Monthly Archives: February 2017

Spiritual Work vs. Neo-Shamanism Part Two

In my previous post, I began talking about the differences between neo-shamanism and spiritual work. The blog this week will likely contain a few things that may be more controversial, but are necessary to talk about:

Let’s start with a big one: the “S” word.
In traditional and indigenous cultures, it would be considered disrespectful to announce oneself as a shaman. This is because it is a title that is given not only due to a calling, but because the shaman fulfills a vital role for the community.

To put this into perspective, I will do a crass simplification here. Say you want to be a firefighter. You get the miniature truck and play with it, you watch a few movies or TV shows about what a firefighter does. You even go to the day where you can sit in the truck and meet firefighters and put on their hat. But without the training to become a firefighter, and without actually serving the community by going and putting out some fires and assisting some folks, you really aren’t a firefighter.

To take this even further, someone who has been a firefighter for ten or twenty years will have a depth of experience and knowledge that someone who has just finished training will not have.

There is the unavoidable issue that what most people call shamanism amounts to someone getting a miniature fire truck and saying vroom while playing in their bedroom and calling themselves a firefighter.

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There is a saying by Ida Rolf (creator of Rolfing) that she wished that people with less than five years of full time experience (post-training, to be clear) wouldn’t call themselves Rolfers because what they are doing isn’t Rolfing yet. This same thought applies to spiritual work, which takes a considerable degree of experience to get decent at.

Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery at something. These thoughts are understandably not popular with the neo-shamanic crowd, as the idea of being “advanced” quickly and without much effort are pretty prevalent. The idea that it may be several lifetimes of continual work to fulfill a shamanic duty or calling would be upsetting, at the very least.

Spiritual work is difficult, dangerous, and the calling often puts one and their family at risk. It is typical for there to be a period of grieving and even anger at having this calling, and the intensive amount of training and initiation that is required to become one.

One of the larger ways that I can tell that someone is called to spiritual work is that there is this anger and grief, along with feelings of not being in control (due to being called and seemingly having no choice in the decision). There are also often struggles with feeling insane due to seeing and experiencing so much beyond what society deems to be normal. In the modern world, there is also a feeling of ridiculousness and disbelief at having a “spiritual calling” due to mainstream society being fairly mechanistic and physically-oriented.

In contrast, neo-shamanism has largely changed the “s” word into a title that anyone, no matter what training, education, or natural inclination, can and should acquire. It is perceived as something that makes someone special or superior, and is utilized as a way to provide meaning for past experiences of illness or feelings of being different than others.

Feeling separate is one of our primary wounds, or something that all people experience (consciously or not). We desire to feel special because we have experienced so much that has told us that we are not special. We look for meaning and significance in our illness, and the neo-shamanic movement provides easy answers or a “calling” for anyone and everyone who has these wounds. But these are human wounds (although they are spiritual), and it is by understanding that everyone has them, and has experienced them, that we can move through them.

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Shamans are Mentally Unwell
There is a perception that because spiritual workers think differently and “see through” (more on this later) that they are mentally ill… or that conversely, everyone struggling with psychosis or mental illness is secretly a shaman.

The capacity of spiritual workers to see beyond, to see incisively and differently than most of the population may be seen as “insane” by those who are only capable of seeing and sensing material existence, but there is differentiation here that is necessary.

If someone is not functional in their daily lives, dealing with delusions or wounding patterns, it is a result of trauma, mental shattering, and soul loss… and is not in and of itself a calling to be a spiritual worker. Even if someone is “called” or has some shamanic capacity, dealing with personal trauma to be able to clearly see (and not see through the filter of a fractured mind) is essential.

Even in societies in which there is a natural understanding towards disability or “otherness” meaning an inclination towards spiritual capacity or “sight”, there still is a training and evaluation period to see if the person does in fact have this capacity.

Spiritual workers for the most part tend to actually be saner than most of the population. They have to be to be able to be immersed in other realms/worlds/realities and to interact in a balanced way spiritually. It takes a great deal of sanity and remarkable embodiment as well as grounding to be an effective spiritual worker. Most spiritual workers tend to be pretty embodied and have an “earthy” quality to them that comes from deep grounding and relationship with the Earth.

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This is a far cry from some of the ideas of spiritual workers being wounded, fractured, and disassociated. The idea that someone who doesn’t want to deal with their body or life can simply travel elsewhere is immensely appealing, and this tendency or belief in neo-shamanism can mean that people who are struggling with trauma and forms of psychosis (as well as mental fracturing) do not receive the help that they need, and perpetuates a new-age mythology surrounding “ascension”.

The reason that discernment and sight are so important for the spiritual worker (especially the modern day one) is because when you are working with clients (or even doing your own self-help work) that there is a huge difference between someone dealing with a dark spirit that is internal (part of the self that has been neglected or fractured), archetypal, thoughts projected, and an actual dark spirit that is external. This is why having a spiritual calling, the training period that is required, and the sight that is required for the job is so important.

Mental Fracturing and Present Day Spiritual Practice
There is an unfortunate belief that there “is no such thing as mental illness”. There is also a thought of “shaman being the first psychologists” (Krippner, I believe). There is no denying that this work is powerful at working through emotions, beliefs, and traumas.

This is also born out of the understanding that in traditional cultures that there are varying thoughts of mental illness, or that all mental illness is spiritual in origin. While I certainly agree that all things are spiritual in origin technically, in our modern world we are divorced from the earth to the extent that we are either completely disassociated from our bodies, or are just in our heads (our mental “body”), and we lack the connections to our fellow humans that allow us to heal in community.

In modern-day society, there is a lot of purely mental work that goes into the practice (and is why spiritual workers tend to now work “with” people, as unless the person mentally works through the process, they tend to reject the spiritual changes that have happened to some degree)

It is hard to convince people who have not worked in psych hospitals and similar situations that some people are so divorced from any form of communal reality or are fractured to the extent that what they need is mental help, not spiritual. It is also an understandable hope for people who are struggling, or who have a family member or friend who is struggling, with significant mental illness that they are secretly a “shaman”: it can bring hope to a situation that is incredibly difficult to traverse.

The muddling of the spiritual with the psychological has delineated the boundaries a bit too far– it would be an ideal society in which people would refer to the appropriate professionals. To recognize spiritual awakening or shamanic sickness and refer to a spiritual worker… to differentiate that from someone who may need mental health support and “light” spiritual work from perhaps a therapist trained in neo-shamanism and its visualizations… to the people who are struggling with psychosis and delusions that threated their safety and make them non-functional in their lives and get them the help that they need.

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Focus on Spiritual Relationships
Moving to something slightly less abstract, I will say that spiritual relationships are quite different in spiritual practice vs. neo-shamanic traditions. I went over some of this in part one (the idea of dominion or indentured servitude, the understanding that spirits are not these one-dimensional beings with no personality only interested in working how and where you want), but I am going to be a bit more simplistic here.

Neo-shamanic practices largely focus on “power animals”. This is in no doubt due to Michael Harner being the sort of godfather of the neo-shamanic movement (which is odd, as he would state some of the same things I do, and I know this because I have asked him a few questions before).

In contrast, most spiritual workers that I know focus on ancestral relationships. This is often first and foremost.

Our ancestors form the basis of spiritual work, and hold the power of our lineage. They care for us and have considerable power and spiritual capabilities.

I do believe that the focus on power animals is a way to take the “spirit” out of spiritual practice– as it is easy to put traits and ideas, as well as to feel compassion, for an animal (popular fuzzy cat videos, for example), while if we introduce the idea of working with spirits the thoughts of control and ideas about dominion and safety start to go out the window.

The funny aspect of this is that in my own experience of “power animals” is that they are not safe– they connect us to our “inner wild” and our power. Meeting and finding, or having a “power animal” stalk you for a period of time, can be something of a frightening experience, especially if it involves a dismemberment.

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What is Shamanism?
While talking about this word I will say that there are different camps. There are those who believe that shamans are only Siberian (Tungus/where the word originated from), there are those who believe that shamanism and the term “shaman” can be represented by a specific set of spiritual practices, and then those who believe that any form of spiritual contact, or anyone who is in the role of being intermediary between the spirit realms and the physical realms, is doing shamanic work (or that all spiritual work emerged from a shamanic past).

The spiritual practices that are considered “shamanic” have to do with being an intermediary between the physical and spiritual realms… but it also has to do with “spirit flight”. Basically this means that the shaman travels (or journeys) to the “other” (the spiritual realms) in order to interact with and heal spiritual difficulties or imbalances. There also is the concept of the “hollow bone” and of trance states (allowing energy and spirit(s) to “ride” or work through the shaman) that are also utilized. This is of course a simplistic, one-paragraph explanation.

By contrast, practices that are more mediumistic (for example, Spiritism) typically work with the understanding that the spiritual is all around us, and that it can be worked with in this reality (basically, not going anywhere). So this would make a lot of folk practices, Native American practices, and Peruvian practices (I mention these both as they have been taken up as “shamanism” by the neo-shamanic movements) technically not shamanic.

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Animism and Shamanism
We have been so separated from the natural world that the idea that there are entire cultures that are animistic, or who do not separate the spiritual from the physical, is often missed. To be simple, all spiritual workers are animists… but not all animists are spiritual workers.

Animism is the belief that this world is vitally alive, that everything has spirit, and a sort of flow through it. Anyone can tap into this understanding (if they are ready to, as it requires moving past a materialistic and mechanistic version of “reality” to do so), and can work with spirit.

In cultures that have not separated their folk practices, every day magic, and animistic practices from their physical reality, it is quite common for people to be animists and to work with a variety of household and personal spirits. However, the depth of what can be achieved, and the basic power for working with larger forces, or providing clarity to spiritual situations through developed sight, as well as the trance states, spirit flight/visit to “other” and hollow bone-type qualifications would largely be the realm of the spiritual worker.

The good news about this is that while not everyone is called to the daily practices, training, and rigor that is required to become a spiritual worker, that many people can interact with the spiritual realms as an animistic universe in profound and life-affirming ways.

If more people realized that we are not separate from the Earth, from one another, and that the world and everything in it is vitally alive and filled with spirit, we would stop our unconscious “taking” of things, and learn to live a more harmonious, peaceful life. I do think that neo-shamanism is a good introduction to practices like this. My basic point in all of this series of blogs is that there is a lot more under the surface, and if you are looking for more than surface practices, or are actually called to be of service to your community spiritually, that different training and experiences are necessary. My other point would be for some of you, who are willing, to reconsider your relationship to the spiritual realms and open or expand your beliefs a bit, but I understand that that often only happens with personal readiness.

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Next week I will talk about the “Wounded Healer” concept, shamanic illness, and what spiritual workers do in their work. I will end this series (yes, it turned into a four-part series) talking about the “inner wild”, which is one of the most (if not the most) important concept to understand that differentiates neo-shamanism from spiritual work.

Spiritual Work vs. Neo-Shamanism Part One

It has been a while since I have talked about shamanism. This is partially because I came to a point in my path where I realized that if people wanted authentic information about shamanism and spiritual practices, that they would find it (for starters, I would suggest either Holger Kalweit or Sarangerel’s books). I also realized that in some ways I was being unfair to neo-shamanism and new-agers, as the sort of practices that they gravitate towards are arguably what they need. Not everyone needs to immerse themselves like I (and plenty of others) have, or has a calling towards doing so (that inner urge to find deeper reality paired with a calling towards spiritual work itself).

But I have realized lately that there are a lot of people that are searching for information like this, and that it could propel them forward into such deeper terrain, if they are ready to do so. So I will admit my bias here, as I am a “Spiritual Worker”– I do not use the word “shaman” as I understand both the indigenous hatred at a bunch of white people coming in and then announcing that they are “Peruvian Shamans” or whatever the flavor of the month is… and I have no interest in identifying myself with the practices of “modern” or “neo-shamanism”, which is a lot different in scope than what I do.

So I will talk about the biggest differences between spiritual work and neo-shamanism here, and attempt to do so with as little bias as I am able to at this time, having been immersed or at one point studied both paths (I no longer do any sort of neo or “core” shamanic work, just as an FYI):

Spiritual Work isn’t safe
This is one of the biggest differences that I notice. Neo-shamanic work will state that this sort of exploration is safe, that there are safe places to go, that you just need to announce your “sovereignty” or imagine white light and you can control the cosmos, and everything in it.

In contrast, spiritual workers realize that there are no “safe zones” and that announcing your sovereignty and imagining white light surrounding you in some situations is as about as effective as stating that your house shouldn’t be robbed because it is yours. The chances that someone is going to rob it are minimal, but you telling the robber if they are in fact breaking in that it is your house, and that you are “sovereign” over it isn’t likely to do much.

This idea of safety has a lot do with the illusion of control. We have a lot of fear, and so it is easy to reach for illusions of having such great control that you literally control the Universe. That it is centered around you, or that if you just think right or act right enough nothing bad will ever happen to you. So the neo-shamanic realms are filled with these ideas about control, while people authentically interacting with spirits and the spiritual realms will realize that control is an illusion, and that using white light on everything doesn’t work.

There is a great quote by Gopi Krishna, by the way, that emphasizes this: “those men and women who arrogate to themselves a transhuman stature or position of authority… must have a poor opinion about the staggering dimensions of the universe”.

Believing that we are smaller, or even less in control, or less safe, than we would like to provide the illusion of ourselves being is what happens when you authentically interact with spirit. This is in contrast to neo-shamanic work and workshops, which provide the illusion of control and power to the individual (without much effort or cultivation required, as to allow for weekend workshops and the like). But interacting with strange spirits and lands and dimensions and even the inner aspects of Self isn’t safe. It requires courage, and cultivation, and spiritual workers will often come into situations and interactions in which they realize that they are a tiny human, and that there is no way that they will have control over a deity, or a nature spirit, or even an upset former human (spirit).

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Spiritual Work is about Spirits
Without spirits, there is no spiritual work. I find that this is one of the strangest things that I have to contend with in my line of work. “Shamanism” was discovered by anthropologists and psychologists who brought this work to the West. The difficulty with this is that it was either shown as the proverbial “other” (meaning an anthropologist describing things that they do not understand nor have background in) or more popularly, merged with pop psychology.

If we were to put things into simplicity, I find that neo-shamanism is largely about mental and emotional healing, while spiritual work is about spiritual healing and interactions (which then spans the spectrum– spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical, meaning that removing a spiritual block can create a lot of change, if the person receiving it doesn’t block it).

The reason why this came about is that people without “sight” translated what they believed to be shamanism/spiritual work and created entire modalities/techniques surrounding it. They may have not believed in spirits personally, or they may have just had their “lens” fixed to the point that they put it into their already developed container of psychotherapeutic mechanisms, or assumed it was just simply another method of psychology.

Shamanism is deeply animistic, meaning that the universe is deeply alive. It has soul. And there are things other than the Self. If someone cannot see or sense these things, it doesn’t mean that they are not there, but simply that the person has never experienced them. Creative visualization, mental mind-coaching, and psychotherapeutic work flavored with “light spiritual” type work can be helpful. We certainly have a lot of energy stuck in our minds, and as we move further and further away from experiencing the Earth, mental work is needed in order to fully heal.

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But Spiritual Work is about interacting with spirits and beings. This is why there is a “calling” or natural aptitude needed for this work.
There is “sight” needed for this work. This means that someone has the natural aptitude to see beyond. This is typically genetic. There is no way of convincing someone fully versed in psychological/neo-shamanic work that there are such things as spirits, or that they are always around us… or that curses are real (or that you can’t simply think them away or not believe in them a la The Skeleton Key), and that you can’t just white light things away from yourself.

One of the funniest examples of this was someone who in the same breath told me that she couldn’t get her fifteen year old son to clean his room, and then went on to tell me how she commanded dark spirits away from her. This is typical of the sort of neo-shamanic thinking. We love the illusion of control, and I have had the experience more than a few times of students with a fair amount of “shamanic” experience getting freaked out in my courses because a spirit actually starts interacting with them. We deeply fear the spiritual realms, and so the illusion of control persists… leading to a whole host of people stating that they can tell us everything about the cosmos, or about spirits, because it allows us to feel safe.

I do realize that telling people how prevalent spirits are, or that there are people that can curse you despite you not believing in them, is a bit of wasted breath, because if you don’t have the experience, and you really need to believe in this idea of control (based on fears of the spirit realm, typically and oddly), that people will engage in cognitive dissonance in order to keep their fears/needs for control in tact. The fact that things like curses are rare, and that someone fully engaged in neo-shamanic work would likely never interact with someone could authentically curse, or who has any sort of actual spiritual power or cultivation, is a very good thing, but it doesn’t help the “all spiritual work is psychological” movement.

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Typically the person being called to the spirits would show this capacity since birth (or even have divination while in utero, or be a “caul” baby or so forth), and would be further emphasized by having an illness, typically a significant respiratory illness, in early childhood. This would “wake up” this capacity further, as well as allow the person being called to move beyond their fear of death (which would move them beyond the illusion of neo-shamanic control, or need for that control).

This can only be taught to a certain extent. In neo-shamanic work, this calling has been turned into something that makes the person “special” or “superior”, or an explanation/reasoning for someone was terribly abused as a child, but that is far from the reality of what someone coming to terms with “sight” and a spiritual calling experiences. There typically is a lot of anger, fear, and grief about how every other pathway but spiritual work is seemingly blocked, and that resistance to doing this type of work (not answering this calling) means imbalances, pain, and disease.

So no, not everyone is a “shaman”. Not everyone can be their own “shaman” (and this is odd, because as a spiritual worker with a lot of experience I regularly have others work on me. We lack perspective about ourselves a lot of the time, and need assistance to work through big blocks).

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Shamanic Work is about Power
This is likely the thing that most people really, really do not want to hear. That is because I am going to talk about cultivation here. By cultivation I mean that every single spiritual worker who I have known has given up a large segment of their life in order to enter a “training period”. Whether this is via spirit or human teacher, this means that for five or ten years the called spiritual worker will go through the unique sort of hell that is requires so they can work through enough of their own garbage to be of service to other people.

Because that is the point of spiritual work. Neo-shamanic work is generally about self-help, while spiritual callings are generally about serving a function to the community. These are the people who have “sight” and have gone through intensive initiation in order to learn how to heal others.

This initiation and training period is also so that the spiritual worker can build enough power to be safe. Because spiritual work isn’t safe, and how you deal with that is building spiritual relationships (with spirits) that can keep you safe. These relationships do not spring up overnight, and spirits and helpers do not offer their guidance and support simply because you are you. Like any relationship, there is a lot of work that is required to build and maintain a relationship.

Personal power takes daily practices to build. For the rest of the life of the spiritual worker they will have daily practices, meditation, and have to take care of the spirits they have built relationships with. Because if this doesn’t happen, the spiritual worker gets sick.

Power is a funny thing, and one of the biggest differences that I notice between neo-shamanic work and spiritual work is that neo-shamanic work lacks any sort of power. I do not say this to be mean, but when you have never experienced power, it is easy to create illusions about it, or to pretend you have it. Power emanates from someone, and it is quite easy to spot if someone has it. The difficulty is that the neo-shamanic movement has stripped anything even resembling power from its techniques and teachings… because interacting with power isn’t terribly safe.

What I mean by that is the following example. It is well-known that people of “power” can be easily sensed. For example, there are spiritual workers/shamans who try to kill, harm, or otherwise steal “power animals” or other spirits or beings the spiritual worker has likely taken a huge amount of time and dedication to cultivate a relationship with. Now think about the average neo-shaman and if anyone would want their “power animal”. I realize in saying such things that I may have hordes of angry neo-shamans after me (or maybe one or two), but the biggest difference that I notice between neo-shamanic work and spiritual work is the distinct lack of power.

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Spirits are not Indentured Servants
Going off of the last point, I will say that spiritual relationships are a two-way street in spiritual work. Spirits are not something to come through, tell you how fantastic you are (I always laugh at the whole “I am the only/greatest/chosen one of my generation” that some people who claim to be in contact with “spirit” state), and then do whatever you want, in which ever manner you choose.

If we understand that spirits and beings are real, they are not flat one-dimensional energies that simply wait until you command them to do something. They are not slaves, or indentured servants. They are beings with their own beliefs, understandings, and desires. They are likely to have different viewpoints, understandings, and are more likely than not going to treat you (at least at first) like a kindergartener that might run with scissors.

This is, of course, if they care for you. Plenty of spirits don’t care about you. You are simply one human (so am I, so is your neighbor). And even with a natural capacity for sight, a relationship rarely starts with someone telling you the secrets of the Universe. From the neo-shamanic community I hear all the time about people who are in relationship with Yogananda, Kali, Hecate, with a side of fluffy, attractive power animal. In contrast, someone may spend several lifetimes (yes, I said that) just devoted to Kali.

Additionally, the idea of “safety” has created this thought that spirits are either “compassionate” or “non-compassionate”. Anyone who has interacted authentically with spirits will understand that this is an illusion, and that an archangel can be incredibly fierce, that deities can be jealous, that nature spirits don’t think like (or communicate like) us, and that most spirits are not evil– they simply are like humans are in their bodies– rather confused and filled with emotions and trauma that is blocking them from their path.

Most spiritual workers work with the understanding that interacting with spirits is a two-way street. We cannot expect something for nothing. Offerings as well as understanding why and how someone/thing would want to work with a spiritual worker is part of the path (similar to any physical relationship, it takes time, and you do not command anything).

If there is authentic contact with spirits, especially ones of power (and these relationships take even longer to build, typically with a lot of initiation involved to prove your worth. Yes, I said that you prove your worth to the spirit/being/etc. in order to show that you are ready and worthy to interact with them and to work with them), there is a realization that the spirits often know better than you. We have a tiny, human brain that sees linearly (for the most part. This is another differentiation, however, but even so) and so something that has been around for much (much, much, much) longer than you likely has a perspective that you should listen to.

I will continue this in Part Two (talking about how spiritual work isn’t a series of techniques, how spiritual workers actually need to be fairly sane, and how spiritual work actually gets you in touch with your inner “wild” and “other”, as well as other thoughts)

Energetics of the Spinal Column and Head

The spine and the brain are the altars of God– Yogananda

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One of the long-ignored symptoms of a kundalini awakening is back pain and/or headaches. While this may happen in a more gentle, or less intensive awakenings as well, the realization that our spine is an important energetic center, or highway, in our bodies, and the link to physical symptoms such as back and neck pain, isn’t discussed terribly often.

Our chakras emerge from and through the spine (yes, I am being simple with this), and the sushumna, ida, and pingala (which form the caduceus) are the primary energetic circuit in our body, forming the basis for our physical as well as spiritual nervous systems.

In a kundalini awakening, the divine/cosmic energy (that allows one to move onto the path of realization) lies dormant  in most, but in awakenings emerges from the perineum/first chakra and rises up the back. This experience may range from completely subtle and temporary (lasting for an instant, or an hour, or at most a week) to explosive and volcanic, wreaking havoc on the life of the person it exploded within.

Most researchers talk about kundalini awakening as if it is a temporary state, or refer to “neuro-kundalini”, which is a term for seemingly the type of kundalini awakening that emerges with some mild nervous system issues and for a specific phase of life. I believe that these were mostly people who not experience a “full” kundalini awakening, which is a bit different.

“Full” kundalini awakenings are permanent. While there are waves and tides and generally over time the process gets easier in many ways, the permanent release of kundalini within the body means that it is not a singular experience, but an ever-unfolding process that will carry the person forward into realization. Whether this means kicking and screaming, being stuck and unwilling to surrender, or through tumultuous waters and then ever-increasing beauty and serenity… or through the abyss and then bliss until what needs to be healed and revealed and released has done so, the process can be a thing of great beauty or great fear, sometimes simultaneously.

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In Chinese Medicine, the channels that split us into left and right parts are called the du and ren (the du on the back midline/the spine and neck, the ren going from the genitals up the body); these are termed extraordinary channels because of the depth of theses channels, as well as their connection to our spiritual nature. In Chinese Medicine, the du and ren are pure “yin” and “yang”, feminine and masculine, dark and light. If we break everything down into a form of duality, these are represented by the du and ren. Basically, this is “out of the one emerges two… emerges ten thousand things” sort of thing (badly quoted tao te ching).

These channels (du and ren) are formed first, and are the basis of our being… they take us from singularity (or oneness) into creation– something that has physical manifestation. Basically, they are our first step in our emergence as a physical, human being.

We are not a structure from which energy flows through, however. We are energy. We are energy that has come together and compressed and formed us for the purposes of this lifetime. We are energies from our ancestry and ancestors and past lives and family and society and history and the culture from which we are born and the world as well as our own unique expression of divine energy (you can read about these layers in my Spiritual Awakening Guide).

The difficulty on the spiritual path, of course, is that that unique expression of divine energy is seemingly beneath all of the other stuff I listed above. The spiritual awakening process is really healing all of that stuff, surrendering all of that stuff, so we can move beyond our brokenness and stories and ego and everything within us that is fractured, angry, and separate to realize our own unique divine expression, our core energy.

Rather than this creating great difficulty for us, or further fracturing us, the reveal of this central energy brings peace, relief, and connection on the deepest levels. It is strengthening, and quite pretty.

Ironically (or perhaps just unexpectedly– I have an ongoing discussion about modern usage of the word “ironic” with a friend) what happens is that when we remove everything that tells us that we are separate, we release our needs for superiority, or feelings of inferiority, our feelings of being unloved and unwanted and broken beyond repair, is that we discover who we are. And we discover that through realizing that we are not just a singular being, not a “true self” or even a “core self” but that we are deeply connected beyond measure. That we are much more than a single human expression of something.

We are compressed energy that has come together… an unique expression of that energy… and that letting go of who we thought we were, all of our fears and stories and unhealed baggage, we can come to a state where we both deeply understand who we are and what we are supposed to do, as well as realize the limitations of our human form, as well as realize that in the grand scheme of things that who we are and what we are and our daily human-based issues are not terribly important.

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Even having this connection for a moment allows you to realize that it is there. If you recognize this once– this direct experience of oneness (non-intellectualized, but deeply felt and then the ego allowing it to be an expression of becoming humbled rather than something to brag about in order to maintain a need for superiority based off of still feeling separate. Our minds sometimes will do anything to preserve separation, including utilizing the momentary feeling of all that is as a form of energy to create a mask, or story, to allow the person to stop on their journey and not move forward. Why might that person not want to move forward or to actually integrate their experience? Because the realization that you are incredibly small and yet so fully connected and loved and held is too much for people. They are not worthy, who is worthy of actually doing such a thing? Of feeling that connection?. This causes a lot of people to retract and then get stuck in ego awakeningsagain, see my book– in which they stop themselves from moving on from that point and use their experience to fuel whatever remaining wounding and stuck belief systems remain).

So where does the spine and head come into this?

As I describe such things, please remember that this is a 1500 word blog or so. This means that I am not offering a dissertation here. There are a few things to consider when we realize that the spine and head form a primary circuit, basically meaning the core energetic structure, or loop, or center, of our bodies.

This contains our nervous system. For the sake of simplicity, I will say that we have a physical and then a spiritual nervous system. Our nervous system is responsible for states you may remember from high school biology class: fight or flight and rest and digest (or sympathetic and parasympathetic).

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Our nervous system basically is how our body communicates with its varying parts. Our brain communicates via the “highways” that are set up. The difficulty is that most of our nervous systems are not in great shape. We are a highly stressed culture, and a whole host of digestive, heart, depressive, anxiety, and host of illnesses start to happen when our nervous system gets out of whack (which causes our muscles and organs and immune system and basically everything in our body to not do so well either).

The other difficulty is that our nervous system is how we receive information energetically/spiritually. From the energetic anatomy of our chakras, the nervous system (first spiritual, then physical, to be simple) is the first recipient of spiritual energy, the first interface between spiritual and physical.

This information is then transmitted to the rest of our bodies, but it gains access to us through our nervous system. This means that a system that may already be struggling can interact in a spiritual capacity, or have a kundalini or other significant awakening, and easily fry their nervous system(s).

This also means that if this “highway” is not burnt out, that this interface is clear and well-kept, that this means that a “pure” flow of spiritual/divine energy can come through. This is deeply healing, and can actually heal the once-fried nervous system. Accessing this takes time, however, and the more time that has passed since my own “fryings”, the more I realize that gaining knowledge of how to heal the nervous system, how to repair this system, are a form of initiation; a knowledge that can allow you to heal and to heal others in ways that would not have happened if your system had not been “fried”.

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As mentioned, the kundalini when awakened flows through the spinal column. It does this through the cerebrospinal fluid. This is the fluid that cushions and protects the brain and spinal column– it flows through it. Although drastic kundalini awakenings are often felt as if a volcano or out of control forest fire are decimating or purifying the body, there is a flow to kundalini that emerges in later stages. This flow can be felt through the spinal column (typically with imagery of snakes, “ladders”/DNA, light pouring through the spinal column, and so forth) and will typically arise to the brain, unless there are significant stoppages in the process.

In the back of the skull is one of the most significant spiritual points in the body. This is where the skull meets the back of the head. In some Vedic traditions, I have heard this point referred to as “the mouth of God”, and in some Native Traditions I have heard this referred to as a point where there is direct access to the soul.

This is a point that also energetically separates the head from the body, the brain from the spinal cord. Many of us live solely in our heads (I look at people and often just see a big swirl around their heads, and no embodiment or energy anywhere else) and there are a lot of trauma-based reasons why we may not wish to connect our heads to our hearts. How many would really like to know what their heart is truly saying to them?

This is an area associated with the medulla and pons, deep structures within the brain that begin to rewire the nervous system as well as the other “grids” that make up the body once accessed (or, “lighted up), and then energetically transmit to the third eye, where ida and pingala meet, and the realization of reality as illusion begins to be realized.

This is also an area that magically is associated with telepathy, and people who tend to take on the thoughts of others, or are sensitive to others gossiping about them, tend to have a fair amount of pain or obstruction here. It is also a place that is typically more “open”, meaning that it can both be utilized as a gateway to access larger spiritual energies but can also be utilized as a sort of “achilles heel” and attacked during spiritual work.

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But this is an access point, or a sort of gateway. If you have energy flowing through your system and into your brain this flow can be felt, it can be tasted, and seen as light that is coming from the inside out. Often a powerful realization of oneness is had, and the experience then allows for the realization of permanent connection to divinity to occur.

This is an important realization because you always can carry it with you from that point on. No matter what happens, the invariable knives and anvils and unfortunate experiences that being human sometimes create, there is a realization of connection, as well as a moving past your own wounding to the extent that you are no longer responding from past beliefs, traumas, or fears (or that of your ancestors and so forth).

Our spinal column and head form our energetic center. Our crown opens to the “heavens” and our root chakra to the “earth”, and through them we draw energy to sustain us, to feed our energetic circuits, and to realize how deeply we are truly connected.

Although we can certainly feel flow through the rest of our body, and the flow of kundalini does go through the arms and legs, the primary way that we are connected is through our nervous system via our chakras and the channels that form the basis of the energies in our bodies (our du and ren). They are the altar to God, and as we awaken, we allow energy to flow through our spine and head, releasing the previous traumas and separateness that we have once held on to.

By the way, as many of you may know, I have a background in CranioSacral therapy (both biodynamic as well as “Upledger”, in case you were “in the know” about such things), and the reason that I love it so much is because it focuses on the cerebrospinal fluid, the spine, as well as the head and all of its nooks and crannies. Whether someone who is a CranioSacral therapist will consider it a “spiritual” act (or if they simply got interested because of the mechanistic approach to it) is a different thing entirely.

But it is highly suggested– I suggest finding someone with at least five-ten years of experience who is also certified in this modality. I also suggest finding someone who directly studied with the Upledger Institute or as affiliated/approved by the Biodynamic Craniosacral association, as modalities like this don’t have much regulation and some teachers out there don’t have much training themselves (or are certifying people without being certified). I do not assist people in finding a CranioSacral therapist in their area. Google and phone calls/email to assess whether whomever you are interacting with fits your needs is your best bet.

Sleep, Wake, and Fear

I talked a few weeks ago about how whenever global energies get a bit chaotic, that I get a huge increase in the amount of trolls sending me emails (you can read about this, and a breakdown of how my reaction has changed over the years, here)

But basically it is to be expected, as people who cannot deal with their emotions tend to push them outwards, as they lack the capacity to take any sort of personal responsibility for themselves and have not developed adult-level coping skills (I could talk about how few of us have really gone through the initiation of becoming an “adult”, but that is perhaps a separate blog). We can always find a target for our anger, fear, and pain… and because I am somewhat in the public eye (well, have written a book or two and have a blog that has a “contact me” form meant for people to sign up for classes and such) that means that I am a convenient target.

I don’t get upset at these trolls much, but in general they can make me a bit tired, and occasionally sad. Not for the individual who contacts me to tell me how horrible I am, or tries to control me or what I say, or even for those who believe that they are so enlightened/full of kundalini/shaman etc because they really need to believe such things… but that they exemplify the sort of sleep and delusion that many exemplify, and how spirituality as a whole can and is utilized to facilitate and placate (rather than solve or heal) fear, sleep, and delusion.

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In my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide, I talk about the state that many of us are in: I refer to it as the “sleeper” state. It is a state in which we believe what we are taught without questioning, and are the accumulation of the energies and history of our parents and ancestry, our past lives, our culture, and of the world in the time that we were born (as well as other energies and our personal history).

In this state we do not critically think, and we are in a state in which we lack any sort of capacity to recognize how we have been influenced and formed by our personal history (let alone the ancestral influences, family, and so forth that I described).

While in this state of sleep, we lack the capacity to look inward, to see how our traumas have created beliefs, to recognize that what we see of others in the world is a reflection of our own sleep (and the sleep of others), and we are in a state of blind chaos and reaction.

I am all for experiencing emotions, for truly feeling them, but someone in a state of sleep will react emotionally and formulate their idea of reality based on personal wounds and emotions.

We like to think of ourselves as logical creatures, but we are not. We are emotional creatures, and invest a lot of time and energy into the swirling chaos around us.

The awakening process is the ability to extricate oneself from this chaos, and from that the ability to see things from a perspective not based in unacknowledged trauma and emotion emerges.

One of the hardest things for people who are in a state of sleep or who are in their first steps of awakening is to recognize and really being willing to acknowledge a few things.

The first is that we do not have the control over our lives that we delude ourselves into believing that we have. 

We continually have input and our lives shaped by outer forces, and they have a profound impact on us and our daily lives. Any time that we wake up to the realization that we are not in control, we become deeply afraid.

And then many of us lash out in anger, and find a “safe” target for our anger (a la internet trolling) because anger is an expressive emotion, while fear is an emotion that causes us to freeze (an introverted emotion, if you will).

If we are totally asleep, we will not be able to acknowledge why we are lashing out. If we are in stages of awakening, we will be able to understand that we are lashing out because there are a lot of chaotic world energies having an impact on us.

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If we are even more awake, we can recognize that chaotic world energies play into our own fears.

So, I am not telling people not to be afraid, but there must be a bit of understanding of the fact that at the base of our being, humans all have similar fears:

  • fear of being out of control
  • fear of death
  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of being separate
  • fear of change

All of these can either be summed up as “fear of death” or “fear of being out of control”,  or even perhaps “fear of life” but it can be helpful to see those fears plainly laid out. As you can likely see, much of mainstream spirituality is to comfort people about these fears– to make the unknown known, to assert dominion and control, to suggest immortality or health could be achieved if only someone were “spiritual” enough, to suggest that someone can control every facet of their lives if only they were “spiritual” enough.

Ironically, what happens in the awakening process is that you surrender these ideas again and again. The spiritual awakening process as a whole is really a discovery of these fears, an acknowledgement of the restrictive traumas and beliefs and fears and a surrender of them.

I do very much believe in some aspects of free will, but I more believe that if someone surrenders, and gets out of their own way, that things will go much better in their lives. Our tiny human brains can only fathom so much, and if we try to control or pretend we know everything about the cosmos, or direct our lives based off of our mental and emotional logic, we often will dream of lesser things for ourselves than the divine/spirit can.

I have seen time and again that the more someone is willing to heal those beliefs and constricting energies that are created from personal (ancestral, past life, etc) traumas, that their lives go much better.

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What is rarely talked about is how our fears are used against us.

It is incredibly well known to studied magical and spiritual practitioners (as well as NLP enthusiasts, in a somewhat different capacity) that we are emotional creatures. If we link a thought or saying to a base fear (one of those I listed above), it doesn’t matter if what we are saying is logical, has truth, or is right.

We will react.

We will react chaotically, we will recall every time we have been full of fear, every time we have felt out of control. We will react blindly and without thought based off of someone using these baseline fears against us.

We all have a cyclone of chaos around us. Unexamined, we believe we are who we are, and what the world is, based off of that cyclone. We identify with that cyclone. Not only that, but we perpetuate that cyclone. We are used to a certain level of chaos and drama in our lives, and if we are not experiencing it (and we are still asleep) we will actually create chaos to maintain the same cyclone.

When spiritual masters talk about not identifying with emotions, that has been thought of that you no longer experience them, or like you become some sort of zombie-like new-ager with their head stuck in the sand, with no capacity to talk about or consider anything “dark”.

But what actually happens is that you stop identifying with this cyclone. You start to step away from this cyclone, and recognize the unhealed parts of you that have created this cyclone. You work your way through the emotions, traumas, and layers of this cyclone.

Some of this cyclone will still be there, but as you awaken, what happens is that you no longer blindly identify with it. Healing the baseline fears means that you no longer can be manipulated by others, who use those fears knowingly against you.

As a side note, as part of my occult training I learned how to “push” thoughts. It is incredibly easy to do so, and relies on this connection to emotions and this cyclone to do so (I don’t teach this, so don’t ask). You can get people to think what you want, and to not even recognize that it is coming from you, as most people are so lost in the chaos and mental chatter and personal cyclone-ing to recognize not only that these thoughts don’t come from them, but that on a larger scale, they may be assimilating those thoughts without recognizing that they are fueled by emotion, and not a personally held, logical understanding of anything.

I am not alone in knowing how to do this, and it is interesting to even have a cursory understanding of NLP, how advertisers operate (and you don’t even need to have magical training on how to utilize thoughtforms, but that can be quite interesting as well) to understand how words can be linked to these baseline fears and we will take them on without any sort of conscious realization about what we have just done.

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When we talk about what is happening in the world today, it is important to understand that I am not suggesting that you not get angry, that you are not afraid, that you do not contribute to the world, riot, react, or do what you deem is right. I often suggest locally volunteering, as being of service can help people who are in the stages of being aware of world energies and other energies “controlling” (or at the very least shaping) them, but feel helpless because they are too massive for one person to really do too much about… as well as obviously will assist to make this world a better place overall.

What I am really saying here is to recognize these fears, to understand how others may use fears like this to sway your beliefs and “truths”, and to take a step back from that cyclone. Work on your own issues (as well as do outer work that you deem appropriate), work on your personal cyclone, until you can realize some measure of clarity.

Because an interesting thing happens when you do start awakening. As you let go of this cyclone it is easy to completely separate– to become a hermit, to separate yourself from the world, to see others creating chaos for themselves again and again (and wanting to drag you in to said chaos)– and to realize a sort of insignificance about what happens in the physical world.

Your own issues, as well as the issues of others, begin to seem rather insignificant and temporary.

But we are physical beings, living in physical containers and in a physical world. We awaken through our bodies, through taking personal responsibility for ourselves, and by being willing to heal, to let go of what ties us, to surrender again and again beyond the ego-based mind that wants the chaos, wants the commotion, wants the fear.

And what ironically also happens when you awaken, as things begin to become expanded and insignificant and separated, is that you feel a lot of love and compassion and sort of primal urgency to be with people you care about, to love the physical world and your physical body, and to deeply root in this world (and to move beyond the traumas making you not want to be here).

It is by working through our own baseline fears, by recognizing the energies that surround us and inform us, that we can expand beyond blind reaction and to act, and live, from a place of stillness (even in the midst of personal or collective chaos), and to make our decisions from that place.

I do realize that things are tough out there right now, but realize that inner as well as outer action truly changes the world. We can accomplish so much as individuals, and as a collective, if we are willing to move beyond our chaos and to see what needs to be done, on a personal level, to make this world a place of thoughtful individuals willing and able to see and act from beyond the cyclone, from beyond the baseline fears, and from a place of clarity and compassion.