Hello, I'm Jeff.

I love my job. Helping people who feel stuck, lost, or adrift find their true path and begin walking that path with confidence and strength. It’s fascinating work, deeply rewarding, and I’m good at it.  

I should be. I’m a veteran spiritual guide who brings forty years’ experience helping thousands of people across the U.S. and overseas navigate some of life’s most difficult situations. 

This role did not come easy for me. I was really lost after college, and spent four years earning a law degree before admitting to myself I would not be happy as an attorney. I then set out on a blind, nearly panicked search to find a new career and stumbled into the ministry profession. I went back to school then spent the next twenty years as a university campus minister, hospital chaplain, and pastoral counselor. It was meaningful work and I helped a lot of people. But I still felt like something was missing and I wasn’t living the life I was really supposed to be living. It was a confusing, stressful, and lonesome place to be. 

At age 49 I met a shamanic healer in my area, a Cherokee man trained as a psychologist, who invited me to participate in a traditional wilderness vision quest program. The experience was staggering, a life-changing encounter with the beauty and power of indigenous healing practices. I felt like I’d found myself, buried under years of education, social expectations, and family obligations. I promptly left my career in health care and began a seven-year apprenticeship learning and traveling with two world-renowned shamanic healers, eventually creating my own  programs you see here as Great Plains Guide Company.  

I don’t call myself a shaman. I’m no TED Talk persona selling DVDs and certification programs. I’m a husband, father, grandfather, and neighbor. I’m good with my hands. I’m a runner and cyclist, and I practice Zen meditation. After raising my family in an inner city neighborhood  for twenty years I moved to a quiet three acres in rural southwest Michigan, with my wife and my three year old grandson. 

I’m big on encouraging self-empowerment for my clients. I want people to get up and walk, as Jesus said to the man lame for 38 years, not to become dependent on me or any other healer. I want my clients to fly, to go make their own magic and not keep paying me for mine. To vitalize others through the influence of their own vitality. That’s how we heal ourselves, find our tribe, and save the world. 

I believe it’s better to live a love-based life aligned with one’s spiritual core than a fear-based life of risk avoidance, social conformity, and financial grasping. In our dominant consumer culture, that’s a radical shift. And it can save your life. Maybe even the planet. 

If you’re ready for a real shift, consider scheduling a Fire Talk with me. You can check out the process and see if it’s a good fit for you.  

Education

  • Masters of Divinity (M.Div.), Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (1999).
  • Doctor of Law (J.D.), Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, OR (1986).
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Carleton College, Northfield, MN (1982).
  • Sandra Ingerman, 2-year Shamanic Teacher Training program (2014-16).
  • Crows Nest Center for Shamanic Studies, C. Michael Smith, Ph.D. (2009- 2015).
  • Foundation for Shamanic Studies/ Michael Harner (courses 2013 – 15 ).
  • International Amazon Shamanism Conference, Iquitos, Peru (2013).
  • Board Certification, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) (1989).

Leadership and Teaching

  • University of Notre Dame. Guest instructor for Environmental Psychology seminar, and Hildebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine (annual).
  • Great Plains Guide Co. Founder and leader. Teacher and guide for wilderness vision quests in Terlingua, TX, and on Manitou Island, MI.
  • Crow’s Nest Center for Shamanic Studies, USA. Professional associate, Sacred Breathwork facilitator, co-leader for Vision Quest & Wounded Healer School.
  • National Outdoor Leadership School/Wilderness Medicine Institute. Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) certified.
  • Sage-ing International. Instructor for online courses on Shamanism and Aging. 
  • Indiana University, South Bend, IN. Guest lecturer, Education Dept./Teacher Training Institute.  
  • Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, IN. Guest lecturer, Philosophy Dept., and Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership.
  • Michiana Institute of Gerontology. Wisdom Shamans on Aging & Dying.
  • Center for Spiritual Growth, South Bend, IN.  Teacher, The Way of the Shaman; Jesus the Shaman; other programs.
  • Memorial Hospital, South Bend, IN. Instructor, Brainworks’ Wisdom Series.
  • Unity Gardens Growing Summit, South Bend, IN:  The Path of the Shaman: Ancient Spiritual Ecology for Modern Health. 
  • Renewal in the Wilderness. Assistant program guide (BWCA).
  • Sagewater Yoga, South Bend, IN. Guest instructor, The Power of Presence (annual).
  • Bike Michiana Coalition, South Bend, IN. Co-founder and past president.