The Unbelievable Things That Started Happening, Once I Decided I Was Enough

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Photo: Stevi Sesin
There’s no college degree for what I do, no piece of paper that states how qualified I am. This is because I’m a seeress. I can see the aura, the colors, and the shapes around people, living things, and some inanimate objects.

Over the past three-plus decades I’ve learned to translate what I see in people’s auras into the English language to help people uncover possible obstacles or hidden talents and gifts in their life so they can live in balance, authenticity, and joy. This offering is called Medicine Readings, a modality I invented after 15 years on a powerful spiritual journey.

The funny thing is, so much of my spiritual journey originated from a place of low self-worth and seeking validation with new training or teachings when all I needed to realize is that the tools I needed were within me. I was born with a powerful craving to be close to the divine on all levels. When members of my family would be in pain I’d pray over them and make small talismans with special rocks (crystals) I found in nearby rivers for them to keep nearby for healing.

I vividly remember that moment of preteen horror when they looked at me like I was crazy, and laughed.

I remember talking to my friends at age 12, fully loaded with freckles, a funny haircut, and multi-colored elastic bands on my braces, about the colors around people and what they meant. And I vividly remember that moment of preteen horror when they looked at me like I was crazy, and laughed. That was the moment I realized not everyone saw this cloud of shapes and colors around people, what I would later learned was called the aura.

Deborah Hanekamp Mama Medicine
Photo: Sidney Bensimon

Around that age, my family fell apart, and I found myself with no rules and no boundaries and I mistook self-destruction for rebellion. I emerged at age 17 living in the most dangerous neighborhood in Hartford, CT, working two bartending jobs and putting myself through community college for fine arts. I was a survivor, a hustler, a warrior, with very little self-worth and very little trust. I can’t even begin to explain to you how many traps I fell into as a young woman in terms of relationships, jobs, and living arrangements. I said yes, when really I should’ve been running in the opposite direction.

A moment of clarity made me realize that I could either let the pain of my past become my future and destroy me or I could get my shit together, step out of victim consciousness, and take responsibility for the circumstances I found myself in and own the person that I was. At that moment, I also realized that my purpose for being in this world was to share and spread love.

How I began: by doing things

First step on that path was acknowledging I love animals, so naturally I don’t want to eat them. Vegetarianism, check. Always curious about yoga, I found nirvana in my first shoulder stand. I moved to enchanting New York City, where I was introduced to incredibly inspiring yoga teachers, Ayurveda courses, Buddhist talks, and Zen meditation. I began teaching yoga, and as you would expect, nobody took a 19-year-old yoga teacher seriously. I thought if I studied more and learned more then I would essentially be enough to offer a message I already understood: a message of love.

I traveled back and forth to Thailand over the course of five years studying reiki, sound healing, crystal healing, and psychic surgery. At that time I was able to really clean up a lot of self destructiveness from my past and understand that if I wanted the universe to take me seriously as a healer I had to take myself seriously, and I had to start with healing me. I quit all supplemental income jobs that were crushing my spirit and draining my energy. I happily lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and in turn the universe gave me a pretty amazing following for my yoga teaching and healing sessions.

I spent eight years traveling back and forth from the Peruvian Amazon in my journey to become an initiated shaman. I know that may sound romantic, but it was also very destructive to my self-worth.

At age 24 a legitimate shaman from Peru came to my freshly opened Williamsburg Yoga Studio and Healing Center, and after an Ayahuasca ceremony he told me I was a healer and that I should apprentice with him. I thought surely if I became a shaman I would be enough to spread this message of love.

I spent eight years traveling back and forth from the Peruvian Amazon in my journey to become an initiated shaman. I know that may sound romantic, but it was also very destructive to my self-worth. Being an apprentice, and a female apprentice at that, basically meant being a bottom-of-the-barrel intern, with my teacher overlooking me year after year, initiating male apprentices who didn’t have half the love, skills, or stamina that I did.

Deborah Hanekamp Mama Medicine
Photo: Stevi Sesin

Then, a shaman's words changed my life

Eventually I met the shaman’s teacher who taught me the one thing I had been missing all along: confidence. For example, in my very first ceremony with him, in the moment I was thinking about giving up my apprenticeship entirely, he gave me an initiation I had been awaiting for five years, by handing me my first ceremonial tool and asking me to sing.

After a short three years, it was he who gave me my initiation as a shaman. Even after all that training and over half my life spent in dedication to spirit, and in dedication to being a steward of healing, I still didn’t feel like I was enough to share this simple message of love.

At this time I had just become a mom, and I have to say giving birth made me feel like I could do just about anything. I thought of my daughter, I thought of all the healing techniques I learned throughout the years and how the most important thing I learned was confidence. I thought if I only teach her one thing in this lifetime let it be confidence.

Deborah Hanekamp Mama Medicine
Photo: Deborah Hanekamp

But I also knew that when it comes to spiritual guidance we can never really teach anyone anything, we can only lead by example, and if I wanted to teach my daughter to believe in herself I was going to have to start believing in myself. Acknowledging this was probably the most difficult rite of passage I would ever endure: the Initiation into Self-Worth.

This made me review my work in the world and realize that while I deeply love and respect all these different traditions that I’ve learned from, they aren’t mine, and sticking to any one tradition didn’t feel true for me because it also involved me neglecting the the truth of who I am, just a simple steward of love, who acquired some wisdom throughout the years just by being a young woman on her own in the world.

And soon, Medicine Readings were born

I sat down in reverence, and asked the universe for guidance: “I know you want me here. I know that’s because I’m meant to help the world in some way. How do you want me to do that?” In that same moment, I got a very clear, very precise message that I was meant to do something called "Medicine Readings."

Medicine Readings are a one-on-one, group, and retreat experience, and I also received the exact formula for Medicine Readings. Part of that formula was to incorporate my ability to see auras with the key components I’d learned from all the different traditions I studied.

Keep in mind that up until that point I hadn’t told anyone since I was 12, except the closest people to me, that what I was really doing when they came for what I was then calling something like “shamanic reiki healing with spiritual counseling” was reading their auric field. My inner 12-year-old with the colorful braces, freckles, and a funny haircut was terrified.

People started asking me, "Who does your PR?" And I just smiled to myself thinking, "How crazy would I sound if I said, 'The universe does, actually.'"

I had to make peace with my past, I had to forgive myself for undervaluing and hurting myself, I had to have pure gratitude for where I came from instead of being ashamed of it. I said yes. “Okay, universe, thank you. I’ll facilitate Medicine Readings.”

And as soon as I said yes, do you know what happened? My schedule started filling up with one-on-one Medicine Readings, and I started getting all this amazing press! First the New York Times, then women’s magazines and Well+Good, and on and on. People started asking me, "Who does your PR?" And I just smiled to myself thinking, "How crazy would I sound if I said, 'The universe does, actually.'"

Deborah Hanekamp Mama Medicine
Photo: Stevi Sesin

Today as I write this I’m currently astonished by the blessings that are pouring into my life from saying yes to being who I am. I write you from my beautiful new healing center, Space by Mama Medicine, located in the heart of Soho, and my heart overflows with gratitude for every bit of encouragement I get on my path.

The other day my friend asked me if I was afraid of my success. I had to think about it before I could answer with, “Yes, the moment I think any of this success has anything to do with me, my ego becomes terrified, but the moment I remember why I’m doing this, the lives I’m meant to touch through the example I set, I’m fearless.” It took confidence for me to understand that the work I do in the world has very little to do with me, and everything to do with what I can share. I (and my inner 12-year-old—big heart, braces, and all) are grateful for what has been and what is to come.

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