There are times in which I find that I need to take a step back, to reassess. Times of rapid expansion, initiation, or going into a cycle of death and subsequent rebirth in which there is a necessary reconfiguration and surrender of who I was (or thought myself to be) and who I am emerging into.
This is the a difficulty on the spiritual path… that there can be that single irrevocable moment in which what you thought you knew has changed within an instant. There are also times of months or years in which expansion of the Self, a letting go of patterns and wounding and the subsequent clarity result in this same surrender and identity shift.
This can result in reaction. This reaction is not of an inner wounded child, or something unhealed within, but the adult self who realizes that they have enacted certain patterns and beliefs for so long, an understanding that the patterns and beliefs that we set up our world around that have come from inner pain and wounding. When these core beliefs are transcended, there is the realization of how restrictive these beliefs were, and a subsequent grief, guilt, or anger on the part of the more “adult” or current Self as they realize just how much impact they had.
One of the largest changes for me recently has been the focus on embodiment and this world. I am more impressed at this point to be in the presence of those who have immense stillness as well as embodiment in their physical form than any form of magical prowess, spiritual capacity, degrees, or initiations.
As I embody more and more, I find that my experiences have become quieter, and that I can go to deeper places within myself. I find myself increasingly less willing to participate in chaos, and letting go of inner polarities at an increasing rate. I have let go of many of the fears of how others will react to me for expressing who I vitally am in this world.
There are some hardships with this, as I find that my ability to relate to the chaos of others to be diminishing. I can certainly understand it, and have compassion for it, but generally I find that what people come to me with are things that are temporary, things that they will quickly forget about the next day or the next week.
I also honestly find myself with less ability to engage with people who are at the very beginning of their path. Perhaps this is something I will move beyond, and I have compassion and understanding for these folks, as I can recall how confused I was almost twenty years ago when I started having dreams about being devoured by snakes and I went on a message board for kundalini-ites and an experienced yogi talked me through what was happening, and kindly suggested to me to not meditate on my bed any more, as it was encouraging fear and disassociation.
But I cannot help but notice that the “end” of the spiritual path (at least in the traditions I find most resonant) is about simply returning to the body, to daily life, and to a heart space (the seat of our consciousness).
It is hard not to look at the spiritual community and to see that so much of it is supported by wounding, and the beliefs and perceptions perpetuated by that wounding. It is hard, quite frankly, to not look out and to see much of what is created by this community as being rather, well… stupid. To see it as false, illusory, anti-intellectual, and supportive of people who are all convincing one another that they are special, that they alone know the truth, that they alone know the totality of the cosmos.
I have been realizing that a big part of my path is now authenticity– to be willing to not devolve into guru-speak, to say “I don’t know”, to be fully flawed and human. To pass through those multiple initiations, those tests, on the spiritual path, that will always offer a choice between feeling superior and special for having attained and humbling myself for what I still do not know.
Many fail this test, even those who have gained immense spiritual knowledge and presence. Many fail this test the first time, and many fail it the fiftieth time. Quite frankly, the fiftieth time is harder, as you gain energy and presence you will realize your inner divinity, and it is easy to fashion some sort of mythology of self as deity in an egoic fashion, and to allow the words and energy of others to create this mythic structure for you.
I can only imagine what this test is like the seven hundredth time, as I have read enough and seen enough to see when others have failed this initiation after having authentic, palpable, and incredible spiritual attainment (much more than myself, just to be crystal clear).
When I look out at mainstream “non-religious” spirituality: the entitlement, the deep inherent selfishness and the sort of solipsism of a mind that wants to believe that they are the center of the universe is front and center, it is hard as someone who has been immersed in this path for quite a while to not see it as silly. Perhaps this will change at some point, as things inevitably do.
We live in a world now where elders and people who have been studying and working their path for decades can be screamed at or told “that is just your opinion” by someone who has read half a Wikipedia entry. What happens is that those elders simply disappear and carry on with their lives. This has created a space of entire online spiritual communities where it is the blind leading the blind, a toxic blending of energies in which people are often told things that will simply support their delusions.
A place in which modern shamanism, modern spiritual work, has been so diluted and made safe for minds that truly want to believe and think that if they just think positively enough that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
This is all based on fear, by the way. It is hard not to look at the water crisis in Detroit, the fact that people are being assaulted on trains and in public for being certain religions or orientations, and to feel helpless. It is easy to insert oneself in a bubble of ones’ own creation in reaction to this fear if we have the capacity to do so, to preach peace and love and light if we have our distance.
We hold deep fear about if we are going to be okay, around our physical death, of being the victim to harm, and so we create beliefs like this to simply get ourselves through the day. What we don’t realize is that we fully immerse ourselves in those things because of our fear, and that our fear creates polarities so we can feel good, superior, and safe.
We can feel as if there is a simplistic “bad” or “evil” out there, instead of someone who is simply trying to get through their day under the weight of their struggles, and who feels separated from the whole, just like most of us feel. We can pretend there is only “love and light” in the world only in our separation– our separation from the world, and our separation from the parts of ourselves that are not “love and light”.
We hold deep fear around the spirit world, around spirit, and so we create illusions that we can control everything about it. We can control death, if we only think hard enough about it.
I remember the first time that I worked with someone with ALS. If you are not familiar with ALS, it would certainly be in the running for one of the world’s most horrific diseases– it is like watching someone be slowly walled in within their own body. I remember working with a six year old who was so joyous and filled with light who died that year from cancer.
I remember a woman who was had spent her entire life being abused and harmed by men, including in her adult marriage and work. She became a flight attendant and during cutbacks was told (by a male) that she could either have her salary cut by half or she could be laid off. She chose to stay. I met her when she had end-stage cancer, cancer that had started in the breast and had rapidly moved through her body.
There are many more experiences that I have had working with people, but these stand out because they show not only what deep suffering we endure in our human forms, but also that we are human. We eventually fall apart, become ill, and our human bodies are incredibly temporary.
It is all too understandably why we fear, why we create illusions about if we only act a certain way that we will never experience this. Why we seek control. It is easy, and incredibly offensive, to suggest that anyone suffering has caused it, that anyone could simply think their way out of it.
But we are inundated with this material, and it becomes increasingly popular. This is why we have life coaches suggesting we just need to “think differently” if we have depression and our depression will be cured. This is why that life coach will have millions of hits for his video. If this person had any experience with any sort of depression personally or clinically, he could not say these things. He would find them reprehensible. But he does not, because he is steeped in ignorance and lack of experience and in this state can blame others for their issues, because it is too painful to consider that for some, these things are all to real and not simply fixed.
The books and workshops and teachers who cater to this mentality will always be the most popular. They are that way for a reason. We can have compassion for this and still move beyond it… if we choose to.
I was talking the other night with a friend about how hard it is to see and sense the level of suffering and pain that is in the world. When you talk about the things that I do, and call yourself a “spiritual worker”, what happens is that you will get tons of emails from people that will try to throw their pain at you. Without any prompting or prior conversation, they will send you long diatribes about the horrors they have experienced, and all the pain that one who is suffering endures.
I am compassionate towards this, as I understand that people are in so much pain that they are simply looking for someone to understand, to hear, and to ideally take their pain for them. They do not see that they are doing this, that their aim is to have me digest their pain for them (and I do not, by the way).
I have a note on my website that says that I do not offer free guidance or advice, and this has certainly cut down on this, but people who are in pain are so separated that they either simply don’t see this message out of a type of willful ignorance, or they assume that they are unique in their pain, or most commonly, they assume that they are not people.
A strange realization, I understand. But the more suffering we endure, the more fractured we are, the less we recognize ourselves as part of the whole. The less we understand and can relate to our own bodies, our own inherent humanity, our own personhood. The more fractured we are, the less capacity we have to see beyond our own pain.
I have long seen the link between the amount of fracturing and woundedness one carries in relation to how able they are to see anything beyond themselves and in their ability to take personal responsibility for themselves.
One of the largest difficulties of being in this space is that you need to respond to some of the illusions out there. There need to be people that say that the emperor is wearing no clothes. The difficulty is that this sets up polarities in which people believe that I am saying that said emperor is “bad” and that I am “good”.
I personally look at much of modern shamanism as little more than a form of mental masturbation (pardon the term) and illusion, but I can also suggest it to people who simply want some self-help techniques to make them feel better. I can understand how people can find healing in the work, and feel heard in their “tribe” of “shamans”. I can talk at length about how spiritual work and psychology are incredibly different, and the effect that the integration of “shamanism” in psychoanalysis and how it has had an indelible and unfortunate impact on people actually connecting spiritually… but also recommend that some people see a therapist who has dipped their toes in the shamanic waters because that would be the best fit for them to heal, and that person may be open minded enough to see their clients’ appreciation for spirituality as hunger for depth and connection, rather than a pathology.
I can lament how people taking their tenth spiritual vacation to Peru would be more “spiritual” if they stayed at home, meditated, and volunteered at a soup kitchen… how the money they spent could likely feed the village they walked through for a few months or could be donated to those suffering and in need of assistance, and at the same time understand how incredible it is to travel and feel “spiritual” or “expanded”, if not for a brief moment in time.
I look a lot at how people set up their world in reaction to things, and the modern spiritual and shamanic movement has been a large source of reaction to me. There are a lot of reasons for this (mainly immersing myself in this work and study for a long period of time and the hardships that are on this path when done with any sort of depth) but as I let go of focusing on said hardships, as well as reconciling the aspects of myself that are “new-ager”, or want to escape, feel special, superior, or seek (or sought) mythic meanings for my experiences, I find myself in new terrain. I am unsure of what that terrain exactly will be, as I do feel my calling to write and be of service in a spiritual capacity, but am being patient with what emerges, and am hopeful at some point that I can simply talk about spiritual engagement, spiritual work, and associated topics without having to engage said emperor.
As always, thank you for reading. I am in deep gratitude that there are so many who are willing to move beyond the surface level ideologies and the easy answers to actually think about themselves, and their world, with depth and increasing clarity.