Dona Teresa and the Body Elemental

By Susan Beal


I first met Dona Teresa in meditation nearly 25 years ago. I was trying to envision an angel along the lines of Botticelli or Leonardo da Vinci. But I kept seeing a woman who looked more like an indigenous Peruvian, with a weathered face and long, black hair in braids. I’d sweep her image aside and try for Botticelli again, but the same dark-haired face would reappear.
Finally, in a burst of insight, I stopped resisting the image of the woman’s face, and she smiled at me as if she’d been amused by the back and forth. Her presence was warm and somehow familiar, quite a different feel from the pristine, angelic figures I’d been trying to picture.
I’d been doing this angel visioning exercise on the advice of a therapist I’d begun to see after my husband had left me on New Year’s Eve. I hardly knew anyone in town, having moved to an unfamiliar place from out of state with him and our two young children only six months earlier. The trauma of the divorce had triggered dark emotions from much older, childhood traumas, so I started the New Year lonely and terrified.
The therapist had said since I didn’t have a network of friends or family, I’d have to summon what support I could from within. I had told her about an experience I’d had just after my son was born, in which I’d been overcome one night by grief and fear over my crumbling marriage. In desperation I’d prayed for help, and suddenly I’d felt enfolded by a powerful, comforting, loving presence that made me know I’d be okay.  
“See if you can give a face to that presence,” the therapist said. I had thought of it as an angel, so that’s what I was trying to envision when Dona Teresa appeared and told me I was “barking up the wrong tree” by trying to contact an angel. “For what you’re going through, an angel isn’t the right kind of help,” she said. “You need human support, from someone who understands pain and loss from direct experience.”  

Angel face(1)

I was taken aback. I’d always thought of angels as all-loving, all-powerful and all purpose helpers who answered your prayers if you were lucky enough to encounter one. It had never occurred to me there were categories of spiritual assistants, according to the kind of help you needed. For instance, you go to lawyers for one kind of help, doctors for another, and bulldozer operators for yet another. Yet I had conflated all spiritual aides into one generic angelic type.
Dona Teresa told me a lot during that first meeting and advised me not to get caught up in the drama of what I’d been through, but simply to regard it as the path that had brought me to that moment. I discovered that it was easiest to contact her from a place of stillness and gratitude, even just a smidgen—just enough to escape the morass of blame and self-pity I’d get stuck in.

After meeting Dona Teresa I met other inner guides and spent more and more time in inner dialogues and journeys, learning ways to perceive and work with non-physical beings and subtle energies and journey to high-vibrational realms. They gave me comfort as well as practical advice that helped me through very difficult times.
But as my inner life was expanding in scope and complexity, my outer life was, too. The effort involved in focusing on inner contact and exploration became enormously draining because of the stress I was going through. It was hard for me to span the gap between the numinous inner experiences and the painful and heartbreaking challenges in my daily life. My physical and emotional health suffered and my ability to perceive subtle beings and energies wavered. I felt bereft of inner clarity and guidance just when I felt I needed it most.
Eventually, I realized that my body felt abandoned when I’d “leave” on inner journeys because it was too similar to the disassociation that comes with trauma. As David Spangler explained to me, the body elemental endures all the pain and trauma our psyches and spirits can disassociate from, even the pain of surgery, which we’re consciously protected from by anesthesia. Unless we work with the body elemental to release all of that, it accumulates to the point of imbalance, even illness.

It’s easy to get caught in the glamour of having non-physical colleagues and tempting to use such contact as a form of escapism. And it’s even more tempting to place a higher value on expanded spiritual experiences than on material realities and limitations. But subtle perception has to include listening to the subtle—and not so subtle!—messages of the physical body with as much respect as one would listen to angels or spirit guides.
Since that time, I've learned to pay more respect to the wisdom of my body and what it has to tell me.  A big part of that has been working with a somatic psychotherapist to release old, embodied trauma, the kind of healing that Dona Teresa, as a non-physical human, couldn’t help with. It has been transformative to learn to welcome and work with the perceptions of my physical body, and to feel more truly incarnated than I ever have.

While the clairvoyant contact with Dona Teresa was gratifying and made our relationship seem more “real” in some ways, I’ve found I can usually tune in to her informally, without the need for a meditative state or focused sessions like in the past. But such communication relies on trusting myself and my perceptions, and for that, my physical body has turned out to be one of my most honest and reliable allies.


Would you like to learn more about connecting with your body elemental or other beings in the subtle world? Take a look at David Spangler's book Subtle Worlds: An Explorer's Field Notes, the first in a series of guides mapping the inner planes.  For more information, please contact