I have been thinking a bit about the power of direct experience lately.
What I have been considering about it is that if we do not have direct experience of something, if it does not touch our lives in some capacity, that we can shut our eyes to it.
We can believe something to be false simply because we have never experienced it.
And not only that, we close ourselves down to any greater understanding or realization… or even the direct experience and acknowledgement of something because we are so attached to beliefs that we have created out of past experiences.
I was thinking about this oddly the other day because I moved to a new town recently and was looking for restaurant recommendations. One of the most highly rated restaurants in my town is a sushi place. I began thinking back to a period of time about ten years ago when I would get cravings for sushi and would go to the local sushi place. This sushi was fantastic to me, and I would crave it weekly.
This was until I went to a Morimoto sushi place in Florida. What I experienced there was mind-blowing, it was a sensory initiatory experience. After this experience, I could not go back to eating the old sushi. It not only just didn’t live up to the experience that I had (which is understandable, as it was infinitely more expensive), but it now tasted bad to me. I completely lost my weekly craving for sushi because I had the direct experience of what sushi could be, what it was intended to be, and others now seemed shallow, pale, and lacking of vitality.
In many ways our spiritual experiences are much like this.
As I was thinking about this sort of initiatory experience of “real” sushi, I thought about the parallel of how I used to take courses of a spiritual and shamanic nature that at the time I believed were offering me initiatory experiences and some form of power and realization. They were, at the time, even though I did have a sense that something was “off” about them, and that my experiences were quite different from what most others reported when sharing.
And then I remember being invited to a ceremony where participants were “ridden” by spirits. This came some time later, but much like the sushi restaurant, the experience of palpable power, authenticity, and integrity that came through from this experience made me look at my former experiences as if I were a five year old girl playing dress-up with princess clothes. I tried to go back to a course and realized that it was a mistake– the sort of veil had been cleared and I saw that the power that I now knew was a reality wasn’t to be found there.
I have thought about this pattern a bit because it is our tendency to believe we are further along on our spiritual journeys than we are.
I also thought about this as there is a young man (probably about 25 I would guess) who is espousing his “wisdom” about shamanism through quoting books in some of the circles I sometimes enter. We all went through (or most of us did) a phase in our twenties where we believed that we knew everything. If you look at Facebook, it is filled with 25 year old gurus who lack the inner questioning to really ask if their insights and wisdom is really all they believe it to be, or if it is really the right time in their evolution to be considered in the “teacher” role.
And my purpose is not to make fun here, as this is a common initiatory phase– it is a question if someone can go beyond this phase of “knowing everything” to realize that they know very little, no matter how versed they are on a topic– that will allow for the person to pass through the other end of this phase or remain sort of in this phase that is fairly insufferable to pretty much anyone that has gone beyond the book-quoting phase and into actual, direct experience of something like shamanism…
I remember this quote from Ida Rolf (the innovator of Rolfing) where she said basically that she wishes that people who had less than five years of full time experience with Rolfing wouldn’t call themselves Rolfers… as what they were doing was not quite Rolfing yet. The same is very true of many spiritual practitioners that I see out there– they simply don’t have the experience of a direct nature, have not cultivated the power, to be very good or effective at the work. Whether people will wake up to this and begin cultivating power and spiritual relationships to become effective (and I hope they do, as our culture very much needs people willing to dedicate themselves to this work), and have the direct experiences beyond the teachings of their own minds and books to do this type of work for others is always a hard sell, as the reality of this work is that you need to dedicate large portions of your life to it to the exclusion of pretty much anything else, at least while you are training.
But this happens all the time, no matter what age we are at. What we have experienced, what we believe to be true, can be an end point for us.
I was recently asked in an interview about the “end point” of awakening. I said that the end point is an illusion, there is no completion– the process of awakening is really moving beyond the illusion of some sort of competitive spirituality in which someone “wins” or is ahead of others, and realizes that awakening is about always questioning your reality, your beliefs, and your experiences to see if you can open, release, or expand from them.
It is about the willingness to look at your beliefs, your reality, and your inner nature and seeing what needs to be healed. What is false. And the willingness to let go of beliefs, of our understandings of ourselves and the world (as we have defined “Truth”) is rare. And it is admirable, for those willing to venture there.
Our minds love to tell us that we are much further than we are spiritually. One of the reasons I stopped offering non-healing appointments (I used to do Q & A type appointments for people looking for guidance about psychic abilities and kundalini and spiritual awakening topics) is that 9 out of 10 people I talked to were utterly convinced that they were much further than they were on their spiritual path. To the point that they wanted to spend most of the appointment telling me how they were the most psychic, kundalini shaman person out there. While I recognize the power of sharing, most of the people who had this mythology created about themselves were not interested in learning skills to support it, or to move beyond their own stories about themselves to realize that there were (and are) many others either exactly where they are, or further/more psychic etc. than they are.
Again, I am pointing this out simply to state that this is yet another phase that people pass through, and it is their choice to realistically look at where they are. There was a point in my life that I thought that I was much further than I was, and it was because I was simply much further than I had been.
It is always a choice to continually move forward in our paths, and to realize greater truths about ourselves.
But this phase allows for people to believe that they are at the end of their paths, some great illusory end point, with some great Truth in mind… or that they have constructed some huge narrative about how psychic or sensitive or kundalini awakened or what a shaman they are/were.
I thought of this recently as a woman who was in a great deal of distress contacted me stating that she felt out of control, that the Universe had no control, that she felt like a pawn in things. This was causing for her to be in constant agony.
I tried communicating to her that the phase she was in (a phase in which we realize that we don’t have as much control over things as we would believe ourselves to… our feelings of control, spiritual or otherwise, are in place often to make us feel in control and to feel safe) was simply a phase, and that she could move on from it. I recommended she contact a therapist because we construct beliefs out of trauma, and she was clearly in a state of crisis that could find support and healing for whatever abuse or trauma that was creating those illusions for her.
But she didn’t believe me. She thought that she was at some end point of her path. She lacked the direct experience to understand that what she was going through was a phase, actually a fairly beginning phase (I say that in no derision, but simply to state that contrary to her thinking that only she realized such knowledge, that many, many people in past, present, and future, will come to this realization… and that many people are able to see their way out of it).
Although I do my best with compassion with all people, the pattern of people wanting to create some large spiritual mythology or circumstance to explain away their inner pain and not focus on it can be a bit tiring sometimes. Some of the people who contact me really just have felt some energy in their bodies and wanted to believe it was kundalini, but some people who were authentically psychic were convinced that their self-created practices and beliefs that were causing immeasurable harm to themselves, were not ready to look at such things, or to consider that they could receive proper training.
I think about a woman I worked with who taught herself psychopomp. By the time she came to me she was having seizures, blackouts, and was constantly fatigued. There was actually poltergeist-like activity around her. She wanted to believe that she was a great healer, and was unwilling to look at the fact that her health issues, energy levels (all allopathic/medical info had been ruled out, by the way) and things being thrown around her house was because she was engaged in practices that were quite harmful, and that due to her lack of experience and awareness, she was compromising her health and safety in a rather severe fashion.
In a different vein, I have often thought about how mainstream shamanism (neo-shamanism, “core”) has become very based in psychology. So based in psychology that people do not even consider that one of the main tenents of shamanism is an animist perspective– basically an understanding that the Universe is vitally alive and filled with beings and spirits that can be worked with and communicated with. In fact, a Shaman without any spirits, or who didn’t believe in spirits, is a ridiculous thought.
But here is the thing– if you have never experienced anything other than your own consciousness creating deities and power animals and such, you will not know that non-psychological energies and beings act and interact quite differently. That they have power, power that is palpable.
And that spiritual relationships always take time. They take effort. I see people saying that everyone from Satan to Jesus to Archangel Michael suddenly shows up, fully formed, willing to bestow on them the secrets of the Universe.
For contrast, I will say that I have worked with a being that first began appearing to me 15 years ago that finally told me its name a few years ago. I had to prove my worth and go through many initiations. This happens when energies have power and wisdom– you have to prove yourself. The more power something has, the more valuable the relationship, the more work you need to put into it.
I thought about this a fair amount when considering things that are of a “dark” or “evil” nature. I know that darker energies exist, because I have direct experience of them. I know they exist because they have been evident to me for a long time, as well as to other people who are either called to spiritual work (have the actual capacity to interact with the spiritual realms), or people who were unlucky enough to move to a house or land that contains energies that are dark or evil in nature.
When we have not had experiences that directly teach us that there is darkness and evil out there, we are free to close our eyes, to believe that they don’t exist. In fact, this is a preferable state. Realizing that there are energies out there that are chaotic, or destructive, or dark… and that unlike new-agers would state, they will not “look in their heart” or find Jesus or understand their light nature– they need to be banished or exorcised or negotiated with… is a realization that many would not wish to understand, and will close themselves off to before they reach any sort of initiatory state that would teach them that such energies exist.
This sentiment also crosses over to “curses”, which if you have experience with, do not go away if you just shut your eyes and tell them to go away.
The difficulty with this understanding, or any sort of spiritual understanding or magical happening or anything that really requires an initiation and direct experience, is that we often have a really need-based reality. We have a lot of fear about the spirit world, about spirits, and about proceeding forward on our path to further realization.
Because magic and spirits and so forth are real, and if we have direct experience of them, we realize that we cannot hold our breath until they go away and we are not as powerful and in control as we believe.
I will say about patterns like “demons” and “dark spirits” that most people who are sensing them are not sensing anything that dark. They are sensing former humans and nothing demonic. Or, they are creating a demon out of subconscious trauma and fracturing, because focusing on that outer force is a lot easier than looking inward towards the trauma that created such “dark energies”.
However, even if 39 out of 40 people who contact me fit into the above categories, that 1 out of 40 person is experiencing a curse. Or a haunting or spiritual happening of some sort. And they need spiritual help– not psychological (or they may need that too, as experiencing something like a curse can be a really rude awakening, especially if you are not interested in anything spiritual and a neighbor or ex-boyfriend or something curses you and you find something random on your lawn).
And those people frequently have to go through a lot of people and bad advice and lecturing about how they must have wanted the experience from people who have never had direct experience of these sorts of energies.
This turned into a bit of an unwieldy piece, by my point here is that we are never at the end. Whatever we know can be released for greater truth, greater understanding. Most of us choose to remain stuck in the known. When we know what to expect, our lives stay the same. We are used to them. We feel safe and in control, at least to a certain extent.
If we are not willing to realize that what we think is “true” in the world formulates our reality, we never move beyond our current truth. In my journey I have experienced and seen many things that would be considered “impossible” and it is by realizing that whatever Truth I currently believe, there is someone out there who has experienced a greater Truth, and that there is greater Truth out there.
Realizing that even if we fully immerse ourselves in pretty much any topic out there (spiritual or not) and throughout the course of a single lifetime we will only understand or embody a fraction of it is a hard realization to move forward with. But if we are interested in understanding greater realities, if we are interested in our spiritual evolution and not just being stagnated in our current thoughts, or realities we were given by our teachers and outer culture, we will constantly look at our lives as operating under illusions that we can move beyond.