Monthly Archives: September 2014

Some Thoughts on Power and Faith

In my daily life I often get to mentor people in various ways. Through my programs, online, through one on one sessions via Phone or Skype, and through email I interact with hundreds of people each week. A similar theme appears with many of the people who contact me.

Many people are curious about Power. Power is a touchy word in many spiritual communities because there is a basic fear and misunderstanding of what it means. Power to most people is meant in a very materialistic way- they see politicians and religious figures who wield tremendous power which leads to them having bad character and doing amoral things. People who are in control, in power, in our society are seen as amoral, vindictive, only out for themselves, full of ego (in a new-age sense of that being a detriment), and ultimately not people that most “spiritual” sorts would want to emulate. Think of the things that represent power in our society- money, labels, titles, etc. Now think of the spiritual discussions that you are part of. Chances are they are all about power and how people are trying to tear down or dis-identify with any sort of power that they or others may have.

On the other hand people who identify as being on a spiritual path will often seek out the most powerful or “strongest” spiritual experiences, they will believe themselves to be contacting the greatest Gods and sages of all time in their work or will automatically assume that they are going through the strongest or most powerful experience they have heard of (which lately is the Kundalini awakening) even if they do not have any of the signs and symptoms, and will acquire thousands of books, go to classes, seek gurus and teachers, use the strongest herbs and plant preparations they can find… all in a quest to find some sort of externalized power as well as to define themselves as going through something profound.

It is interesting- this duality. We seek and seek to find something powerful. When we have a spiritual experience (or experiences) we often think it is the most profound or strongest experience we have heard of, even if we do not have anything beyond a Wikipedia-type understanding (if that) of what that means. We also vilify this power, we do not have faith in this power, while at the same time we actively seek power we fear it and turn away from it when it finally comes.

When we have spiritual experiences, when we have a taste of power we seek to understand it through our mental faculties. We think about it, discuss it in chat rooms, go to healers. We want to believe that we are going through something profound. And we are. All of us are going through life, which is a profound thing. But we often stop ourselves from progressing further- from acquiring any actual power out of fear and conditioning. We seek out power in a rather overt way but when we are confronted with expansion or acceptance of power, or greater power, we balk. We want to be accepted. We do not want to do anything against our conditioning- which tells us that we should lack power, that we should be understood rather than be who we truly are. We believe ourselves to be going through Kundalini awakenings, or encountering Kali, or define ourselves as teacher or guru because we are going through something profound and these are the most profound labels we have heard of.

It is rare that someone is willing to let go of those labels (whether or not they have or are experiencing these things) into greater understanding and actual power. It is rare that someone is able to open more doors or go further down the proverbial rabbit hole because subconsciously they realize that when you have greater understanding or are actually awake it both takes you into a state of oneness but also isolation (basically, nobody understands you anymore and there is a cognitive dissonance because people are still under a lot of conditioning and seeing through their trauma and would rather believe spiritual illusions and memes than open doors they know will reveal some frightening things). We fear Power, we deny it, we push those who have it to the outskirts of society because they are not readily understood, we try to steal it from those who have it. There is a subconscious impulse to keep us weak, to have us lack power, lack vitality, to not wake up from sleep that is present in every single one of us. There is a question of if we are going to continue listening to it, that voice that tells us that power is bad and causes us to turn away from it, from fully expressing ourselves, or if we are going to acquire it despite the fear and the conditioning and the subconscious mental and trauma based issues that make us believe we can never be powerful in this world.

So what actually is Power?
Power comes in both internal and external forms. When we become who we really are, when we know who we really are, and do what we came here to do we become filled with internal, personal power. But it is more than that- to become really powerful we must cultivate ourselves- meditate or pray, exercise and move, eat right for our bodies (yes, this is an individual thing and can involve cake), have appropriate sexual release, have relationships with our friends, family, and community, and follow the path that we are intended to in this life. When we do this we become filled with our personal power. No excuses, just personal responsibility, showing up 100 percent, a letting go of anything in us that still wants to be a victim, and a release of endless programming and worries about what society, our family, and everyone on Facebook thinks about us and our choices. We are who we are, and we emanate that into the world.

When we start to become filled with this power we shy away from it, we fear it, we deny it. One of my teachers used to tell me that people were so used to living out our wounds that once we progressed past that (or some of that) that most people have no idea what to do with themselves. What would happen if you could have and be exactly what you wanted in this world? This thought is totally terrifying to someone on the verge of realizing their own power. If we are called to be a Shaman, for example, and have been initiated by spirits to be one, if we are filled with power we state that we are a Shaman. If we are not filled with power and understanding of what and who we are we participate in endless discussions about how it is bad to call oneself a Shaman, or a Healer, or whatever. We endless tear down celebrities, politicians, and regular people who we identify as having power. We deny our path because it does not suit the chaos of others. If we are called to be a stay-at- home Mom, or not have children (for example), we can either choose to listen to the programming and opinions and chaos that are in the minds of others or be filled with the knowledge and power of our path, our choices. Whatever our power is, our unique way of being in this world, we can choose to cultivate it and become power-filled or we can return to the chaos and programming of others who tell us what and who to be.

External power is an extension of internal power. When we are self-realized, when we are filled with the knowledge of who we are and what we want, we at first gain access to the part of ourselves that is God. This might sound confusing, but the more we clear of our traumas, our issues, our programming, the more we know who we are, the more internal power we gain, the clearer we become. This clearness allows for us to remember. At first this memory is of ourselves being an archetype- a deity, a facet or representative of externalized Power. This is an extraordinary, powerful remembering, and can bring us to full capacity of our own internal power.

But there is more. For some of us we may begin to realize that there is power way beyond us. We allow for faith to come in. As we access this power that is greater than us we can do more than we, as an individual (even a fully powered individual) can do. This power washes over us, it informs us. We become servants to it. Whatever religious path, spiritual understandings, etc. that we have are worked with through the archetype layer- meaning the power-filled internal aspects of us. This is beyond that. This is oneness, divine flow, God… however you wish to define it. We are simply a particle, a representative with some of the traits of that oneness.

This state is difficult to describe. Many people do not reach here because they are not willing to cultivate themselves. It is really, really easy to sleep in this world. It is harder to remember. It is hard to move past the conditioning that we are not intended to be powerful, the fear. It is even more difficult to understand that there is more outside of us. That there are beings, deities, and powers that are quite separate from us that can become our allies, that we can serve, whose power can come through us, that can teach us more than any book or any internal aspect of ourselves could. To access external power again requires cultivation, it requires initiation, it requires acceptance by whatever power we wish to work with. It requires a humbling of ourselves and realizing that however much we know, whatever labels we have given ourselves, whatever illusions we are projecting out into the world there are always more powerful, more knowledgeable people as well as powers and knowledge beyond us in spirit form that we will likely never understand or be able to process. But more than that it requires faith. If we do not have faith- in ourselves or in our internal or external power- we will never move past the conditioning, to having true spiritual experiences outside of our own self-creation. If we do not have faith in ourselves or in a power outside of ourselves we have little to rely on in this world. All of the spells, workshops, books, illusions of grandeur, teachers, and gurus cannot help us with this. If we have faith, if we take personal responsibility, if we are open to our spiritual experiences moving beyond the basics (step by step instead of going from point A to Point Z in one step) and if we cultivate ourselves and our relationships properly we can move mountains. If we do not have power, if we do not have faith, we are doomed to repeat the same conditioning, the same issues again and again.

Spiritual Emergency, Therapy, and Hospitalization

Generally when we get sick most of us go to a doctor. If the sickness is physical we are put through blood tests, various proddings, and scans to assess what organs or systems in our body are not working well. If the sickness is not physical, or is primarily considered emotional (even if it has significant physical components), or the doctor simply cannot find anything wrong despite complaints of pain and decreased functioning they will either give pharmaceuticals or will advise the patient to seek out a mental health professional.

In cases of spiritual issues the modern allopathic community still defines anything not physical or mechanistic as being in the realm of psychiatrists or psychotherapy. If we were to put this in basic terms, spiritual emergency or issues stemming from a spiritual process would not fit into any paradigm they know so they typically consider it “other” and tell people what they are experiencing is all in their heads- that they need a shrink.

I have personally never found therapy helpful, so I can be a bit biased on this subject, but I have certainly treated and worked with numerous mental health professionals who are quite lovely and competent at their jobs. Here we encounter a bit of difficulty. Psychotherapy, although on its fringes is invested in interest in the spirit, interest in the soul, by and large is interested in the mind and emotions. This may be a fruitful endeavor for some of you, as going through spiritual issues brings up past traumas and emotional experiences that are overwhelming and having a safe space to discuss them can be helpful.

However in a spiritual process the actual spiritual process must be understood. The emotions and mental experiences coming up are significant, of course, but unless the spiritual process is fully understood and the reasoning for the emotions coming up is understood, the therapist will be placing significance on the mind, on the mental, on the emotional, and the processing of the lower emotions rather than a focus on the greater spiritual process occurring. The focus in therapy is a return from “aberrant” behavior to normalcy (wake to sleep) in order to make the person functional according to manuals, commonly accepted paradigms and considered normal behavior by a society that is mostly asleep and feels the need for such rules and control. The truth is that someone who is awakened will not fit into any manual of what is considered “normal” or “proper” for society. They should be able to function reasonably according to societal conventions (going to the grocery store, etc) but beyond that experiences of someone who is spiritual awakening are so far off from what is commonly understood and accepted by conventional society that efforts to stuff them into a diagnosis and treat them as imbalanced, insane, or ill will prove futile. There is a cognitive dissonance for people who are still asleep to understand anyone who is not, and the efforts to bring someone back to the implicit rules, patterns, thoughts, and energetic grids of constriction that restrict most of us into sleep when someone has broken free from them by the psychiatric profession, therapists, and counselors who simply are ignorant of the process is quite sad and at times harmful to those who could really use spiritually-based help.

In cases of spiritual emergency, where the individual is so overwhelmed by their spiritual process that they have lost the ability to function and may be experiencing a wide variety of severe and even life-threatening physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual symptoms, therapists are part of the system set up- they can advise on the need for hospitalization when necessary (and yes, for some hospitalization is necessary). Although hospitalization is necessary in some cases there is a basic lack of understanding of spiritual emergency. Although I will write about this in another blog post, there is a huge difference between someone who is genuinely going through a psychotic break or is severely mentally ill and has such a fractured sense of self that they will require extensive hospitalizations, medication, and so forth, and people who are going through severe spiritual crises that may require long-term or short-term hospitalization, medication, and care. In many cases individuals going through spiritual awakening are medicated and treated as mentally or physically ill when their issues are spiritual and would best be treated by a spiritual provider or healer who deeply understands the spiritual awakening process. Unfortunately this differentiation is not understood at all, and so people undergoing short-term severe spiritual issues are medicated and hospitalized long-term because of improper care, and the genuinely mentally ill fractured soul who may require medication and/or hospitalization may believe that they are going through an intense spiritual awakening and will not receive proper care, and the person who is reasonably functional but going through a spiritual process may find themselves medicated or engaged in therapy that doesn’t help them.

And on its fringes therapists and other mental health professionals have been interested in spiritual emergency, a term coined by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, and many therapists who have studied with him or consider themselves “transpersonal” or Jungian are invested in working with the spiritual through the lens of modern psychiatric and therapeutic doctrines. There are therapeutic networks, research, and other interesting work being done (and that has been done) for decades now enmeshing the spiritual with the psychiatric with varying degrees of success.

The difficulty with working with spiritual awakenings, spiritual emergency, and spiritual processes of all sorts through the lens of modern therapy, psychiatry, and the various lenses of mental health is that they define spiritual processes and spiritual awakening as an aberration, a disease, or at the various least something negative that has occurred. They have a paradigm- one that can be helpful in some ways… if you are so non-functional or ill that you require 24/7 care or are in severe mental, physical, emotional danger hospitalization may be the way to go.

However while the ability to diagnose someone as needing intensive medical care such as hospitalization can be important and even life-saving in some cases, spiritual awakening is not an aberration, it is not a disease, it is not an imbalance even. It is so easy to put things into the DSM-V (the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) or to conduct studies blaming everything from too much meditation to drug usage to fragile mental states in the issues that present with spiritual awakenings. What is not understood by modern therapy, even those included in “spiritual networks” or who work with those undergoing spiritual awakenings is that it is not a negative process, even though it can result in issues that outwardly seem negative. By this I mean that spiritual awakenings are difficult. They bring up physical issues, pain, in some cases near-death states, mental and emotional issues, there will be strong energies that clear out our bodies, bring up the past traumas and issues not only from our lives but from our ancestors, our families, our community, the world. It is an isolating process, it is difficult to function, and the spiritual understandings and sheer amount of material that come up in some of the stronger awakenings (such as Kundalini awakenings or Shamanic callings) can be nearly impossible to integrate into daily functioning and interaction with a world that is not awake.

But this is not a negative, it is not an aberration that has occurred, it is not pathological, and it should not be treated as such. If anything it is a biological process of allowing for us to wake up to our highest potential. The intent of any type of spiritual process is to allow for us to process all of the energies, all of the traumas and emotions, all of the physical issues… everything that is weighing us down so that we can remember who we truly are and claim our power. In our world anything that is painful, any emotions or experiences that are not considered “normal” or are outside of the understanding of the mainstream are to be treated so that we can return to a state of sleep, a state of numbness. Many of us may wish to go back to sleep, to return to “normal”, to not feel pain physically or emotionally, to not have the spiritual understandings and separateness that those understandings mean. We are a culture that fears power, that fears individuation, that fears the unknown. We do not want to surrender, we do not want to let go and allow for the pain, the processing that true spiritual awakening creates. Instead we treat the process as a pathological state, numb our physical, emotional, and energetic sensations. In the early stages of spiritual awakening we are unable to have much of the bliss, the ecstacy, the love that comes from clearing all of our gunk out. We are so mired in sleep, in gunk, in conditioning and trauma and patterns and they are so painful to remove that we are ignorant and cannot see that we are gaining power, we are becoming more ourselves, we are achieving greater understandings, we are having sneak peeks of bliss, ecstatic states, and profound peace.

Some of us may be going through such an overwhelming process that talk therapy with an experienced therapist, medication, and hospitalization may be required. If we are reasonably functional and have a bit of knowledge we can understand spiritual awakening as a process, a positive process at that, rather than something that necessitates numbing through the current allopathic paradigm. By understanding that this is a biological process- that we are “waking up” to our true selves, our true potential- and that we are processing everything that stands in the way of that we can learn to work through it and come out the other side instead of putting ourselves back to sleep or focusing on the negative aspects of the experience.

Since this is an experience that is difficult to understand unless experienced directly, and many people who are in the beginning stages of “waking up” simply create more illusions (of control, rules, saying, belief systems, fears, and practices) that serve only to constrict and do not allow for deeper levels of surrender and processing, much of the information on spiritual awakenings is rather meaningless, feel-good sort of information that most of us truly going through spiritual awakenings will find frustrating or will see through as illusory. By learning simple tools, by understanding what you are going through, and by surrendering all of muck and grime and conditioning can be cleared. The more grime and conditioning we clear the more we become ourselves, the more joy we feel, the less symptoms we have, the more we understand what is “true” for us and claim our own power. It is a beautiful thing to witness when someone makes it through the storm of the spiritual process to feel the sheer amount of peace and flow that lies beyond.

I (Mary Shutan) offer assistance and mentorship to people undergoing spiritual awakenings as well as a wide variety of spiritual experiences to understand and work through their experiences. You may contact me here for interest in working with me. Due to the amount of emails I receive on a daily basis I am unfortunately unable to provide free advice via email, but do take emails for a Spiritual Advice column (put Spiritual Advice in the header of the email) and suggestions for new low- cost classes (the ones I currently offer can be accessed here).