Monthly Archives: July 2017

Mental Illness and Spiritual Awakening Part Two

You can find Part One here, and a framework of the spiritual awakening process here

To start, I am going to set up a basic polarity concerning the differences between spiritual awakening and mental fracturing or illness. I will then go into the nuances, or how and why the basic polarity may not always be present, or so straightforward.

The spiritual awakening process is one of expansion. Whatever its source– from a shamanic calling or training, kundalini awakening, or many of the other paths up the “mountain”– what occurs is a perspective shift and relational shift in which someone moves beyond looking at themselves as the protagonist in this world.

This expansion allows for a releasing of beliefs and energies that hold the person separate; this largely means a process of noting what is external (what is creating reaction) and reconciling it inwardly.

It is a process of taking responsibility for oneself– in an adult, mature capacity (this has been greatly convoluted, by the way. We are not responsible and did not “create” our abuse as a child, and the 1 out of 4 children who go hungry in the US on a daily basis do not need to take “responsibility” for themselves). Rather, it is a process of moving past conditioning, past trauma, and primarily beliefs that create restrictions to the extent that there is clarity, and an emotional intelligence that allows for personal chaos and situations to be looked at inwardly.

This awakening process is best described as a series of relational shifts. When we are “asleep” we have only a small dot (our wounded, insular conceptualization of ourselves) and as we awaken we can consider as well as feel compassion for others– not only because we have moved beyond our blind, emotive reactions based on past trauma and rigid belief systems– but because our “dot” has expanded… and we now can recognize that what we are reactive to in others shows us what is unhealed within ourselves.

Awakening is also not a personal process in many ways, although it outwardly appears that way. It is about seeing clearly the self in relationship to the world (or the cosmos) and to one another.

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If we heal what we are reactive to outwardly, we are no longer reactive and have reconciled that aspect of our “shadow” (the repressed aspect of ourselves that is brought to our attention in the outer world) and begin to understand that we are in a large web of being– we are one– and can relate on a spiritually adult, clear level to one another. This does not mean that every emotional reaction will cease, or that emotions are “bad”– emotional intelligence and maturity allows for the full feeling of those emotions and the ability to have them flow through you without the reactivity of past traumas coloring them.

The awakening process allows for the immense amount of chaos that surrounds us in many ways to lessen. We create so much chaos for ourselves– sometimes out of just the idea that we should have so much chaos– and this can and does release so there is greater clarity and relationship between the self and outer.

There is the ability to sit with even the most disparate of beliefs, and consider the personal illusions and falsehoods created with openness. Someone who is “awake” will have the capacity to consider any belief or instinct that is creating separation (or heightened sense of ego) and understand that it is false, and reconcile what is behind it. There is a moving beyond the mental “rules” and societal constructs, not because there is no balance and grounding in reality or in the body, but because such things have simply been inwardly reconciled.

The need for judgment and outer division ceases, not because people are “all the same” or “all have equal things to offer”, but because you can simply meet them where they are, rather than try to change them or believe yourself superior to them. We all have things to work on, and someone awakening will know this with humility, and will simply work on what arises, knowing that as long as we are in a human body, we all will have struggle and things to work on.

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In contrast, mental fracturing and illness creates contraction and separation. There is no capacity to see outside of the self (or expand beyond the “dot”); this is because if the daily experience is a battle there is no room or energy to consider anything else other than the self. In simpler terms, if a lion is currently chasing you, it is not a good time to consider the emotional needs or projections you are creating. It is a time to get away from the lion.

The “purification” process of awakening allows for chaos and fracturing to heal, which means not only less chaos, but less energy expended on the internal battles, or the fractured aspects of us fighting one another. This results in the capacity to actually have the energy to help others, to see outside the self, and to realize that in helping others you are helping yourself– it is a natural outreach of the path to be of assistance to others in some capacity. This does not mean you are completely “healed” by the way– it means that at some point your work will be to reconcile yourself outwardly, or to offer yourself and what you have learned (as well as your presence) to others who are former aspects of you, or who simply may need some guidance on the path you have already partially or fully walked down.

With mental fracturing, there is the idea of being alone, separate, an individual identity… often at war with the world, or endlessly being persecuted or victimized. There will be understanding of Self as the protagonist and the center of the universe– often with illusions and ideologies around being the “chosen one” or having immense power (or being “enlightened” or having nothing left to work on, or being on the eight level when everyone else in history has been at the seventh), while simultaneously creating a reality of being incredibly victimized by the spirit world, by people, and a removal or separation from the physical body and from the Earth as a whole.

In this fractured capacity, the person will either have the eventual clarity and healing to move beyond the needs and projections of the separate self, and to utilize tools to come back to the body and to the earth… or the rigidity and fear that comes from trauma and fracturing (and the need to feel like a separate protagonist) will perceive any outside information that runs contrary to this contracted self, healing, or healing professional as a form of attack– turning the person or information that goes contrary to belief systems into yet another attacker that must be defended against.

There are many reasons for this– the simplest being that the parts of us that are separate or fractured are that way for a reason: they were overwhelmed, traumatized, and deeply afraid. This traumatized “self” then created a reality or overlay, complete with belief systems, to make this separated reality “okay”– often complete with the illusions of the power that has been lost.

Ironically, the call for the modern-day “rugged individualism” comes from illusion and a fractured sense of self. The idea that one must heal themselves, or cannot reach out for support, is an illusion, and a hugely detrimental one at that. We heal relationally, which includes both inner, personal work, as well as reaching out to others and healing within the context of our communities. We are meant to share our burdens, as that allows for transcendence beyond the ideas of the fractured, separated, and illusory self.

In shamanic terms, this separated and traumatized self has experienced power loss and so has created the illusion of power, centered around the self as protagonist. If this power loss is healed, the illusions of power, the needs to be superior, and even the need for solipsistic ideologies lessen or cease, and humility and lessened chaos are a result.

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One of the difficulties in creating such a binary is that it is easy to look at this as “spiritual awakening– good; mental fracturing– bad” and although such a framework is necessary, it is also necessary to transcend it. So let’s go ahead and do so…

The difficulty with determining spiritual awakening vs. psychosis or mental illness is that the overall trajectory needs to be understood. This is because there is carry-over between the two, and because the experience of ego death (read the previous blog) and relational shifts in and of themselves can be traumatizing. They can also trigger or bring up latent, or subconscious imbalances. We carry a lot within us that has been subconscious for a reason: it is because we lack the capacity, tools, or support to work our way through it. Such things emerging can be overwhelming.

There has been a lot of illusion about how the spiritual awakening process just creates this concept of “bliss”, or incorrect illusions about how we simply become happier and healthier, in a state of bliss as a result of the process. This is untrue, as what lies dormant within us are things we have difficulty reconciling or are rejecting for a reason.

For example, it was probably my tenth year of meditation that I first came upon the “Destroyer” energy (in the Spiritual Awakening Guide) and the aspects of myself that wanted my destruction, or to no longer be alive. Coming across our inner serial killer, our inner pedophile, our inner (insert something horrific here) and all of our shadow parts is a hard task, and they come up long beyond the time of simply responding to outer chaos and the sort of blind “sleeper” state of simple reactivity to the outer world. Having compassion for those aspects is key, and these parts of us arise for healing. However, we may still be reactive to them or lack the tools to deal with these aspects of ourselves.

The other difficulty is that there is bliss in the awakening process, there are flows, and waves, and heightened states that allow for an understanding of freedom. This can result in despair, despondency as they “flicker” (or you come out of them), and it is a hard thing to describe to people that you develop (or become aware, rather) of emotional complexity in the awakening process. Basically, you can be both in a state of bliss and depression simultaneously. You can be in pain and experience great stillness. You can be deeply grieving, feel joy, sadness, and love simultaneously. This is emotional intelligence at its most finely tuned.

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As mentioned, there is even greater complexity in the fact that the experience of these “ego deaths” or relational shifts are traumatizing and overwhelming themselves. The sudden clarity of realizing a pattern that has shaped your entire reality being untrue is a hard thing to digest. The realization of inner patterns that were once held subconscious arising is difficult.

There is also the difficulty of the awakening process happening to someone that is already considerably fractured and unstable. If we picture ourselves as a mirror (with a gleaming, whole surface as being “enlightenment”… which is much rarer than popular culture espouses… and most of us having cracks and chips and severe trauma or biological/physical and etheric issues of the mind creating fractures or portions missing) the awakening process may happen to someone who has a few cracks, and can see through the process reasonably intact.

It also may happen to someone who has no idea what is going on or who has small or large cracks, or sections of their “mirror” missing. In the previous blog, I referred to how my process was so difficult largely because my physical body was out of line– and if we physically, mentally, emotionally, are already significantly out of balance, the process of accepting, surrendering, and working our way through relational shifts and identity shifts is much harder, and in some cases, insurmountable without assistance.

Erich Neumann referred to this concept as “higher” and “lower”– basically the differentiation being the in tact, or healthy “ego” (or the mirror having only a few cracks or scuffs). The “higher” spiritual experience would then be someone who can integrate the trauma of the experience and the subsequent release of beliefs and reformulation of identity. The “lower” experience would be someone who cannot, and who is further traumatized or becomes psychotic due to the overwhelm of the experience.

Similarly, there is the famous Joseph Campbell quote: “the psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight” which describes this as well.

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However, while there are many, many people who fit the above… there are people who utilize the awakening experience as a framework for their fracturing or psychosis and who are not undergoing the process. Even people who are undergoing the awakening process may reach for things that reinforce trauma and disassociation (or are a comfort to their illusions and sense of separation) which are all to prevalent in the spiritual awakening “community”.

This is why looking at the overall trajectory– if the person is going through an expansive process and identity shifts, or if they are contracted and fractured, utilizing the framework as a resource as a way to experience relief or control or to feel powerful due to a fractured mirror.

Awakening should allow for ease in living, more freedom, a relationship to the earth and the people in it to develop. It should allow for expansion of beliefs, acceptance of others, release of judgment as a result of inner needs for control, and an increase in functioning if seen through.

It should also allow for understanding that the “transcendence” of the physical body is a way to reconcile inner fears of death, and realization of the temporary nature, and is not an excuse or reasoning for disassociation and isolative tendencies that arise due to fracturing and false beliefs.

The “shaman” is in this reality as well as the other– both worlds are equally important. The physical body and its senses are important, and without grounding in the physical body, and an appreciation of the physical body, disassociative states simply create more illusion, or needs arising from the separate and fractured self.

As we are relational beings, it is important for us to relate– to be grounded in this reality, in our bodies, in this world. Our greatest modern pattern is one of separation, of isolation– from one another, from ourselves, and from the world. This is what is not understood about the “what a shaman sees in a mental hospital” thing– it is that we largely nowadays have most of our energy around our heads, and our mental and emotional bodies are clogged (or unhealed) to the extent that we cannot even access the spiritual.

Native and indigenous spiritual workers that I have talked to did not have this separation to this extent, and do not understand this type of modern, energetic construct. This is why any modern day spiritual worker needs to work on the mental and emotional levels as well (not just, but as well) because unless we do, much of the spiritual work will be rejected or will not filter through the mental, emotional, and physical layers to be integrated and reconciled fully.

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There is a belief that if we just correct the “spiritual” or purify enough, that we will be cured or healed of every struggle, every mental illness. This does not include the understanding that we have many bodies, one of them physical.

There is an energy field, or grid, of the mind. This is largely an “etheric” or blueprint (genetic, biological) field. Separate from any of the discussions above, the correct “body” must be treated. For complex issues– we would need to look at the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical reasonings for the imbalance. What this means is that for some people, medications (either for a short time, or for this physical lifetime) are necessary, just as medications for diabetes and so forth are. This is not a failure, either in short term or in long term. While there are problems with medications that I wish were talked about more (like how difficult it is to come off of them) if one of our “bodies” is out of balance it needs to be brought into balance.

However, something like forty percent of Americans are on anti-depressants and so forth– I do believe and have seen great efficacy with spiritual healing, with immersion in nature, microdosing, exercise, nutrition, bodywork, and talk therapy– with impact on the physical body, of course. Connection instead of isolation can do wonderful things. Letting others who have walked the path of “wounded healer” assist us is not an act of weakness, it is an act of strength. The modern myth of the rugged individual, that if only we were “spiritual” enough we would have no burdens, is deeply ignorant and results in people not receiving the help that they need.

There are wonderful things that can happen with awakening, but as it has been treated as a commodity, we have heaped our illusions onto it, and have created a space where there is significant illusion being offered to us concerning the topic. As long as we are human, we will still have struggle and things to work on. If we have clarity, we will be willing to look at our complex issues and imbalances and treat them how they need to be treated, including physically.

At times our burdens are so great that we lose the capacity to take care of them ourselves. We are not intended to heal in isolation– we are relational beings– and there should be absolutely no stigma in healing at whatever level, and through whatever means, are necessary– be that spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical/biological. The purpose of our physical bodies and lives is to be functional, to connect, to love one another. If there is something interfering with that, especially significantly, there is nothing more “spiritual” than taking care of yourself and your “bodies” to come into a clear and integrated view of reality that includes the highest level of personal functioning for you or your loved ones.

If you are struggling, reach out for help. There are a lot of people out there suffering exactly as you are. In our separation and trauma we believe ourselves to be the only one, or in isolation… or the myth of the rugged individual that we must take care of all things ourselves. We do not– we heal relationally, and no matter what you are experiencing, others have as well. Find an in-person bodyworker focused on trauma, sympathetic counselor (Jungian or transpersonal usually means they have a “spiritual” bent or will look at the spiritual path as a way to seek meaning, rather than pathological), or spiritual healer who has at least ten years of experience. Reach out to friends, family, and hotlines if necessary, or in crisis. Due to the amount of emails I receive, I am unable to offer guidance individually, and often an in-person resource to forge connections is critical, especially if you are significantly out of balance or lack functioning. Be safe, and take care of yourself. It is courageous for you to do so.

 

Spiritual Awakening and Mental Illness: Definitions and Framework

Before we get into the second part of looking at spiritual awakening, psychosis, mental illness, and shamanism (you can read the first part here) I realize that a few definitions and a basic framework for doing so should be explored. You can also now read Part Two here…

In doing so I will also talk about some of the common illusions on the path.

Spiritual awakening is a two-fold process involving:

  1. “Purification” (release and healing)
  2. “Expansion” (relational shifts)


Purification
During the spiritual awakening process, what happens is that the person releases held energy from their physical and energetic bodies. Held energies are old emotions, traumas, and beliefs from a variety of sources (from personal to ancestral, societal, etc.)

We shape who we are around our belief structures. What we believe to be true is what we interface with, and we reject what we know not to be true. We do not do this consciously (most of the time) and so our projected universe is limited by our belief structures, or what we know to be true.

People really believe an ideology that if they change themselves that the world changes– as if the universe is based on an inherent self-centered idea that they have created and are in control of the world­– as in, if we only work on ourselves for long enough nobody will ever be mean to us, or cut us off in traffic. There will no longer be suicide bombers, and that there will be clean drinking water in Detroit if we only heal ourselves.

It is a nice, but inherently solipsistic thought, and furthers incorrect ideas and ideologies, as well as allows for division and illusion to placate personal fear. This means that we can blame the person for what has happened to them… because if they were “awake” enough they would be in perfect bliss, never have a problem again, and would be in complete control and have a sense of knowing about their existence.

In this state we can also judge others, because obviously the person got cancer (experienced disease, death, abuse) because they were not “awake”… even though Ramana Maharshi died from cancer… and so we can contract our energies, judge, and placate our own fears around death, not knowing, and so forth by this illusory division and separation.

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But there are eight billion people in this world. We create this world together. Certainly working through our own issues has a ripple effect on the “ocean”, or our collective consciousness. Certainly people should take personal responsibility for themselves to whatever extent they are able to (and this is a big differentiator that I will talk about in the next post between mental fracturing and spiritual awakening). If many people take personal responsibility, that heals the collective.

So in some ways the world does get easier with healing your own “stuff”, because you no longer are projecting your unhealed issues and general chaos into the world. You are no longer in a state of blind reaction due to your unhealed issues, and awakening allows for the eventual capacity to look at what you are emotionally reactive to and utilize it to reconcile something that is unhealed inwardly.

But that doesn’t stop people with unhealed issues and chaos from projecting onto you.

It also doesn’t stop you from having emotions, and while you can be compassionate for someone being abusive towards you (for example), it doesn’t mean that you have to take it or that you cannot or will not get upset because you are “awake”.

Awakening allows for the full range of emotions, full emotional capacity and depth, with the realization that nothing within us, no matter how fearful or angry, is “bad”: often it is simply unheard, misunderstood, and in pain.

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And it doesn’t stop you from having issues. Healing your own “stuff”, or the purification process allows for a perspective shift. You are expanded beyond your own chaos and fracturing and can begin to look deeper into more “soul-level” type issues (for lack of better phrasing) as well as begin to see outside of your limited view of yourself.

The spiritual awakening process is really the capacity to traverse your inner depths, thereby expanding into outer depths, by taking personal responsibility and becoming conscious of what beliefs and unhealed material are preventing you from realizing this expansion.

It is a state of being, a state of stillness, and a state of realizing complexity and nuance, rather than casting oneself as the eternal victim and others as persecutor.

Expansion
When we are not “awake”, we are in a state of only being able to consider ourselves and our own experiences of this world. By healing or “purifying” we are able to move beyond the considerable chaos and drama that we enact.

What the awakening process creates is a state of being able to regard the experiences of others as valid (as a start), to move out of the bubble of only interacting with or considering the small realm of existence that supports your version of “truth”, and to move beyond the illusory rules and ideologies, as well as the controls, that people try to put on things like “awakening”.

In simple terms, most people lack the inherent capacity to consider anything other than themselves and their own pain. They cannot see outside of themselves, and in this state they are only able to draw to them, interact with, and consider valid people, places, and realities that are a small part of the contracted bubble that they have created.

In awakening, this bubble expands more and more until the person reconciles their inherent selfishness, begins accepting other viewpoints as valid, and can work their way past the belief systems (both their own as well as imposed by society or even the “awakening” community).

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What is confusing about this is that there are plenty of sensitive people out there who are wounded and feel separated. This does not mean that they are “awake” (although they may be in the lower stages of awakening), as they lack the capacity (willingness or ability) to move beyond themselves.

Put even more simply: the long lists of “rules” and commands, what music someone should listen to, what television (or no TV), what someone should eat, read, what gender/sex, what portion of the population someone can interact with (as in, “you can only interact with “awakened” people), only working in the “light” because the dark is “bad”…are all mental illusions that can be transcended. They are inherently limiting, contract this “bubble”, and create judgment and division, thus separating the person from the whole.

In contrast, an awakened, or awakening person can interact with anyone, and has an increased capacity to interact with every part of themselves (with compassion, yes… including the “dark” without wanting to change it) because their mental limitations and needs for control are gradually transcended.

They have moved beyond basic binaries and polarities, and have moved into realizing complexity. There is no longer the reaction or automatic villainization of things that are out of the control, or beyond the experiences of the limited perspective of the individual.

All of this takes time and effort, of course, and is a process rather than something that can all be done tomorrow (another common illusion on the path).

This process of purification and expansion is life-long. As long as we are in human bodies, we have something to work on. It is a question of if the person awakening is going to believe the forces within them that tell them that they have transcended such things… or not (I refer to this in my Spiritual Awakening Guide book as “ego awakening”, which is the most common type of awakening in which someone basically stops themselves in their process).

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Contraction
There is also a contraction process during awakening. We are always in a state of contracting and expanding. When we expand, we eventually will contract. This is a consolidation of what has been learned in the previous expansion phase and an integration of it into all “bodies” (more on this later).

This also can be referred to as “ego death”. What happens when we expand, when we heal/purify, is that what we know to be true about ourselves and the world changes. We do not experience one ego death but many along the path.

This means that a part of us must “die” and reformulate (or go through a cycle of death and rebirth). This process can be quite difficult, especially if the person in this contraction cycle either lacks awareness of what is going on, or they fight the process.

We get used to who and what we are, and so any change in that, as well as feelings of “death” (which is a huge baseline fear of ours that is worked through later in the awakening process) is a large trigger with a lot of unhealed emotions and beliefs.

There also is the difficulty that during this process there is a “black-out”, or a return to the physical body, sometimes with a “dark night of the soul” in which someone experiences despair, isolation, and feelings of being alone, or without spiritual guidance at the very least.

Further in the awakening process, this “contraction” cycle can be realized and worked with.

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The “Bodies”
In my personal framework (which is loosely derived from theosophy) we have our physical body, our etheric (our “double” or blueprint of our physical form), our astral (or emotional), mental, and then our spiritual.

Each “body” goes from densest to most expansive. So our physical body is our most contracted and densest “container”. The mental body would then hold our emotional, etheric, and physical bodies.

This is why I have so much difficulty with modern shamanism and spiritual communities, by the way… they are firmly in the “mental” container. This is where and how so many rules and definitive knowledge and placation of psychological needs (such as the need to know, to feel superior, to feel the center of the universe with everything having a specific personal meaning, and to feel in control) get developed.

While I very much understand why people may desire the container of the “mental” rather than the free-fall and move away from being the protagonist/center of the universe that happens in the spiritual, there are vast amounts of knowledge and wonder that happen in the spiritual.

It is also quite different than the mental, to put it mildly. But like all things, working on the mental can open up the clogged mental “body” so someone can experience the spiritual… if they are willing and ready to. The problem is that most people do not know, or are not ready, to move into this space.

What happens when you try to cram something into a lesser container is that it loses its magic, it loses is efficacy, and it becomes watered-down (in shamanic terms, it experiences power loss). While I do recognize that the capacity to interface with power takes time and willingness, seeing things like shamanism become a pale, mentally derived technique without power, or a soul, is still a sore point for me.

Because while the spiritual “body” is the least dense, and it holds the other “bodies”, it isn’t really a container– it cannot be contained by rules and thoughts and polarities. However much you explore, you can only explore .000000000001 percent of the universe(s), if that. The more you explore, the more that decimal point moves to the left and the more zeroes you add, by the way.

The reason that I bring this up is because treatment at the correct level or “body” is really, really necessary.

So what does this mean?

It means that if a vast majority of your unhealed energy is at the emotional level/body, working with the emotions first will often be the most helpful.

If your difficulty is spiritual, working with the “mental” body will only be so helpful. If your problem has a biological imprint (hereditary, hormonal, etc.) treatment on the physical level is often necessary.

You would ideally work with the “body” that is most out of balance first, and then proceed to look at the other “bodies” so that they are in balance. In complex situations (chronic or simply complicated) all “bodies” should be looked at, and often need to be worked with, to create a state of balance.

Most importantly, if one of your “bodies” is out of line, especially in the spiritual awakening process, the process will be much more difficult for you. It took me many years to realize that one of the reasons that my own process was so difficult was that my physical “body” was really out of balance, and to move beyond my resistance and beliefs to the extent that I could work on my physical body. This made all the difference, as this body becoming aligned meant that I could go through expansion and purification processes more smoothly.

And finally, a few quotes:

“Emotions– fear, anger, love– are as necessary for the organism’s survival as nerve impulses, immune cells or hormonal activity”– Gabor Mate

“Magic is not below our present level of knowledge but beyond it. Magic is a state of cognition that psychology has yet to attain”– Holger Kalweit

“Emotional competence is the capacity that enables us to stand in a responsible, non-victimized, and non-self-harming relationship with our environment… Few of us reach adult age with anything close to full emotional competence. Recognizing our lack of it is not cause for self-judgment, only a call for further development and transformation”– Gabor Mate

Mental Illness, Psychosis, Shamanism, and Spiritual Awakening

This is Part One of what will be a Two Part Blog. If you are interested in an in-depth look at Spiritual Awakening, I suggest my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide.

This topic is a notoriously sticky one, as well as one that I have hesitated to write about in the past because I have some inherent biases. I am very conscious of them so I will discuss them, as they may be helpful for others to see clearly laid out.

The main bias that I have is that I have interacted with (or received emails/correspondence from, I should say) a disproportionate amount of people that would likely be diagnosed as either severely mentally ill or suffering from some sort of psychosis.

This can be quite wearing at times, and I have known many wonderful spiritual workers and spiritual teachers who have decided to step away from offering their services due to their experiences with this population.

It is natural for us to remember the chaos, the outlandishness, and the people so far removed from reality and mental clarity who contact us when we are in any type of customer service– and I could tell story after story of the sorts of odd and frequently bizarre things people have asked me for, planned for me, accused me of, or claimed, that have had no basis in any sort of reality.

They are the creations of a mind and spirit suffering, and represent a lack of wholeness, as well as the typical and recognizable effects of trauma… or of a mind and mental structures that lack cohesion and clarity as well as grounding in this/physical reality, and have lost anchoring to consensual reality.

It is hard after interfacing with this population for so long to not see clearly that a lot of people use spiritual work, and spiritual and shamanic communities, as well as concepts like “awakening” to foster and perpetuate delusions and unhealthy mental states that are not bringing the person to greater clarity, wholeness, health, or increased consciousness or spiritual connection.

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I also have interacted with many people who are suffering due to the weight of trauma who may or may not have been diagnosed with mental illness. Trauma is separating: it causes the person to separate from themselves, to separate from the world, and to maintain harmful belief structures that they are alone, or the only person to experience something, and that the world, and the people in it, are in some capacity out to get them.

In my line of work this is commonly referred to as power loss and/or soul loss. The effect of having an event that is overwhelming, traumatizing, or too much to handle is that we “freeze” at that aspect of our timeline. Put simply, many of us are fifty with an unhealed six year old within us. That six year old, unless “unfrozen”, and integrated with the adult consciousness, will have the pain of the experience still continually reverberating through the consciousness of the fifty year old adult.

Additionally, that six year old will have specific likes, dislikes, and specific tools as well as emotional reactions, especially when the original wound is triggered.

Put in energetic terms, there is a held, stagnant vibration that the body no longer recognizes as its current consciousness.

So what does this really mean? This means that this six year old may have had divorcing parents. The six year old felt overwhelmed, like it was their fault that their father (obviously this happens in the world with both parents, this is just an example) left. This person is now fifty. Say this is a heterosexual female– every relationship she is in with men will now create the same “loop”: the repeated, unhealed and habitual behaviors we enact again and again based in our unhealed trauma.

Her inner six year old desires healing. Desires a way to complete and resolve this situation. So she continually puts people in the position of “father”, and when there is perceived abandonment, this six year old is triggered, and the adult fifty year old begins acting from the consciousness of a six year old and through the wounds and eyes of that six year old.

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Out of these wounds come daydreams and opposing creations. For example, this fifty year old woman may daydream about a man coming to save her. If we are talking specifically about power loss, what this turns into in a quite unhealthy/unbalanced state are people talking about how they can do things like control the moon, or are being continually attacked by spirits and beings, or have an incredible amount of power in reaction to the subconscious realization that they are missing some of their power.

If they are willing to look at the power loss, the trauma experienced, they can move on from these harmful and isolating belief structures. But there is a certain “tipping point” at which people are in such a state of imbalance that the suggestion that someone could move on or heal from such beliefs triggers feelings of lack of safety as well as the original trauma to the extent that the person is not able to be open to such a suggestion.

The ability and openness to look at a spiritual situation first psychologically is an indicator of mental health, however. If there is rigidity, attacking of others for questioning beliefs, or immense pain that comes from questioning aspects of reality, that would be an indicator of mental patterns, fracturing and soul loss/power loss.

A healthy mind can question itself.
A mind that lacks consciousness may not want to, but that is something of a separate issue.

If we have parts of ourselves that are unhealed in terms of self-worth, we will constantly need to “prove” ourselves. This means that many spiritual communities are people continually telling one another how they are better than them, tearing down others, or trying to get someone engaged in a fight. If people who acted like this had the willingness to ask what part of them needs to feel superior, or even what age they were acting from when they were interacting, they would come across an aspect of themselves that feels (or was told it was) worthless, unimportant, or not special.

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Repairing the power dynamics, healing the wounded aspects of self, the frozen aspects of self, would cause for the outer person (the adult) to stop needing these beliefs, and they would no longer act the way that they are currently.

Power is another tricky subject, and could likely use its own blog, but spiritual work always comes down to the topic of power. We can lose power by trauma, by it being taken by us (by being victimized, most commonly), or through “microtrauma”– basically, the experience of being worn down over time by the small things (which are still important and large, such as needing to pay bills, have enough food on the table, shelter, feel safe, get enough rest, and all of the hierarchy of needs type stuff).

Hopefully the woman in my example will heal her inner child, break through habitual patterns, and break the “loop” of relating so that she can find a suitable partner, as well as become more whole. But my purpose in providing this description is to suggest that it is incredibly rare for someone to spiritually be an adult in our society.

Just look online for many examples of this. How many people act like mature, thoughtful adults and have the capacity for a neutral (as in reasonable, as in not acting like a teenager or like a wounded child) discussion?

Who can act respectfully, engage respectfully, at an adult level? Who is healed enough that they are not looking to tear everyone around them down? Who, even if in disagreement, can interact rationally, respectfully, and maturely?

Beyond even that:

  • how many people have the adult capacity and consciousness to truly think for themselves?
  • To move beyond the empty memes, the restrictive rules and logic created by others in their scrambling for control and constructs intended to pigeonhole spirit, awakening, shamanism, or any other topic?
  • How many people can clearly assess where they are at on their path, and are willing to see how much more they have to learn?
  • How many people actually look for opposing viewpoints, different viewpoints, or are willing to expand beyond their current bubble?
  • How many have truly thought about the sayings and teachings that they have learned critically so they know why their cosmology, or their identity, is the way it is?
  • How willing would people be to put aside the labels, and think about what needs for healing would be there if that were taken away?

For example, “Okay, if I were not an Empath, what would I have to heal?” If I did not have Kundalini, or wasn’t a Shaman or Psychic, what would I have to work on? 

What happens when you are an outlier and you realize that the world is filled with people in pain, believing that they are all outliers– separate, unheard, unloved– in the same manner that you do?

What happens when someone realizes that whatever it is that makes them an outlier– their intelligence, perceptiveness, beauty, strength, spiritual or artistic capacity– is not a weakness at all, but their greatest strength?

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I am suggesting such things on a topic on mental illness and psychosis because we act as if there are members of society that are distinctly “mentally ill” and that they act a specific way, with a specific delineation of symptoms and experiences, and a segment of our society that is “mentally healthy”, with specific ways of being, but the topic is incredibly more nuanced than that. Even many of those who are solidly in the “diagnosed, mentally ill” category are fluid, with days in which they are more functional and capable of seeing themselves and the world with clarity, and days in which they are not.

Finding someone who has worked through enough of their own stuff to become a spiritual adult in our society is really incredibly rare. 

Who no longer is reacting from their various frozen parts, who is willing and able to take responsibility for themselves, to look inward, and to continue working on themselves. As someone enters spiritual adulthood, they have the capacity and willingness to examine their beliefs, especially their unhealed emotions and beliefs that are creating significant restrictions for themselves, and has the capacity to consider if they are true or not.

The person that can do this is, again, rare, and should be talked about in terms of mental illness because if we pigeonhole the “mentally ill” to be a specific aspect of the population, we must contend with a few things:

  1. That spiritual adults or people that we would determine to be “mentally healthy” in our society are incredibly rare
  2. That people determined to be “mentally ill” may be in the midst of chaos and personal creation to the extent that they no longer know what is societally appropriate, they have lost functioning and capacity to interact appropriately in this world and to understand what consensual reality is
  3. That the “mentally ill” may be seeing reality more clearly than most people will ever have the capacity to

I am in no way romanticizing mental illness here, but if you work with people enough who have the capacity and willingness (and readiness and openness) to consider their reality, you begin to realize that many of those who have inherent difficulties fitting in with this world are actually quite sane… just not by communal or societal standard.

For example, if you consider Dabrowski’s Theory of Depression (which I will post on my Facebook page) there is the understanding that people looking for meaning are likely to experience disintegration of self and realizations that shift identity as a result of being more gifted– having more capacity to see and think deeply in a society that does not (and does not encourage this sort of process).

In our society there is a base understanding of how inward looking, how intelligent, how conscious, how perceptual or sensitive, and what sort of meaning one is intended to derive from their existences. Someone who has a 150 IQ (yes, there are more forms of intelligence than this, but this is utilized to highlight a point) is going to be immersed in a world filled with people who have a mean IQ of somewhere around 95. They are going to see and experience the world differently due to this. It is going to likely be traumatic for them.

Similarly, someone who has incredibly high perceptual capacities (is “psychic”) will notice more than just our physical world, and society (and the individuals within that society) will redirect the person to “ordinary reality”, sometimes quite harshly (creating trauma).

But if we consider such things, we have to talk about the experience of trauma and shock that comes from such experiences. Healing the trauma and shock of being someone who has high IQ, or higher perceptual qualities, or in some way is different than the “mean” of society doesn’t mean that people in the world are going to suddenly get smarter, or more perceptive. What it means is that you have let go of enough of your emotional reactions, have healed enough from being that “outlier” that you have moved into a place of clarity, understanding that you are still a part of the world, a part of the whole, and are not feeling traumatized, or large parts of you “frozen” as a result of being said outlier.

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Going through the spiritual awakening process, embarking on a spiritual path with depth, leads to disintegration and reforming of the identity again and again.

The question is what happens when this happens too quickly?

What happens when this occurs suddenly, or at a rate that is too much for the individual, especially one who is resistant, traumatized, or has not consciously learned what is going on yet, to be able to integrate?

What is more about learning tools (such as how to calibrate the nervous system, consciously create filters, learn discernment) and understanding and learning to discern clearly, and what would be helped by healing trauma?

What happens when you start releasing core aspects of your identity?

I am not talking about the outlying trauma here. I am talking about what happens when you realize that your life has been in reaction to a specific belief that has been created out of trauma, and then have released it. There is a shock that happens when core aspects of your identity are stripped away from you.

What happens when you realize that you do not need to repeat the loops of your parents, your ancestors, or continually live out the wounds of your early childhood?

What happens when you move beyond the quests, the struggle, the battles that we spend so much time enacting? When we move beyond being abusive and blocking ourselves and telling ourselves that only certain characteristics, certain perspectives, certain aspects of ourselves are okay?

Mental wellness is actually fairly rare, spiritual adulthood is exceedingly rare, and those of us who think differently or perceive differently have the opportunity and consciousness to move towards spiritual adulthood in the way that people who have never had a reason to think about their existence, or their habits, do.

But it also means that there can be more fracturing, trauma, inability to tether to reality (be functional), disembodiment, delusion, and/or a lack of congruence of the energy field of the mind (I will talk about this all in Part Two).

Read the Framework and Definitions of Spiritual Awakening Here

Read Part Two here

Reconciling Disbelief and Spiritual Experiences

One of the things that I always tell my students is that even if they truly have experienced the proverbial other, and know for a fact that spirits and the spirit world is real… to only do so 97 percent… leaving 3 percent doubt remaining.

This allows for critical thinking in terms of experiences– it allows for people to discern and really think about their experiences, to take a step back and to separate the creations of the mind and mental story versus spiritual experience, to see how the overlay of mental creation and spirit can intertwine, and to extricate themselves to see with clarity.

That 3 percent allows for a step back, and the employment of logic, pragmatism, and critical thinking.

Part of the reason that people engage with spiritual work is to explore a more mythic reality. The difficulty with this is that it is incredibly easy to go off of the deep end, and the effects of this are widely displayed in many spiritual communities.

It is said that a “shaman” has one foot in this world and one foot in the “other”, and people tend to lose the “one foot in this world” part of the equation.

Without that tether to reality, it is easy to engage with delusion, and to be of no use to yourself or to anyone else… to lose functioning, health, and general enjoyment of the senses: music, dance, nature, pie, good sex, movies, and interactions with friends and loved ones.

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Spirit will cause for you to move beyond your boundaries, in both gentle and fierce ways. We have such a vested interest in control, in our own mythic reality, that to interact with the sacred requires recognizing our smallness. It requires humility, patience, and grounding in this world deeply.

I used to be surprised by the fact that most people, even spiritual practitioners, had no belief or interaction with spirit. That they had no faith in spirit, or in the world having magic and spirit in it in ordinary life. Without this belief that the universe is animistic, we are missing the magic in our backyards, and not integrating the spiritual in our daily lives.

In my eyes, the capacity to sense and interact with spirits is one of the core job functions of being a spiritual worker. I believe it was Martin Prechtel that described spiritual work as “spirit lawyering” and that is what much of my job is–working with spirits and beings of all types to negotiate for balance, or healing, or at least a reprieve in symptoms.

The other half of my job is often taking someone through their mental and emotional reactions and experiences so they can integrate the spiritual work done. This is necessary in the modern world because of the general disconnection from the earth and from spirit that many of us experience, and the mental barriers that people have constructed to stop themselves from experiencing the spiritual.

I have been surprised by spirits and beings of all types being interested in interacting with me– not because of some inherent “special” quality on my part– but simply because I am open and willing to recognize their existence, and to do so with curiosity and respect. It is amazing what curiosity, solid boundaries, and a willingness to learn from those different from you can garner in terms of interacting.

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We close ourselves down to spirit. We are so wounded and separated that we can no longer recognize the sacred, the immense spirit (and spirits) that surround us. We reach for practices that allow us to remain with the known, to not even understand the hidden vitality and animism of our own backyard or the spirit of our house.

This is a protective mechanism, of course.

If we think about the fact that no matter how sensitive we are, that we can only see and sense a small percentage of what is around us… and that what may be around us may be thousands of years old, immensely wiser than us, large, small, may possibly not like us in their location, or may have trauma themselves, and may do anything from deeply inform our existence to create immense difficulty for us… that is frightening.

There is an element of disbelief that is never discussed– this is often because of an element of opposing reactivity to mainstream spirituality. There is also an aspect of trauma in terms of spiritual experiences that is not discussed.

Much of mainstream spirituality is intended to comfort people, to allow for basic self-help: to feel special, heard, and connected to others with similar interests. For a long time I didn’t understand this (nor appreciate it), but I very much do now. It is not hard to look in they eyes of someone in deep fear over death, or grieving the death of a child, and understand why they may reach out for spiritual teachings (and teachers) that tell them what they need to hear to feel comforted and in control.

This however does mean that many people who are finding the vast unknown, the proverbial other, and engaging with spirit and the spirit realms lack community and often resources to feel heard and seen, however.

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Holger Kalweit (who I always suggest as a foray into understanding shamanism) talks about how people in the modern world who have connection to anything other than the materialist universe are seen as insane, and often protect themselves out of fear because they are having experiences and realizations that are not scientific, nor rational, nor materialist.

This creates an immense difficulty for people who are logical, pragmatic, functional, and reasonably mentally healthy who are having spiritual experiences. It causes them to quickly find out that most spiritual communities are not for them, and it creates immense doubt… especially if they are generally healthy and/or well-educated individuals.

Disbelief is a protective mechanism. I read an interesting article the other day about how our brains have a delay to shield us from hallucinogenic experiences (I will attempt to find it and post it on my Facebook page), and I have had many spiritual experiences that have taken me years, if not decades, to move beyond casting them aside, disbelieving them, or thinking myself insane for having experienced them.

Some of them have been traumatizing, and it has taken me time to not only move beyond my own processing, but to be willing to include others in the process (moving beyond fears of what others may think of me for my experiences) to fully heal from them.

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Spiritual experiences take longer to integrate. We have to integrate them on many levels to bring them up through and beyond the protective disbelief, the oppositional reactivity (to what is seen in many spiritual circles) and to vitally change who we are as a person in relation to a spiritual experience, especially a significant one.

Mainstream spirituality only goes so far in describing interaction with the “other”. There are very good reasons for this– spiritual exploration can be a deeply personal thing, and at a certain point showing an altar, or an object you work with, sharing who you work with, or sharing an experience, would be like excavating the very private aspects of your soul. In shamanic terms, it also means that someone could utilize those spiritual helpers, experiences or objects to gain access to you, which is more a consideration for people who are deeply immersed in practices, or who have gathered power, as the amount of people in modern day that would know how to use those access points in is quite rare.

There is also an inherent difficulty that much of what is represented in spiritual circles, for lack of better description, are people who are at point “A” and “B” on their path. Someone who makes their way to point “C” then will feel alone, and may not recognize that there is the rest of the alphabet, and plenty of people at “G”, some at “Q” and some who have completed the whole alphabet and are starting back at point “A” to learn more through another round of the alphabet.

What once struck me as odd about this is that people at point “C” often do not want to hear about the rest of the alphabet. They do not want to hear from me, for example, that their experiences are something that any spiritual practitioner with experience will hear about weekly, or that they could venture to the rest of the alphabet, if they were ready to.

This is also a protective mechanism– as if we believe that we know everything, we do not need to learn anything new. We do not need to move beyond our own fear or mental barriers. It is also a trauma response, and sometimes past experiences with teachers and communities who could not serve the individual who needed help navigating spiritual realities (instead of self-help) were failed, or simply weren’t helped or heard to the extent that they needed to be.

But mainly it is a protective mechanism because if we truly believe ourselves to be separate, if we truly believe that we are the only person out there who has experienced such things, who has leapt into the wild and wondrous “other”, that that means the person can remain suffering, alone, and not move forward on their path. Not move forward beyond the fear, not move forward beyond disbelief of their experiences to integrate them as a vital aspect of their being.

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Unfortunately, this also means not moving forward into seeing the spiritual world(s) as something vital, sustaining, wondrous, and life-affirming. It also means not moving beyond the fear, the trauma from past experiences (from spiritual experiences as well as spiritual communities), and learning how to navigate the spirit realms properly, and with the appropriate tools to protect, clear, and discern.

It means remaining separate, and stopping ourselves from connecting (or realizing the connection) to something that could be the very source that could sustains us.

I do understand this fear. Interfacing with the unknown creates fear. We are inundated with pop culture references to evil spirits and possession and people who played with a Ouija board the wrong way. The polarity of this is the bright white falsehood of believing the self to be immensely powerful to the extent that one can concretely know and control the cosmos.

Many of my students need to move past whatever is creating fear within them to actually interact or connect with anything spiritual. I also have met many people who have immense spiritual talents who are not ready to move beyond their own fear and needs for control in order to interface with spiritual reality with any sort of depth.

This is the real requirement, the real “secret sauce” for interacting with the sacred, for truly interacting with spirits and the spirit world, or for really doing anything of a spiritual nature.

It is respect and openness to understanding that our physical world is only a small portion of our reality, and having the respect, knowledge, tools, awareness, and openness to honor, rather than fear.

Opening beyond the materialist universe, the universe that has been created by and for people with “normal” perceptual capacity, is a lot to ask of people, especially in world that creates the polarity of “seer” as insane and illogical.

Certain people do have this aptitude ingrained, or never lost their child-like capacity to understand that there is more to this world than its physical presence. In teaching I have realized how lucky I have actually been to not need to convince myself that the spirit worlds are “real”, as I have always understood them to be that way.

I have had many experiences that have solidly freaked me out, or have taught me just how “real” things can get, however.

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There are experiences that are had on the spiritual path that will immensely destabilize what is known. Some forms of magical ritual will have a focus on specifically bringing a spirit or being into the physical world because it breaks the person of any notions they may have that spirits are not real, for example.

There is trauma that happens with spiritual experiences– the destabilization of what is known, the realization that one does not have as much control as one thought, the direct experience of the vastness and wonder, the excitement of moving to a new terrain, and the scramble of a mind and body trying to fit those experiences into an already established world view and identity.

The healing of trauma, especially with difficult experiences, is important in these cases. It is easier to point to a physical event or experience and equate it with trauma (although we can point to disbelief as a protective mechanism there, as well), but anything that has caused for us to experience overwhelm or a drastic shift in views or relational shift between self and the world, self and the people in the world, or within the self, takes time to integrate.

In some cases it could “freeze” and remain with the person until they are ready to move beyond the disbelief and recognize what an impact the experience they had. I encourage people to consider their experiences at that 97 percent level (as in, do not fully believe spiritual experiences to the point that clarity, discernment, grounding, and just plain logic is lost), to always question things with openness, and to realize that with openness, the world can be more magical, more expansive, than one once thought.

 

I am no longer taking new clients for spiritual work, but offer a variety of distance courses for individuals ready to learn the skills to properly navigate the spiritual realms, with respect, discernment, and clarity. You can find them here