge market for books answering these cries for help.

Whether shocked out of reality by an unexpected death or whether ordinary reality slipped away bit by bit by the COVID-19 pandemic or by watching helplessly a slide into addiction or suicide, survivors have been left behind stranded on the shores of grief and despair. It is a very cold and lonely place and it can seem that we will be there forever.

There are many books on the market that deal with the subject of grief, but LIVING GRIEVING is different; it takes readers on a unique shamanic journey through the 16 practices found in the Four Winds Medicine Wheel that allows readers to embrace their grief and mourning in a whole new way rather than feeling pressured to “get over it” or “move on”.

This book will appeal to anyone looking for a way to process their grief and who will be intrigued by the possibility of taking a unique and transformational journey that will help them to use the wisdom and energy of their grieving process to create a new life. Those in deep grief are looking for a fresh approach and LIVING GRIEVING is structured to provide readers hungry for information and support fresh hope and perspective, and a new way of viewing their journey through loss.

LIVING GRIEVING is written from the perspective of a professional woman whose fast-paced professional life came to an abrupt halt when she lost her twenty-seven-year-old son to a heroin overdose. This book will appeal to those who are not particularly religious and who struggle to find meaning when death suddenly changes their lives. Especially those who sense the presence of their loved ones after death and, like her, are awakened to a new reality and awareness of life after death.

This book will also appeal to people who are familiar with or interested in shamanism, as well as to the many shamanic practitioners who have clients dealing with grief and loss, and who are themselves dealing with grief and loss. Through her work with the Four Winds Society, Karen has met and worked with hundreds of students and clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful to Alberto Villoldo and the Four Winds for helping me to find my way to becoming a healer and a developing a new perspective on life. Alberto saw a potential in me that I didn’t know I had by hiring me as an assistant and mentoring me as an energy healer. I’m also grateful to my Lakota tribe that holds me and befriends me and to the Shamans, Sufi masters, entities at John of God, and all the spiritual guides I met on my journey.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience often seems to be thought of as a mystery characteristic that some people have and others just don’t, or something that we have lost along our way as we negotiate life’s ups and downs — like grief and loss.

But what if we humans are hard wired to be resilient? Impermanence is recognized as a primary characteristic in Buddhist philosophy, it acknowledges that everything has a beginning a middle and an end, therefore existence is relative and we shouldn’t become too attached to any experience. We know this. We recognize the wisdom of this concept perhaps because it is deeply rooted in our consciousness and in our soul. And yet, we find it difficult to negotiate death and loss.

Because the concept of impermanence is so deeply rooted, Shamans recognize that we are part of the world and travel through it with the goal of dying consciously, with a lightness of spirit. To do this, we work with ourselves and others to rewrite and release old stories and ways of thinking and being in the world, we call this process indigenous alchemy.

You might be wondering, what the heck does indigenous alchemy mean? For indigenous, I like the dictionary definition of something innate, inherent and natural to humans, like feelings. For Alchemy, I like the definition — transformation of matter. So maybe it means an innate desire for transformation. Or perhaps to put it in quantum physics term, the transformation from particles to waves and back, depending upon whether or not we are looking.

If we all have an innate desire for transformation, then it goes without saying that we are naturally resilient. So what holds us back, and keeps us stuck? Especially those of us singled out by death and loss. So many cries of “Why us” and “Please help me” that go unanswered.

Whether shocked out of reality by an unexpected death or whether ordinary reality slipped away bit by bit by the COVID-19 pandemic or by watching helplessly a slide into addiction or suicide, survivors have been left behind stranded on the shores of grief and despair. It is a very cold and lonely place and it can seem that we will be there forever. Often we feel pressured to “get over it” or “move on”. From this place, resilience seems unattainable, or perhaps even unwanted. We think that by holding on tightly to our grief we are keeping our loved ones close to us. dd

I didn’t think I could ever find my way out of despair, but I found a process that worked, a sacred journey and map. But make no mistake, this is not an easy journey. Instead of accepting death and the things we are told about death such as “it just happened,” or “it is what it is” and “you have to accept it”, I am proposing embracing Death as a radical agent of change given to us out of LOVE. Instead of stagnation and despair that so often accompanies acceptance, embracing death and our journey allows us to ultimately bloom and grow into a new and better version of ourselves. I love the metaphor, as above so below, for the journey of the bereaved through transition, resurrection and rebirth. We are mirroring the journey our loved ones are taking. Once I grasped that I too was on a journey the pressure to get over it faded away. I could take my time and find my way through. Just like Ben, I could defy death by choosing a life with spiritual purpose. I could choose to live and love passionately and with great compassion and to forgive and be forgiven, to become better rather than bitter. And then with great courage take the next step and be reborn into a new life of purpose and meaning from the ashes of the old.

How can we possibly do that, you might ask, with death sitting like an elephant in our hearts? We have been enculturated to believe we must ignore this elephant or toss it out on its ear. We must get rid of our grief. But that elephant is heavy and very stubborn and is not going anywhere by force. Instead, we must befriend the grief in our heart and learn what it has to teach us about living.

By embracing grief and loss and their transformational wisdom, we find resilience within.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage and resilience are interwoven because to find our inner resilience we must first have the courage to embark upon a sacred journey. The sacred journey of the bereaved takes us through transition, resurrection and rebirth, the same journey that our loved ones on the other side are taking — As above, so below. Having the courage to embrace death through this journey allows us to bloom and grow into a new and better version of ourselves. Death and loss have issued a challenge to us — we can seize the opportunity for growth or stagnate in despair. By embarking on the journey we can defy death by choosing a life with spiritual purpose, live and love passionately and with great compassion, forgive and be forgiven, and become better rather than bitter. Then with great courage we can take the next step and be reborn into a new life of purpose and meaning from the ashes of the old.

I take my readers on a journey through the medicine wheel to help people to transform. People often feel stuck in grief and wonder why they can’t seem to get over it. I felt the same way until I realized we do not get over grief. It’s not like catching the flu, we aren’t sick. There is no cure and we can’t medicate it away. Grief is a state of being that carries energy that we can tap into to create a new life. Just as we use the energy of other newly acquired states of being like marriage or parenthood to transform our lives, we can likewise use the energy of grieving to transform. Here are the directions and the journey associated with each one.

South Direction — becoming unstuck:

  • Non-judgment
  • Non-suffering
  • Non-attachment
  • The Beauty Way

West Direction — becoming lighter:

  • Non-Doing
  • Non-Engagement
  • Certainty
  • Fearlessness

North Direction — awakening:

  • Beginners Mind
  • Living Consequently
  • Invisibility
  • Integrity

East Direction — creating a new life:

  • No Mind
  • Mastery of Time
  • Owning your own projections
  • Indigenous Alchemy

At the end of each direction of the Medicine Wheel I offer exercises related to each of the four practices. These exercises are important ways of self-reflection, awareness and action designed to illuminate the path forward. I found these exercises to be deeply meaningful in my own journey through Transformation (becoming unstuck), Resurrection (awakening) and Rebirth (creating a new life).

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of people I admire with resilience it’s the ones who embody spiritual resilience. Ones who have discovered meaning and purpose in life and share it with others. The one person that comes to mind is Anita Moorjani who had a death experience and brought back her experience to share it with others. I also think of all the people who struggle every day with poverty and addiction and find their way back and those who had the courage to march in the face of police adversity in the Black Lives Matter marches.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

My life is a series of impossibilities that became possible. I was told it was impossible for a woman from a small town to become a lawyer. It cost too much and as a woman I wouldn’t be able to get a job, but I did. Then I was told it was impossible for me to become a judge, once again that woman thing, and not enough connections, and yet I did. Then I was told I couldn’t write a book or find a publisher, and yet I did. I came to believe that whatever I focused my attention and desire upon, I could do. Others might give up, but if I just held on, I could make it.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My biggest life setback was the death of my son from a heroin overdose. I chose not to seek help from a grief counselor or doctor because I believed a traditional therapist would have put me on medication to stop the visits from Ben. Ben began visiting me soon after his death. I believed a therapist would think I was hallucinating or maybe even psychotic — extreme grief is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. After all, I had been a respected member of conservative society, and this kind of behavior was considered unseemly and extreme. Not only that, but because I was regularly reviewed for a security clearance at my job, a mental illness diagnosis could put my judicial position in jeopardy.

I might have been in therapy for years, chasing society’s elusive definition of sanity. Instead, I chose to follow my instincts, which were screaming to me to keep going, to find out more about the spirit world and everything related to understanding it better. Astrology, numerology, mediumship, crystals, Kabbalah, chanting, spirit guides, you name it. It was all new to me and extremely enticing, I was like a kid in a candy store — I wanted it all. But I had to be careful; I was still employed as a federal judge and I knew that these activities would be frowned upon.

As my psychic abilities intensified, my life as a judge became more attenuated. I felt like an outsider looking in. The work no longer interested me. I couldn’t relate to the people around me. All that interested me was my foray into the spiritual world, and I couldn’t talk about that at work. I felt divided and fractured and didn’t know what to do.

My medium friend referred me to an evolutionary astrologer whom she believed could help. Two hours with him completely changed my life. Paul told me lots of things that I didn’t comprehend at that time. Like my soul had moved away from Pluto energy of shame and fear and blame into Neptune energy of the mystic and had chosen the mystic path. He told me a lot of other amazing and incomprehensible things about my soul’s purpose and not only what I had come here to do but what I would be experiencing in the next year. I remembered wishing that the two-hour session could end soon because it gave me a headache. I was beyond confused.

My big takeaway from my reading was the astrologer telling me about another woman who had a reading like mine and became a shaman. I was astonished that someone could become a shaman since I believed shamanism disappeared centuries ago. After my reading I did what I did best — I googled it. Shamanism and the Four Winds Society popped up, a school that taught neo-shamanism, ancient healing practices combined with cutting-edge methods in nutrition, biology, and neuroscience. I was fascinated and decided to call and get more information.

What is a shaman? The word itself comes from a Siberian word meaning one who “sees” or “penetrates the source.” Shamans and shamanic practices are ancient in origin and found around the world. Shamans in indigenous societies are often leaders in their communities. Shamans are also called healers, medicine men or women, and walkers between worlds. I like the image of “walkers between worlds” because that is what we do: we dance between the world of energy and the world of matter. We learn to enter into altered states through techniques like journeying, where we enter into special states of consciousness that are very different from our ordinary consciousness. Journeying allows us to access worlds beyond this one to gather information and assist our- selves and our clients to heal. Since I was already experiencing seeing beyond this world, shamanism seemed to be a natural fit for me.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

In my lonely childhood, we lived far out in the country in a small ranch style home. There weren’t many children around and I was often on my own while my mother cleaned and cooked. I had an invisible fairy friend named Debbie who lived in the big apple tree in our yard. We played for hours, climbing the tree and generally having fun together. My other companion was an old Native American Indian chief who lived in the basement. No one could see him but me and he scared the crap out of me, and I refused to go into the basement. Having invisible friends and seeing invisible Indian chiefs in the basement did not go over well with my mother. She told me not to ever mention them to anyone else or I would end up “in the loony bin.” This was during the 50s, and state-run psychiatric institutions were fairly common. So if one was deemed to be too far out there, then it was entirely possible to end up in a “loony bin.”

So I kept my invisible friends to myself and by the time I was in high school, they had disappeared. After that, I pretty much forgot about them until well after I began seeing and sensing Ben. Those early experiences had been buried deeply in my psyche, probably because there was shame and guilt associated with them in the past. It would take courage to bring these past experiences to light.

After the medium mentioned that I might have abilities, I took the suggestion to heart. A few weeks later, I began mediumship training. My medium became my instructor and mentor and introduced me to a holistic center near me that offered courses in spirit guides, healing, reiki, crystals and all things spiritual. I drank it all in thirstily and single mindedly, desperate to communicate with Ben. I remember being shocked to find these interesting and very different kinds of resources and people all around me who were completely invisible to me before.

Over the next year, as I grappled with my grief, I also was opened up to a new world. I took every class possible and reconnected with my childhood experiences. In a spirit guide training class, I once again became aware of the presence of the fairy and the Indian chief and that those beings were still with me and always had been there waiting to guide me and to bring specific qualities to my life. The fairy represented fun and freedom and the Indian chief represented courage and fearlessness. These were qualities that were buried deep within me when I turned away from them and they disappeared from my awareness.

In my book, I talk about how the bereaved are sometimes changed by Death in profound and frankly freaky ways. This is a conversation and an airing around the secret subject of feeling and sensing and seeing our departed loved ones. Many of us, like me, keep this to ourselves out of fear. We think won’t be believed, and that we might very well be sent off for therapy and medication. We will be mocked and talked about, minimized and marginalized. So, we keep this secret to ourselves, even from our spouses and children. Our secret contributes to our sense of isolation and despair, it keeps us stuck in the web of lifelessness. I offer my experiences sensing and communicating with Ben to illuminate this gift that I felt I had to keep secret. I hope that by being open and vulnerable I can encourage dialogue about the wonderful ways we are given glimpses behind the veil of death. Glimpses that let us KNOW that there is Life after Death.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Remember that everything is impermanent, this too will pass.
  2. Remember those times of beauty and wellness, know that too is possible.
  3. Remember to persevere — focus on your dreams and don’t give up
  4. Remember to love yourself, as Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
  5. Remember 5 things you are grateful for and say them every morning and when you are feeling low — gratitude changes everything.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

A low cost housing initiative that would integrate Habitat for Humanity and others on a large scale and include food initiatives to alleviate homelessness and hunger.

My dream is to find ways to provide funding to small entrepreneurs who are doing things to save the oceans, the rainforest, the earth. To end slavery and trafficking, homelessness and hunger. So many startups can’t get financing.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

Greta Thunberg! I admire her courage, compassion and wisdom. I would love to talk to her about her movement and what she thinks would realistically bring the most good to the most people and how people my age can help.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me at www.KarenJohnson.net, on Facebook at and Karen Johnson, and Facebook & Instagram at KarenJohnsonHealing

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor