Monthly Archives: March 2017

8 Common Ego Traps on the Spiritual Path (and how to Avoid Them)

To begin, I will say that my definition of the word “ego” is simply that it is our identity– the thought of who we are and what the world is like (so, perhaps more based in Eriksonian thought than Freudian if we were to talk Psych 101). We formulate this idea based off of the wounds that we carry. These are either emotions and trauma that have shaped us (been handed down to us), or that we have developed over the course of our lives here.

Basically, our ego is our mind, our “I”. It is not something that needs to be “killed”, maimed, or treated like a second-class citizen. We need an identity, and our differences make us beautiful. What we are made up of– all of those forces coming together to shape us, what we have been individually through, as well as our culture, traditions, and personality– mean that we are a unique spark that can bring a lot to the world.

Finding that spark, realizing that spark, and moving beyond the wounding that created the framework for current identity (and beliefs about yourself or the world being a certain way) is really the issue. If we can move beyond the mind, beyond the ego, it really isn’t a process of “death”, but a process of expansion. The spiritual awakening process as a whole is really about moving beyond the idea of “I” as the center of the Universe (and that “I” being your current, physical expression of Self), beginning to see others as an extension of self, and moving past the sort of falsehood of Self that has been created out of a tapestry of wounds.

This seeing of others as an extension of you is not in a narcissistic way (as in, you do not control others and you have not created them), but a realization that what you notice and are reactive to about other people… the sort of projections that you put on them… how you have “cast” them in your play (cycling through your wounds again and again seeking closure) are unreconciled issues within yourself.

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Our minds do view this as “death”, because to move beyond our current conditioning– who and what we consider ourselves (and by that, the world) to be is a sort of “death”. Our minds like control. They like rules and procedures and black and white thinking. There is comfort in the known, and we do a lot of things to hold ourselves back from releasing patterns that may prop up a significant portion of our worldview, and to protect ourselves from noticing the inherent falseness of our beliefs and constructs. I discuss some of the most common ways that we can fall into “ego traps” below.

Ego Trap #1: Creation of Further Rules on the Spiritual Path
I am sure many of you have seen long, admonishing lists about what “high vibration” people do and act like. They don’t watch violent movies, or listen to heavy metal. They don’t eat meat, think bad thoughts, get angry, get emotional, they treat everyone the same (don’t judge or think one person may differ than another– a total misunderstanding of oneness– and more on this later), and other things I am sure I am forgetting.

There are further rules and one-on-one meanings created for everything about what cancer “means” spiritually to what a color orb means to how emotions “must” be taken care of, to how spiritual situations “must” be approached. I could go on, but you all likely see the point here.

This is a “trap” because although plenty of people on the spiritual path may choose to abstain from alcohol, or eat differently, or not watch certain movies (insert rule here) the spiritual path is a freeing process. 

Rules are a creation of the mind. They are created out of fear. In many of the situations like the ones I listed above, they are created by minds who have been wounded by separation and feelings of emptiness… which creates a pattern in which people must constantly create the idea that they are superior to one another and prove that sort of superiority.

While certainly people understand social constraints and the sort of created rules created by communal minds (and wounds) and act appropriately, the need for such rules and constraints lifts when you go beyond the need for the sort of fear, control, and woundedness that need rules to separate and constrict (rather than free and expand).

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Ego Trap #2: Belief that you are Further than you are on the Spiritual Path
If we believe that we are at the end of our journeys, that we are “beyond” things (the whole wounded “superior” thing again) we don’t have to do any more work. We don’t have to learn, or question, or “die” any more… we do not have to move beyond who we currently are and what we currently believe the world to be. We stop questioning, and accept ourselves and the world as is (complete with whatever unhealed material/wounds that have constructed such things still present).

This is such a common ego trap, and can easily lead to “ego awakening”, wherein the person simply stops themselves on their path (you can read more about ego awakenings in my Spiritual Awakening Guide book)

I continually hear from people things like:

  • “I don’t need to look within to see why I am reactive to that person, I have been doing work on myself for a few years now!”
  • ” This is how things are (the “truth”)”- said rigidly to others while announcing the rules of #1 ego trap
  • ” I am (enlightened, kundalini, super special shaman, an empath) and that means…”
  • ” I am a hereditary witch/shaman/spiritual something which means that I have so much power.”
  • ” I don’t have a shadow/anything to work on/I don’t have an ego because I am beyond that”
  • ” I don’t judge/have any biases”

There are more that I could list, and some of these are paraphrasing (of course) after hearing them pretty much on a daily basis over the last ten years. I will talk about labels in the next section, but the spiritual path is about constant unfolding. This means that if you are reactive to a situation, you always question inwardly what is going on. That you realize that there is always further to go. That no matter what you know, you could know more, you could surrender more, you could understand more.

Additionally, if you need to prove something to the external world, it is well worth looking internally to see if there is anything unhealed there. There is a great Margaret Thatcher quote: “Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t” and that sentiment applies. We hold such wounds around power, around knowledge, and if we internally are at peace with such things, we no longer need to perpetuate into the world (or prove) that we are worthwhile, or have power. We simply embody it.

Because modern spiritual aspirants rarely have a physical teacher, or one that is willing to reign in their egos a bit, there are quite a lot of people who believe that they are at the end of their path when they are the beginning. There are quite a few people that create their entire spiritual path based off of wounding, and the needs of unhealed parts of themselves. There are also those who believe they are “enlightened” or beyond things so they don’t have to take personal responsibility for themselves, or are creating a mask for others. I occasionally have to offend people when they want to take my advanced courses when they have not learned any fundamentals yet. The fact that those courses wouldn’t be understood or safe for them (or that I am looking out for them and being compassionate in saying “no” to that course at that time for them) is disregarded by those who really need to believe that they are a specific way due to wounding.

We constantly believe that we are further than we are, and it is a rare mind that is willing to look at that as a mask, as a way to actually stop development, rather than something that really speaks to any form of truth.

I rarely respond to people like this (or will simply agree with people) as cutting through too much illusion and ego either results in an act of protection or retaliation from a mind not ready to hear such things (it is a balancing act, basically, finding out how to appropriately respond to people compassionately while not attempting to perpetuate their illusions at the same time), but there are questions here for those willing to ask it of themselves:

  • If I were not (insert stage of development, belief in static “truth”, enlightened, powerful, etc.) what would I have to work on?
  • If I did have a shadow (emotions, ego, stuff to work on) what would I be working on?
  • What would happen if this belief (about myself or the world, or the nature of my development) were an illusion?

Because these beliefs are perpetuated by wounds that can be worked with and healed. It is only a question of if the person is ready and willing to look beyond the mask, beyond the stage of development that they are in, and are willing to hear from themselves (or ideally, another person, as it is difficult to have clarity about ourselves… and these days, unfortunately, many teachers cater to to these illusions rather than move people away from them) what they have to work with and on if the belief wasn’t there.

Ego Trap #3: Labels creating separation and perpetuating illusion and wounding
Labels in the spiritual realm (such as Empath, Medium, Shaman, Starseed, etc) can be quite important in the initial stages of the journey. There is a need for the Self to realize what and who they are– how they individually filter things, how they interact with the world. There is a lot of peace in finding out you are a “highly sensitive person” or realizing that your tendency to pick up emotions like a sponge is called “Empathy” and specifically you are an “emotional” empath.

Realizing labels like this can bring a lot of clarity. It can also bring community, as you can find others online and in person who relate similarly. We still live in a world where only 15- 20 percent of the population is considered in any way, shape, or form “sensitive” (to psychic, the divisions of highly sensitive to highly psychic and what they mean are in my book Managing Psychic Abilities) and being heard by others who have shared your experience, whether it is being an Empath or being a veteran of war, with others who have the direct experience of the same, is really vital in the healing path.

But it can also be a bit of a trap, a convenient way to disguise things that need to be healed. I have heard so many times things like:

  • “All men (or women) hate me because I am an Empath”
  • “I need to separate myself from the world because I am a (Sensitive/starseed/Shaman etc)”
  • “Of course I relate that way, I am highly sensitive!”
  • “I am moving to the eighth dimension so I no longer relate to people”
  • “I am from a different world/am ET/am insert thoughts here and that is why I feel so separate”

As a spiritual worker I am not here to make light of the wounds that people carry, but even if you are from another world, or are the most highly psychic individual to ever walk the earth, wounds are wounds.

What I mean by this is that if you believe that you cannot get into a relationship, it is easier to believe that it is because you are an “empath” than to look at the wounds within that created such beliefs and to heal them. Whether those wounds are actually from being an empathic individual or not doesn’t really matter. It is a constricting belief that is creating pain and difficulty, and it can be healed (or at least looked at).

Even if you are from another world, or being highly psychic in this world has created pain, looking at the pain, and the source of that pain, instead of the label, can allow for a lot of healing to occur. It is really a question of if someone is willing to move past a label that they have ascribed behaviors and patterns to as a protective mask… and to look at what lies beneath that mask and do the healing work that would allow for them to thrive as an Empath, or not feel separate as a person on a spiritual path.

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As a last note (I will do part two relatively soon of this list) I will say that there is a lot of confusion about being highly sensitive, on a significant spiritual path, or psychic, and the need to separate.

What I will say about this is that primarily this is a wounding mechanism. If you look at people as “lesser” than you, as something to be avoided, as something that is fueled by pain, that is a wound. It would be something to look at as parts of yourself in the outer world. By this I mean that if you look at someone that you are trying to avoid (or even people in general), is there a part of you that resembles this? 

By this I mean that we frequently dislike portions of our past selves, and frequently need to reconcile or offer forgiveness for ourselves in the past. Can we offer forgiveness to ourselves in the past for not knowing, for being “unawake”, for being unconscious of their emotions and needs and inner pain?

Can we become conscious of the parts of ourselves that are still angry, chaotic, “unawake”, ignorant, violent, abusive (etc.)… are we willing to shine a proverbial light on the parts of ourselves that are still sleeping?

I will say that it is natural to be more comfortable with solitude on a spiritual path, to separate from the sort of chaos and din of noise that people create… and to with further and further clarity see people creating chaos for themselves again and again. The difficulty is, of course, them trying to cast you into their “play” of chaos, and you having conscious awareness of when you are doing the same to others, and being willing to work on whatever you find, whatever you are reactive to, in the world.

Basically, there is a big difference between separating oneself out of woundedness, and separating oneself because you enjoy solitude. In the latter, you are still part of the whole. When you say “people are like this” you are people. You can interact with anyone with compassion and grace, seeing them simply as they are with no emotional reaction or “hooking” into their projections or wounds. You see everyone and everything as an aspect of you, and work on the concepts, situations, and people that you find yourself holding separate or reactive to. You are part of people, you are a part of the Earth, you are part of the Universe, and all that you react to is something unhealed within yourself.

The question is, of course, if you are willing to approach things this way… and to question with willingness to heal and move beyond the barriers and constrictions that you have been given, as well as have erected for yourself.

Working with Fear

There came a point in my path where I realized that my previous methods of healing were not working. My anger did not want to become joy, my pain did not want to become bliss, my inner violence did not want peace, and my fear did not want to be calm.

I realize that I talk about this a fair amount, but the way that emotions (or anything deemed “shadow” or “bad”) are largely dealt with in mainstream spiritual circles is to change everything to light– and by this is meant a sort of arbitrary light deemed by the individual to be acceptable and in line with social morals of the day.

There are huge difficulties with allowing our egos to determine what is acceptable or not, or having it determine how our healing should go (or even what healing means). By “ego” I simply mean our identity– our fixed beliefs and understandings about the world and ourselves.

Our egos have a vested interest in things remaining exactly how they are, for us to remain exactly as we are. And one of the ways that it can accomplish this is to create an illusory healing paradigm in which anything that is deemed unacceptable, shadow, or unhealed within us needs to emerge within so specific of a container (or by very specific rules, basically) that there is no way that anything will actually ever be healed.

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There is a quote by Gabor Maté that illustrates this perfectly: “Intensely held beliefs may be no more than a person’s unconscious effort to build a sense of self to fill what, underneath, is experienced as a vacuum”

Amongst other things (and in relation to this blog) this dovetails nicely with the idea that our beliefs, especially ones that we consider to be TRUTH (with a capital “T”) are frequently not truth, but a showing of our wounds… or what we need to most work on.

We consistently show one another our wounds by our greatest convictions– the things that we get into heated, emotive debates about, the rules that we create for others (and ourselves)… what we accuse one another of is often little more than something unhealed within us begging to be healed, to be noticed, and to be worked with.

We also often are rather unconscious about our unhealed emotions, and will try to project or have them “land” on whatever we can. If we have a deep source of anxiety within us, our minds will search for things to be anxious about until we find them. If we are angry, we just need to hop on Facebook or other social media in order to try to vent our anger, or find something to be angry about.

The difficulty with this, of course, is our ego. We need our ego, we need an identity. On the spiritual path the ego is gradually (or sometimes, not so gradually) released and “dies” so that we can, time and time again, realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the Universe.

This shift is what the spiritual path is all about, and it is a choice (whether subconscious or conscious) to decide to let go of our own ego that is crying out from all of our past woundings and pain and creating illusions of superiority, significance, and truth out of those wounds.

But gradually, on the spiritual path, the realization that the ego is simply part of our “human” and physical aspect, and that we are in fact intended to have separate personalities and ideas and realizations and cultures, and that is what makes being in a physical body so wonderful. The paradox of also realizing oneness and of being in this state of recognizing individuality is simply hard to describe in mere words to anyone who has not gotten to that point of their spiritual journey yet.

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So what does this all have to do with fear?

A lot, actually. All of our emotions break down to fear. They may simply be expressed differently, however. For example, let’s talk about anger. Anger energetically pushes people away. It is a way to establish boundaries and protection. In our distant memory, we understand this concept, and can still see this in the wild– a mama cub gnashing her teeth to protect her young from a predator.

Anger can be an incredibly tool to understand boundaries. If we become angry, it is typically because someone has (or is attempting to) broach our boundaries. The energy of anger pushes outward– in Chinese Medicine it is a “yang” emotion because it vents outward. It releases and pushes people away. The next time that you are on the subway or other crowded place spot someone who is angry– they likely are given wider berth by the people surrounding them.

But if we look at anger, and really look at it, we must wonder what is underneath. We are establishing our boundaries, protecting, and pushing the “predator” away… but we have learned this not only as a tool of survival, but because our boundaries have been broached significantly before.

This means that below the anger there is fear– the fear of an unhealed portion of ourselves who has been in some way brutalized or taken advantage of… and of that experience being on repeat because it is unhealed.

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When we have something unhealed within us it repeats on a loop. We are constantly looking for completion, for closure. 

Most of us are walking around with many experiences and instances that did not find that closure. Our inner children, so to speak. Of course, things get more complex when we start talking about the unhealed needs of our family, our ancestry, past lives, and the wounds of society and the world… but the sentiment is somewhat the same.

We repeat ourselves again and again, our wounds and inner unhealed selves seeking the same instances, the same types of people (or even the same exact people), and sometimes the same lands in order to heal, to finalize a process that created wounding but has remained incomplete and unhealed.

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Earlier I mentioned that working with emotions that the solution of changing things into “light” isn’t terribly helpful. The difficulty with this is that it is helpful– but only to a certain point.

Parts of ourselves want healing, they want that light, they want to be hugged and consoled and held and reunited and told by their parents and loved ones that they are okay and protected and to be deeply listened to by whomever initially was unable or unwilling to do such things for us.

But past these experiences, past this closure and the “story” of whatever going on changing and clearing, there is a need for the emotion to simply be what it is. To express itself. To be heard.

And not to be condemned or changed into something else.

Our anger is useful– it tells us when our boundaries are being broached. Our fear is useful– it tells us when something may not be intuitively right. We need fear when walking down a dark alley to contract our energy and to tell us that the person in the corner of the supermarket looks shifty and may be out to harm us.

Our joy cannot tell us when we are about to be mugged. Our bliss cannot tell us when our relationship may have unequal energies in it. Our grief allows us to deeply feel, to empathize, and to really feel the depths of our soul (and the souls of those around us).

All of these are functions– important functions… the difficulty is that most of us have such a stockpile of unhealed “stuff” incomplete stories seeking resolution, and so many experiences of anger that we can no longer discern why we are angry. We may also not be conscious enough to do this, or not in a place to look inward and start accepting responsibility for our own emotions.

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There is a frequent difficulty on the spiritual path that we are more than willing to be conscious of ourselves as victims, we are more than willing to “grow our light”, and we are more than willing to shove away or “clear” difficult emotions like fear, anger, violence, aggression, and any sort of pain.

You can look at this past blog about karma and healing the persecutor, but when we dive deep into our healing path, we must work with our fear, violence, and other “negative” emotions in another way.

Everything is a part of us, and we can have compassion for everything within us. This is how fear can be best worked with and healed.

Of course the individual instances of fear, that stockpile of emotions, and careful discernment of where that fear comes from and how to work with it with a competent spiritual or psychological professional is helpful. A certain amount of hugs and love and light is really quite necessary in healing our inner selves.

But at a certain point, our fear does not want to be shoved aside. It wants to be recognized as a powerful, helpful, and vital force within us. 

Our fear is protective. It serves a vital function. It may be misguided in its efforts– it may be preventing us from moving forward in our lives because the egoic safety of the known is preserved. It may be protective and enacted when we were a wounded five year old being abused and our body-mind-spirit, after having such a split as a five year, does not recognize that the person is now forty-five and doesn’t need the same amount of protection.

Our fear is a powerful messenger. It can tell us when our safety is being threatened, when we are being violated. Whether this is actual or perceived violation or threat are two different things, but it is not the fault of fear that it is created mixed messages when we have so many inner selves within us all with different compounded fears, all vying for attention and healing and closure.

Our fear does not need to be released, shoved away, ignored, scraped off, pushed off, or told it is “shadow” or “bad”. It needs to be understood, listened to, and felt compassion for.

Working with Fear
I do a similar exercise/work in my Spiritual Awakening Guide book. I will say, as a sort of caveat, that if you are at the beginning of your path, or have a lot of fear, that working with someone who knows how to properly discern as well as work with such things is extremely helpful to lessen your load so you can have some clarity before you proceed solo. In some cases it is essential to do so, as when we have a lot of patterns all coinciding (a lot of “fear” baggage from many different sources) that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to do so alone. And quite frankly, there is no need to.

But this work is so simple that people often won’t try it. The idea of complex meaning advanced is a whole blog in itself, but the things that are often the most powerful are often the most simple.

  • You will simply visualize your fear– if you have done work with archetypes this is somewhat similar. You will visualize it as an external presence from you. This is not to abdicate any sort of responsibility, but to understand this part of yourself in a significant and memorable way.
    • This visual can be anything– you, a monster, a plant, a character from a movie… anything that comes to mind is correct. This visual may change in time, or every time that you do this.
  • You will simply sit with this image and see it as clearly as you can.
  • When it seems somewhat clear, you will then say “hello” to it and ask it if it has anything to say.
    • A journal can be really helpful for this to write down things after.
  • You will now ask it what it is offering you protection from
    • You may also ask it what would happen if it was not protecting you
  • You can also ask what age it is from (this may not result in an answer if it is a bunch of different ages)
  • Be compassionate to this fear. It is protecting you, even if it is misguided in its efforts, or you no longer need its efforts
  • Once you understand the fear, you can negotiate a bit. Let it know if you no longer need protection, or as much protection, as it is giving. Let it know that you appreciate its efforts, but if it could back off a bit (say this nicely) that you would appreciate it
  • Most of all, say thank you. The highest embodiment of love and compassion is being loving and compassionate towards everything within and without. This does not mean that this fear becomes “love” or something deemed acceptable, it means that we are willing to listen and regard every single aspect of ourselves with the highest regard. We are willing to listen and accept fear as much as the joyful parts of us. This is true shadow work, and it will allow for significant inner (as well as outer) transformation when done over time and with some patience.

You can find a list of my courses here and books here.

The Inner Wild (Neo-Shamanism vs. Spiritual Work Part Four)

There is a wild that lies within us. It is our most primal selves, our uninhibited, sexual, animalistic selves… the part of us that is dark and free and expansive.

We are not separate from our animal instincts, from nature, from our reptilian brains that act instinctively rather than think. Our inner violence, our taking from others, the parts of ourselves that know the earth vitally and ground deeply within it, our senses and sensate experiences, our emotions… they are all part of the most primal and powerful aspects of ourselves.

The neo-shaman tends to guard against these forces, to battle them, to deem them unacceptable, or tries to force them into “light”.

The spiritual worker knows that these forces are the source of their power. They understand and work with them in themselves and with their clients.

Sex, death, violence, lack of control, anger, fear, a complex universe filled with beings and energies that not only are not flat caricatures, not singularly “compassionate” or “non-compassionate” but that do not view you as the protagonist of the spiritual realms, are all things that the spiritual worker works with every day of their existence.

They are a “spirit-lawyer”– not in command of the forces of the cosmos, but simply an intermediary, negotiating between forces, between the spiritual and physical realms, to bring harmony the best way that they are able to.

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Neo-Shamanism and Darkness
The spiritual realms are the proverbial “other”– the darkness and wildness and un-safeness that the neo-shaman so fears- that they have constructed illusion upon illusion and rule upon rule to make themselves feel safe and in control against.

If we create a cage for ourselves based off of our wounds– based off of everything that is unhealed within us, we descend into illusion. We never really can engage with anything authentically. We experience the world through the set of rigid constructs that we have set up, and even if something greater is happening to us, we fail to recognize it.

If we enter into the spiritual realms and are seeking based off of our wounding, we never move away from our pain. Our pain guides us, and creates our world for us. We never step away from the cage that we have constructed and from the thoughts and beliefs that make up our own rigid constructs. We never truly access anything other than the projections of our wounds unless we are willing to move away from our cage– our own understandings of what is “true”, or what we need to be “true” to feel in control.

We can stop ourselves from realizing that the world is filled with beings and energies and that we are simply a part of things. We can stop ourselves from growing– because if we already know everything, we already know how everything works, there is no need to learn anything more. We can stop ourselves from truly experiencing connection to the Earth, to ourselves, and to others based off of our wounds that drive us to feel superior and therefore separate.

We do not realize that when we are constructing rules like “non-judgment” that it really is a form of self-hatred. I say this because such rigid and inhumane (as in, no human could live up to them) constructs mean that the individual who created them cannot even live up to them. The person is never good enough because they do not and cannot live up to their own illusory standards of perfection. Invariably, the person who has created such rules becomes extraordinarily judgmental. The person who believes anger is evil is invariably passive-aggressive.

What we have unhealed within comes out in outer judgment and hatred. Although a totally different realm, we all likely are not shocked when a politician preaching “family values” with an anti-gay agenda is found at the center of a gay tryst.

The person who is deeply afraid of the spiritual realms will create construct after construct assuring themselves that they are safe and under their control. They will section off what is deemed unacceptable, or pretend that they have moved past it. But what we ignore grows, whether we are conscious of it or not… and if we are engaged in spiritual exploration, it is our responsibility to tend to our emotions and our baggage, not to ignore or repress it because it does not meet the qualification of “light”.

This is because not only does what we have unhealed or repressed deeply affect our own lives, but it goes into the collective. Collectively we create the world. It is our responsibility, if we are choosing to be spiritual citizens, to take care of our “stuff” not only for ourselves but for the world as a whole. And that “stuff” doesn’t get taken care of by ignoring it, battling against it, or shoving it aside in favor of other more palatable things.

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There is a part of ourselves that is afraid, that seeks comfort and illusion and to be told that everything is going to be safe, that everything will be okay. We feel so out of control in our daily lives that the illusion that we are in control of the cosmos is understandably popular.

Our lives are difficult, and to maintain such illusions is understandable in an organism that is deeply afraid, that feels the need to contain and create such narrow forms of acceptable behavior that it really means that most of the world, most of life, is deemed unacceptable.

It is a form of wounding to want to not want to engage with our bodies, with our emotions, with the Earth, and with one another. This can be healed… unless we create a lot of illusions surrounding it. It is much easier to pretend to be an ET than to consider the inner forces and early childhood and in utero and ancestral forces that may not have been fully and vitally engaged or excited about you being born.

It is a form of wounding to not want to be a part of our bodies, and our lives, or to feel any of our emotions. To not feel sexual, free, and wild. These are all things that can be worked with. They can be healed. But few are willing to let go of the illusion of control to do so.

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The Spiritual Worker and the Outer Wild
There is a look to someone who has genuinely contacted the spirit realms– a sort of fifty or one hundred-yard stare. Contact with spirit and with spirits changes someone…it causes them to understand and know the deep and wild “other” both within and without.

The spiritual worker, far from the romanticized construct, is someone who knows this wild. Who traverses it. Who knows how to travel safely, respectfully, and thoughtfully… but never for a moment thinks that they are free from danger, despite engaging in even the greatest of protections and safeguardings.

This inner wild is matched by an outer wild: these are the forces that make up the great unknown, the monsters and ogres from myth, the abyss, the elemental forces of the universe. Everything that is beyond words, that is “other” lies in this place. The whole spectrum of energies- from dark to light from beautiful to ugly from singular and small to large and powerful.

This outer wild cannot be contained by human-created rules. It is vast and expansive and thrilling and dangerous. It is unsafe, and as humans we love safety. We love control. We love to feel superior and better than, as the realization on some level that in our not so distant collective past we needed to be superior and better simply to survive, lurks on some unconscious level.

It is expansive to the extent that we could never know the totality of it, nor are we intended to. It lacks description, and is populated by energies both ordinary and strange, both as ancient as time and as newly constructed as a thought you just had.

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If we are not aware of the primal parts of ourselves and their motivations, we will walk around constantly living out our need to prove ourselves worthy and special. We will constantly look for ways to make ourselves seem superior in order to put ourselves above others. While this comes from a long-past survival instinct, it is a part of our primal wounding, and can be healed.

Instead of being led by our inner truth, or inner spirit, or on a quest for outer truth or freedom, the engagement with this primal need closes us off, disconnects us from one another and from nature (we cannot truly feel love and compassion if we are engaged in competition and need to feel superior to others) and can cause for us to become angry, suspicious, and quite simply, unpleasant.

One of the realities you come across when you actually meet spiritual workers is that many are not beyond this. That spiritual workers are simply human, and have human foibles. Unlike many humans, they may have access to power, and that may mean that their wounds in this department are heightened– they may go into feuds, steal power, attack, or otherwise engage in not the nicest of ways.

One of the other things that you realize when truly engaged in the spiritual realms is that there is always someone more powerful, more trained, more skilled, more knowledgeable (add adjective here) than you. This knowledge allows you to traverse the spiritual realms with respect, and let go of the arrogance and narcissism telling you that the cosmos not only obey your command, but that they are centered around you.

Power magnifies our wounds, and this is why many people with power and even great knowledge, wisdom, or spiritual attainment, can meet with bad ends (or unethical ends). Power continually tests the individual, and with greater power comes greater tests… and some fail the initiation, or utilize power to live through their unhealed wounds rather than engage in greater healing or consciousness.

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What a Spiritual Worker Does
Far removed from the neo-shamanic earth mother nurturing sort of teacher, spiritual workers, and specifically spiritual teachers, are not there to hold your hand and tell you that things are going to be okay. They are not there to assuage fears, to comfort you, or to tell you that your version of the “truth” is okay.

Instead they force you to look at your own patterns, your own demons, and to confront the beliefs and illusions that you hold (and need) to be true. It is their work to look at your core wounds, what really is holding you back and causing you to fear and to resist.

They often are no b.s. types who are quite blunt and honest in their dealings. This can be difficult to traverse for the spiritual worker, as balancing compassion with honesty, and realizing that most people operate under so many illusions that if you were to present them the true reality of what is going on, cannot be taken in by the person. They will react, and it is understandable that they will react. Their ego, their needs for safety, will project all of their unhealed “stuff” onto the spiritual worker, or onto the next target they can… because it is too painful to have too many illusions stripped at once. This is one of the most difficult aspects of the job, and personally I have learned to keep my mouth shut when someone says something to me that is illusory in many cases, at least until the need for the belief diminishes.

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The spiritual worker is often a trickster– they look at things sideways and upside-down. They provoke, prod, and laugh at the deep ironies that people often present. Unlike the romantic version of the spiritual worker, they can range from jerks to enlightened, from introvert to extrovert, from quite ordinary (you might not know them seated at a bar) to the sort of mystical presence one might wish for.

Many spiritual workers have a dry sense of humor, many verging on “dark”, because they come across so much spiritual “stuff” that much of it is no longer a big deal, or anything to cause commotion over… and the universe does tend to be fairly funny when you take a step back or two. This is somewhat not unlike firefighters, nurses, and policemen, who have similar senses of humor I find.

One of the ironies that I find is that people who are spiritual workers tend to get kicked out of neo-shamanic communities. They think differently and tend to want to poke ideas and concepts with a sharp stick in order to see what is underneath.

Most of the successful, reputable spiritual workers that I know work with “both hands”. This means that they grow their light and work with their dark. These are not separate things, really… but as we grow our power more of our “underbelly”, or our darkness, arises to be taken care of, to be healed.

We can always consciously make a choice to engage with it, to heal it. To treat every aspect of ourselves (yes, including the violent, atavistic and primal aspects of self) with compassion. We can be compassionate to the parts of ourselves that want to destroy ourselves, the parts of ourselves that are beastly, the parts of ourselves that only wish to eat cake and watch American Ninja Warrior instead of reading something to enhance our minds.

We are so cruel to ourselves and castigate, terrorize, or create constructs that tell ourselves that so much of us is “bad”. By making our darkness conscious, by realizing that we can move beyond our imposed safety nets and emotional projections, we can start to free ourselves… as well as engage more thoughtfully with the spiritual realms. Our inner compassion will match our outer compassion, and when we allow ourselves expansiveness, we can truly feel the wild within, as well as explore it in the spiritual realms.

 

 

 

Shamanic Illness and the Wounded Healer

This is a continuation of a look at the difference between spiritual and neo-shamanic constructs (read part one and part two).

The Wounded Healer and Shamanic Illness
The neo-shamanic perception that one works through their issues in order to be of service to others I find to be fairly right on, but needing to be expanded upon. However, the focus for the spiritual worker is on the “community” part, while the focus of the neo-shaman tends to be on the “self” part of the equation.

The concept that anyone going through illness, especially chronic, is some sort of calling to be a shaman is a bit misguided, however.

I do find that significant illness can result in spiritual awakening. Being diagnosed with cancer, for example, will take someone away from the mundane troubles of their existence to focus on greater things, and will frequently result in existential crisis as well as questioning of a deep, spiritual level.

Similarly, those with “functional” (not showing up on lab tests, basically), unnamed, or mental-emotional based illnesses who have run through the gamut of doctors and what is culturally considered “right” or “appropriate” without relief will either continue with that wheelhouse… or will start to look for other options for healing, including shamanism.

One of the ways that people awaken is through abrupt catharsis– the sort of breakdown or quick change of life that causes a sort of painful death and rebirth. Being diagnosed with something certainly fits that “disruptive to daily routine” aspect of the equation. In that rebirth, the reorientation to a more spiritual, or expanded, perspective is often a part of the process.

So it is understandable that people come to shamanism for their own healing purposes, and start to awaken to how their experiences in this world– the sort of collection of unprocessed emotions and traumas– have impacted them. Some will also begin to awaken to the fact that ancestral and family patterns, as well as past lives, may have been passed down to them, or have created significant imbalances in their system, partially or fully creating their current illness.

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The Wounded Healer
I do think that the neo-shamanic community has much of the wounded healer idea fairly correct. When we directly experience something, we have a knowledge that goes beyond the didactic. We know.

This means that we can serve people on a much deeper level. I was talking about this concept with a few people, and they talk about how cancer researchers and the like (Western medicine, basically) don’t have to experience cancer to be effective researchers or doctors.

My response is that there is a reason why many of the people who research such things do. We are primarily motivated by what has affected us– and that while those researchers may or may not have experienced cancer, the chances of them having a parent, relative, or loved one having it, getting them interested in working with it, is fairly high.

But spiritual work takes depth. It takes knowing. It is not mechanistic. It is an art, and a privilege. I do think that the neo-shamanic community doesn’t give spiritual work the proper respect in this capacity. It is deep, life-altering work when done correctly. It can easily change the course of a client, and significantly change the entire belief system that has created the outer reality of the client, resulting in drastic changes in outer reality/the physical life of the person when done in a skilled manner. Working on a soul level should be treated with the utmost care, grace, and reverence.

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The wounded healer concept is fairly simple. The healer passes through their own experiences, and thus is able to know on all levels what that experience is like.

The difference is seemingly that while the neo-shamanic community believes that suffering, or any long-term or chronic illness, embodies this. This certainly in certain regards is true– someone with fibromyalgia will understand what someone else with fibromyalgia is experiencing with more compassion and empathy.

But the wounded healer concept is really about the completion of that process– the seeing the other side of suffering, and so being able to physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually care for others… with a deep knowing as well as a physiological system that spiritually has passed through the process and can now guide others to do the same.

Without seeing the other side of this, or still being wrapped up in a process, it is difficult, if not impossible, to care for others. Certainly your system cannot synchronize and embody what it is like to see the other side of that illness or imbalance to the person that you are working with.

I am not saying here that someone needs to be entirely well to be a healer, or to be a pillar of strength and vital health to be one.

But working with people requires a certain neutrality. It also requires someone to be over enough of their “stuff” to actually have the energy to take care of someone else. I see a lot of people in this field being triggered by their clients, or working through their issues through their clients, or simply being too overwhelmed by their own process to do anything but embody a confused and depleted state to their clients.

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Spiritual work requires a certain flow to it. The hollow bone concept here certainly applies. If you are a pipe in which energy flows through during a session (your own, spirit, or spirits flowing through), and your pipe is filled with your own “gunk” (emotions, illness, etc.) there will be not much flow transmitted to the client. If your “pipe” is clear, not only can you focus on the client (and not your own stuff coming up, as the “hollow bone” will cause for your own “gunk” to be dislodged), but you can bring a lot of energy and focus to the session, resulting in better healing.

I guess my point here is that people really look at the “wounded” part of things, but that the path of being the wounded healer is really about moving beyond your own wounds to the extent that you have the clarity, presence, and distance from your own process to be of use to others.

If you are still currently in a state of suffering, it is hard to focus on anyone other than yourself. That is because whatever pain, emotions, or physical experiences are being had are so overwhelming that it is difficult to focus on anyone else– your body, your consciousness, needs every bit of energy to simply make it through the day and to focus on healing.

When we are wounded we need to focus on ourselves, to be a bit selfish and close-minded. When we heal, we can expand and acknowledge others, including those who seek our assistance.

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Shamanic Sickness
I do find more disparity between the concept of shamanic sickness and the neo-shamanic take-away from it.

The tendency in the neo-shamanic community is to believe that any sickness is a calling towards shamanism, or is “shamanic” in nature.

To be fair, I will say that any significant illness will have spiritual roots– and that any significant imbalance in the system should be looked at physically, emotionally/mentally, energetically and spiritually to effect the greatest healing.

Ancestral healing is great for this, by the way… as is past life healing. That does not mean that those are “cures”, but that healing huge spiritual patterns often has a significant impact.

However, shamanic sickness tends to be a rather specific thing.

Shamanic illness tends to come about for a few reasons. The first is the idea of the “wounded healer”: but in the case of the “called” spiritual worker, the illness will be sudden, often short-lived, and usually fairly strange.

This means near-death experiences, sudden illness that doctors have difficulty experiencing, and spiritual occurrences (for example, dreams and visions) that allow for the experiencer to understand that what they are experiencing is not only sudden, not only strange, but that it is, in fact, spiritual in origin.

It is hard to describe to people who have not experienced this, but the sudden, strange illnesses that come about are a far cry from chronic illness, or illness that may have come about from a variety of environmental, dietary, emotional, physical, mental/emotional, and long-standing spiritual reasoning.

These shamanic illnesses leave often as quickly as they come, but they do often have long-standing impact on the system which will need to be healed on the physical level.

In this scenario, the “wounded healer” will pass through multiple strange illnesses to get them attuned to many different types of clients and experiences. This also has the impact of moving the spiritual worker through fears of death and dying, as well as releases beliefs and personally held emotions.

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The second reason why shamanic illness emerges is because of power. I have already referred to the “hollow bone” thought, but if we are basically a pipe in which energy can flow through, in order for us to carry more energy or flow through us, that pipe may need to change.

The shamanic illness is then not only a clearing of past illness or ancestral, past life, communal, societal, or other energies (you can read about these layers that people pass through when awakening in my Spiritual Awakening Guide book), but an opening and a rewiring.

This rewiring allows for the system to take on more power, to access more power, and to interact with (perhaps) a new range of spirits, beings, or energies.

What happens if you are not “wired” to accept larger energies and you interact with one is that it “blows out” the person– meaning basically that their nervous system gets fried and they will be in bed for several days after. While there typically is a momentary rush in dealing with “large” or “powerful” energies that can result in bliss or a certain high that many people are looking for on their spiritual path… the end result is that when the energy leaves, the system crashes.

So the process is essentially initiatory– when you are ready to take on more power, a sickness of some variety will emerge, it will clear, and then there will be a “rewiring” period, allowing the spiritual worker to ultimately interact with energies that once may have blown him or her out.

It is not unusual for spiritual workers to have such spiritual illnesses, of relatively short duration (by that I may mean a few days, or even up to a decade) as a sort of initiation into greater power. By passing through, by surrendering, by healing, the person can release a lot of beliefs and “stuck” stuff, as well as be initiated into working with new spirits (or old spirits but on a new level).

The difficulty, of course, is passing through this period relatively intact, and understanding and taking care of the spiritual aspects of the process… as well as the required emotional and mental aspects of the process. We do formulate the world off of our beliefs, and expansion into greater power will cause for the person to question those beliefs, as well as will attempt to bring up anything that is wounded and in need of healing (basically, what created those beliefs).

We like our world to be a certain way, and many of our beliefs and constricted ideologies are a result of something that we have carried since we were quite young, or even may be societal or ancestral without our consciousness of it. If we are unwilling to release those beliefs, and to realize what within us is wounded with clarity, the process tends to be more difficult.

In modern society it is also hard to reconcile a spiritual illness. We may wish it to be purely physical– as the label and plan involved may result in a sense of closure. Figuring out what a spiritual illness may mean, and what it may take to solve it, is often a less-tread path, and deeply individualistic (meaning no dictionary definitions, even “spiritual” dictionary description of illness, will suffice).

I will say that in meeting a fair number of spiritual workers that they do tend to have health problems. I notice, for example, a high rate of autoimmune disease amongst spiritual workers. My personal conjecture is that highly “in tune” people and especially mediumistic and empathic people tend to interact with a lot of energies that confuse the system.

It is difficult, for example, to have energy running through your system and your body in some way will have confusion over what is “yours”. This is in many ways separate from shamanic illness, and the process of initiation that I described above. If you are struggling and are sensitive in any capacity, I do suggest my book, Managing Psychic Abilities. It is the result of over ten years of study in how to heal and work with my own system, and teaches understandings about what being psychic or sensitive truly means (where you may be on the spectrum), and how to work with your system in order to be a functional (as well as have boundaries, know how to properly cleanse, protect, and open and close your system… as well as other things).