I’m Laura Horton-Ludwig, and this is a bit more of my story.
As a child…
I grew up running around in the woods and swimming in the lakes of Maine and Minnesota. Indoors, I read constantly, devouring fairy tale collections, the Narnia books, and The Lord of the Rings.
As the child of two mental health professionals, our dinner table conversations taught me about stuff like passive-aggressive behavior, narcissism, and denial, while I absorbed my parents’ endless curiosity about what made people tick.
We were a secular family; nobody talked about spirituality, so I kept my questions and wonderings and longings to myself. But I remember sneaking out at night to sit by the lake and watch the stars and the moon on the water, and feeling overwhelmed by the beauty and peace of everything.
Finding spiritual community
In college, I studied English because I knew I wanted to read novels, though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Singing in choirs was my joy, and the closest thing I knew to spirituality at that time. I remember singing Verdi’s Requiem right behind the tympani and the bass drum, feeling the floor shake and my heart swell along with our voices.
I kept singing and eventually stumbled into a gig with a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Boston (First and Second, as it was known then). I had expected it would be really boring, but to my astonishment, I found myself crying during the hymns and nodding in recognition at sermons that talked about regular life—things like feeling discouraged and finding hope again, and how to figure out what you were supposed to be doing in the world. And they didn’t tell me what to believe. They told me I was loved and worthy of love exactly as I was, and that my choices could make a positive difference in the world.
It wasn’t too long before I started thinking about becoming a minister, though I worried about what my family and friends would think. I still remember how good it felt when a dear friend told me, “Of course, that sounds just like you!”
Becoming a minister
I discovered spiritual direction during my first year of seminary, when I had the pleasure of working with Lucy Abbott Tucker first as an instructor and then as a one-on-one spiritual direction client. Her office became a refuge for me as I grappled with what faith meant for me, and how to live out my sense of vocation and pay the bills at the same time.
In 2005, I began my career as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister. Since then, I’ve served both large and small congregations in Illinois, California, and Virginia.
Daily spiritual practice has helped me stay grounded in my work, and every other part of my life. . Over time, I’ve practiced journaling and “daily pages” inspired by The Artist’s Way, dreamwork, lectio divina (meditating in conversation with sacred texts & poems), tarot & oracle cards, and the practice that has been the joy of my life for many years: shamanic journeying.
Shamanic journeying: a portal to deep healing
I found my way to shamanic work in 2013, during a difficult time in my life filled with illness, stress, and sadness. My spiritual director at that time was an experienced practitioner who helped me try journeying for the first time. Here’s what happened:
In my mind’s eye, a bird appeared dragging a broken wing and said to me, “You think you’re like this.”
Then the bird flew up into a tree and soared into the sky, wing healed, and said, “But really, you’re like this!”
The brokenness I felt was an illusion? And on some deeper level I was whole and well and free? That message hit me like a thunderbolt and began to heal my heart.
I’ve been practicing shamanic journeying ever since. My formal training in shamanic healing work has primarily been through the Foundation for Shamanic Studies; I’ve also studied with Sandra Ingerman.
Spiritual direction & coaching: inviting inner wisdom to show up and lead
Soon after that, I began to feel a nudge to become a spiritual director myself. I ended up training with the Haden Institute. Their Jungian approach, with its invitation to explore the unconscious and embrace all parts of ourselves, was just right for me. I soon began working with clients one-on-one and teaching lectio divina, dreamwork, and shamanic journeying in the congregations I served.
During that time, I also began to work with clergy coaches like Susan Beaumont and Larry Peers. I was electrified by their modeling of how to make positive changes at work and beyond—by becoming more aware of your habitual patterns of behavior, getting in touch with how those patterns feel in your body and spirit, and trying on new ways of being that feel more hopeful and life-giving.
Inspired by their example, I became a volunteer peer coach for fellow clergy and served in that role for six years before pursuing credentialing through the Institute for Life Coach Training.
Today, I live with my husband John (a massage therapist and fellow shamanic practitioner) and our dog and cat in Williamsburg, Virginia. Oak and pine trees are just out the back door, along with squirrels, rabbits, deer, owls, hawks, snakes and lizards, and many other creatures. (Friendly neighbors too.) I’m grateful for this grounding, beautiful place and for the loving relationships with family, friends, and colleagues that support me in so many ways.
In this extraordinarily challenging time for our world, I am beyond grateful that I get to do work that matters, supporting amazing clients who show up so ready and hungry to connect with spirit and live a life of meaning, joy, and hope.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you. Please reach out if you feel moved to connect, and blessings on your journey wherever it takes you!