Monthly Archives: March 2018

Animism and Personhood

Lately I have seen the term “person” or “personhood” being used in an animist context to introduce the concept that we should be considering other intelligences as vitally alive and of having a soul.

Anything that supports people picking their heads up and actually looking around and seeing that there are other people in the world, let alone other intelligences, I fully support.

Perhaps this term is a good first step in doing so.

But this term is inherently problematic. First, let’s consider the thought that if we were to truly go into a forest, or under an ocean, and take a poll of all of the non-human intelligences and/or elementals there… how would they feel about humans?

This is the sort of funny thing that only those who have connected to and revere such intelligences consider. Humans have a lot of wonderful things going for them, but from outsider perspective, many may not have the highest regard for humans, nor find it beneficial or express gratitude at being described as one.

When we ascribe personhood to something, we are putting a lens on it. We have certain expectations for language, social constructs, behavior, ethics and moral compass to name yet a few examples.

Perhaps most important of this is ethical and moral compass, as we rarely contend with the fact that our ethical and moral compass is what we expect the world and everything in it to follow, and that other humans, as well as other intelligences, may not fit our rigid definitions.

We especially rarely contend with the fact that our ethical and moral compass may not be shared with other humans universally… or that our compass may have been set by us very much by society and familial imprints, and not by our own conscious participation or decision.

Especially intelligences that are far from human or personhood will have very different outlooks than our own. They will have a much different manner of relating than our own. They will have different beliefs, different interests, and a much different vantage point than our own.

At some point considering the arrogance of ascribing ourselves at the top of the pyramid, and then perhaps saying “ok, let’s solve this by putting everything at the top of the pyramid in order to correct this” doesn’t consider that many beings, elementals, and other creatures may not have put us at the top of such a pyramid.

Through such a definition of personhood, we strip beings of their unique vitality. We render them one-dimensional, with specific ways of relating. We strip them of their power, of their way of being, of their beauty, by asking them to fit in with our notions and wounds and self-centeredness.

We then close ourselves off to authentic experience and communion because we have expectations that such an intelligence is going to have a similar way of relating. We cannot listen, we cannot truly hear, if we have such expectations.

If you go into any spiritual relationship expecting a tree to speak to you like a person does, or for any other type of being to relate to you in a way that any type of “personhood” creates, the chances that you are self-creating are astronomical.

The chances are that that tree would relate to you in its own way if you only allowed it and were not so fixated on it relating a specific way, are also astronomical.

If you considered that your spiritual relationship may take time, that it is a two way street (not just you taking or expecting every intelligence to fall over themselves wanting to teach you), and are actually willing to learn (and to listen) to an intelligence vastly different than your own, then you will find yourself in as many spiritual relationships as you have time for.

If you are willing to consider that those spiritual relationships are not going to be centered around you (it being a two-way street and a relationship, after all), are not like all of the other humans who look to take and personify and psychologically project onto such intelligences, are actually willing to learn and are open enough to learn, have an ounce or two of humility, and are willing to see the intelligences around you as the unique, nuanced, and dynamic vitality that they are… all the better.

I find that a lot of people really haven’t come to consciousness in regards to how christianized their outlook is. I mean no disrespect, I have studied a fair amount of estoric and folk Christianity paths and find them quite lovely, but the animist perspective is not one of dominion. It is not one of transcendentalism. It is not one of even humans really being caretakers, or of even being a significant part of the weaving that we call life. It isn’t one in which humans get to call all of the shots, or can snap their fingers and whatever they want will occur… or even one in which every intelligence that you approach is willing to teach you, or any human for that matter.

What I see a lot of out there is basic christianized theology with a few spiritual elements sort of shoehorned in. The same framework and archetypes, but rendered slightly differently to cause people to believe that they are somehow on a much different path, without the deconstructive effort to personality or ideology that it would take to authentically create a new framework.

I realize I will get a lot of flak for pointing this out as many individuals participating in such communities believe that they have moved away from such ideologies as they have turned to spiritual, shamanic, or pagan religious or spiritual paths. They may even have internalized hatred or trauma surrounding christianized ideologies, but they haven’t really moved away from them.

While I recognize that we often need a framework that is friendly to those perhaps taking one step towards moving away from such ideologies, it has very much become something where the first step is considered the entirety of the map in our modern world, and the true essence and beauty of such teachings is lost.

As teachings enter a puritanical framework, the things that the framework cannot contend with are stripped from it: death, sex, atavistic and animalistic impulses. Spirits are rendered safe, or non-existent, or easy to command (because: human). Anything deemed “ugly” is then stripped, anything that will remind us of the cycling of death-disease-life, of the shadow and darkness, that which gives us ultimately our power, is then stripped.

The shamanic framework is one of ketabasis. It is of a descent to the Underworld, a death and rising process in which we truly begin to understand the cycles of ourselves, of life, of nature. It is only by contending with our depths that we can access our power; it is only through contending with our depths that we can contend with the depths of others.

It is only through contending with our depths that we can in any way rise. Otherwise our ascension or “light work” is truly incomplete. It is illusion without the contention of reality, of what really makes us human, and of activating our divine creative power, which is the cycling of consciousness and life force through us that is latent at our very depths (kundalini, in the root chakra, or Tiamat at the oceanic depths, if one cares to be poetic about it).

I very much consider such teachings gatekeepers, and understand their purpose… and that those who are ready to move on, will. But here is my advice, for those willing to listen:

What animism does is consider everything as part of a web. That we are continually in a state of interbeing with what is around us. That everything has vitality, it has a soul. It has something that we can speak with. But this is only if we speak to it on its own terms.

That is only if we are secure within ourselves to listen. To hear. To witness and regard something quite different from ourselves as valuable, vital, and of having knowledge. To build a relationship with it. To build a friendship. To build any type of partnership requires time, it requires openness, and it requires being able to truly meet the other on their own terms and in their own way.

If we can learn how to listen, and move past our ideologies that render us deaf and mentally creating out of societal expectation or psychological projection, we can meet such intelligences in their true capacity. It is only by willing to meet any type of being, human or non-human, on its own terms and at its own depth, that we can commune at an in-depth and authentic level.

An octopus doesn’t think like you. It doesn’t want to be a person. It very much has its own thing going on, and until a being like it is offered respect, regard, and deep listening, we cannot properly and clearly commune with it.

If you are interested, I am offering an Animism course. You can find all of my distance courses here

Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body

I have a new book coming out called The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body. It is available now, next week, or next month, depending on when you are reading this blog. You can find it through the Inner Traditions website, and major retailers including Amazon.

I spent a decade of my life intensively training and educating myself in varying disciplines– from Chinese Medicine to varying forms of CranioSacral therapy to energetic and spiritual healing.

I also have been some sort of practitioner for close to fifteen years, and while the decade I describe was the sort of all-encompassing life endeavor fueled by a lot of different personal and spiritual factors, I still enjoy learning and exploring… I just have room for a more balanced way of being these days.

What I found during my intensive and rather obsessive explorations of a variety of healing modalities is what a lot of people have found when they have explored similar depths– that in order to heal, we need to consider the person and their individual history, rather than the disease or imbalance.

That people are complex, multi-layered, and have many reasons for their imbalances and patterns that come together to create issues within the person.

That we need to consider the whole person– their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual layers– rather than just one or two of those factors; if we are missing any aspect of this (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual considerations) it means that we are not considering something that we should be, and that we are not effecting as much healing as we could be.

Much of what comes across in healing methods in the West is through the “heroic” and mechanistic lens of scientific materialism. We are thought of as machines, with parts that occasional break down and need servicing. All else is thought of as “mind”, or is put under the term “functional disorder”, typically meaning that a pattern of imbalance has been noticed enough by physicians that they can take a constellation of similar symptoms and affix a label to it, but don’t really have much idea how to treat it beyond suppressive therapies.

Such healing is necessary, especially in the case of emergency medicine, which needs such heroic measures. Sometimes our bodies are energetically or physically out of alignment to the extent that we will need life-long medication. That does not mean that we cannot heal, or that we have failed (or any of the other belief systems that cause for people to say things like if they only healed enough they wouldn’t need insulin, or that they are not trying hard enough if they need medication for depression. If you are in that place of judgment, I would suggest looking within at what beliefs or fears you may personally hold using the body deva).

But such mentalities have trickled into holistic methods of healing, who have taken on the lens of mechanistic healthcare in order to integrate and serve a greater portion of the public. Much of my Master’s degree education in Chinese Medicine was about translating a circular and poetic logic form based off of individual palpation, energetic sensitivity, cultivation, and discovery of the individual person and the individual reasons for their imbalances coming into place into something that will neatly assimilate (they hope) into linear logic, for linear minds who do not wish to consider things beyond mechanistic treatments.

It is hard to argue with some of this– I look at acupuncture clinics in hospitals that treat children for nausea who are undergoing cancer treatments, for example, and see that integration, even if it has become mechanistic and focused on disease, instead of the individual, and applaud such efforts, because at the very least it is a better machine than before.

But it is not hard to see the dictionaries of people ascribing low back pain to “low self worth” or the assimilation of mind-body-spirit medicines into mind-body medicines, and then eventually into mechanistic methods that mimic modern western thought and to realize that they only really scratch the surface of our healing potential.

In The Body Deva, I teach how we have a consciousness that is associated with our human form. We can learn to skillfully interact with and work with this consciousness to understand our individual reasons for being, and to resolve the layers that have created our imbalances.

For example, say five people have lower back pain. One of those may be from a skiing accident in which they landed on their tailbone. Another may be from sitting in a chair all day. Another may be from held tension and trauma from sexual assault. Another may be from a mixture of anger and grief from early childhood. The last may be from an experience of a past life experience of dying during childbirth.

Let’s make this even more complex. One person who has chronic issues with low back pain may have had a difficult childbirth experience that left her with uneven hips and a pubic symphysis (pubic bone) that is out of alignment. She also has a history of feeling ashamed for being female because she knew that her parents wanted a male child, anger from issues of feeling invisible as the middle child in her family, a past relationship that didn’t end well leading to shame, a long line of family members and ancestors that had great fear about not getting enough to eat and some who in fact starved, a past life of having a sword to the lower abdomen, a past life of dying due to dysentery, and archetypal issues regarding the labeling of “mother”, “artist”, and a general lack of grounding (energy flowing in her lower body).

This sounds like a lot, or quite a complex situation. What I will say is that one of the things that you discover as a practitioner is that situations are often complex. People are complex. Our reasons for being and ending up with the imbalances that we have are complex.

It is by working with the layers, as they come up into consciousness, and with skills (such as the body deva) that we can begin to understand as well as resolve our reasons for being.

What tends to happen is as this woman resolves these layers that the physical ones will work better. The body that may not be holding adjustments (chiropractic) or that may feel better for two days after a massage and then go back to feeling badly again; as this woman works with the body deva, her other treatments will start to hold, start to improve. She will also have a new outlook on life as a result of resolving the beliefs and traumas that were held within her body.

The idea that we hold our issues in our tissues is not a new one. What has happened in modern day spiritual communities is an odd romanticization of disembodied or disassociated states, or the creation of methods suggesting that if we only resolved things inwardly, we would all be multi-millionaires that never have any type of issue again. Our lives here are difficult, and the cycle of birth-imbalance-death does create a lot of fear and subsequent illusion for us. But we can navigate them differently, and without a backlog of unhealed material and beliefs– doing so makes an incredible amount of difference in our experiences of this world.

It is always a choice of if we are going to move towards our illusions, or if we are willing and ready to look within. If we create illusions for ourselves, on some level we will always know that we are still in pain. Because we are. It may sound easier or simpler to create illusion for oneself, but it never is, because the pain, the anger, the fear, the low self-worth and self-esteem, are still there. We are still perpetuating a mask of enlightenment, of perfection, of superiority, or even simply of being functional because of what lies unresolved within. What happens if we resolve said masks, and look within, is that we no longer need to pretend, and we can approach the world with authenticity… realizing that as long as we are in human form that we are imperfect humans, ones that are intended to have emotions (and a full range of emotions at that!)

To look at what is creating difficulty in our lives, what is blocking us from our potential is always incredibly difficult. In the book I discuss how out of trauma we create beliefs. We create organizational patterns of relating– both to ourselves and to the world. We hold the trauma we have experienced, with its beliefs and organizational patterns of relating (which I call “loops”– which are the repeated behaviors or phrases that you likely notice yourself going through again and again in your life, as we all do. They point out that something is unclear, incorrect, or could be healed) within our human form.

Modern psychology looks towards the early childhood for the answers to all of this, and while there have been steps towards integrating the mind and body in that type of work, and such examination of the early childhood is necessary, it again only scratches the surface of our healing potential, and prevents us from understanding that our minds and bodies not only interrelate, but that deeper patterns may be creating some of our disturbances and blockages, such as familial and ancestral patterns.

The Body Deva allows for you to look within at whatever is creating issues within your life. This may be an understanding of something simple, such as forging a connection with your body deva so it can tell you that your headaches come from staring at a computer for too long. It can also allow for you to look at beliefs, blockages in career, health, and finances, spiritual patterns such as past lives, ancestral healing, cultural healing, and karmic resolution, early childhood and trauma experienced throughout the personal timeline, and resistance patterns to moving towards your potential in this world.

For example, I use the body deva method for anything from resolving writer’s block to seeing what may be behind being upset at someone I have interacted with in my daily life, to simply asking things like:

  • What is the greatest block in my life?
  • What is preventing me from greater clarity or realization?
  • Why am I feeling grief today?
  • Why am I feeling hip pain?
  • What is going on with this loop (repeated behaviors or phrases or situations I have noticed myself enacting or being a part of again and again)?
  • Is there anything interfering with me bringing my potential into this world?
  • What would allow for me to feel freer or more joyful?

You can bring any belief, any pain, any blockage, and inquiry to this work and seek communion and connection with the body deva to understand and resolve what you are noticing.

I will point out two facets that I have found incredibly helpful in this work. The first is examination of personal myth. Without realizing it we have taken on a centralized myth, and are enacting myths in our daily lives. This may sound helpful– for example, we may take on the mythology of the American Dream and it may cause for us to work towards a goal.

But that central myth is ascribing a certain way of being, certain rules and values to us that are causing for us to not feel free, to feel restricted in some fashion. It is by examining this that we can release the beliefs and ideologies that are restricting us, keeping the facets of things like archetypes, mythologies, and other labels that work, and discarding what is restrictive.

The other is understanding that at a certain point in the healing path we discover that we are not one centralized personality that wants one singular thing. We are made up of many parts, many personalities, many ways of being. This is not pathological, but simply what is discovered once considerable trauma from previous aspects of life (inner child healing, including in utero, early childhood, and any aspect of your timeline up to now in this incarnation… all of which is talked about how to work with in the book) begins to be resolved.

In this you begin to discover that you feel as if these different aspects of you are at war. The part of you that wants to watch Netflix all day is at war with the part of you that wants to go for a run. The part of you that feels strong and sexually dominant is at odds with the shy, perhaps more puritanical aspects of you.

But these things rarely oppose one another. They simply want different things. It is by learning to reconcile these parts, to get them what they are looking for, that they can be understood and bring benefit to your life… instead of unconsciously taking them to be separate aspects of your personality that are at war with one another.

I will also point out a bit about spiritual awakening here, and how this book fits into that genre. The spiritual awakening process is a “purifying” process. In it, prior trauma and issues that are held within the physical form/energy body/chakra system emerge and release. This can be quite overwhelming, even in the most gradual of spiritual awakenings (and especially if you have no idea about what may be going on).

There are a lot of lovely healers and practitioners of all sorts of varieties that can be an important touchstone. Even with this work I do suggest in-person healers as I do often come into contact with people who lack clarity and grounding in reality in some rather alarming ways, and are creating detriment to their own healing or awakening process. We also can look towards others to assist us with the rather large patterns, or simply the things we may find ourselves stuck on.

But we can do so much work for ourselves, and what is needed is knowledge in regards to what is held within, as well as tools for how to navigate and resolve what is arising. By releasing the held trauma and beliefs we can become freer, realize who we are at deeper levels, and become more “awake” (or participate in our own awakening process).

In my process I found it frustrating that the books and tools that I found, even if they were wonderful, either were a marketing tool for someone to purchase courses and did not describe the method at all, or were too simplistic or meant for beginners not looking for depth (or perhaps looking for illusion or easy answers, typically from people who didn’t have much of a background in studying healing methods and who have not ever worked with a client/patient… or from physicians/psychologists who just put this type of work into their framework without giving the field of spiritual studies the respect that it deserves by studying/immersing themselves in it to the degree that they did for their psychological or allopathic pursuits… and this always shows), or focused on providing mechanistic views of the body (even in seemingly holistic or spiritual approaches).

I make it a point as an author to provide as many clear tools and ways of working with something like the body deva so that you can fully do the method– and my assumption in writing is that it is for people beyond the surface level ideologies, or who are willing and ready for a book that explores depth as well as the many different layers and nuances of the healing path (and/or the spiritual path).

Even if someone is not going through a spiritual awakening, self-inquiry and the development of tools like The Body Deva is empowering, causes the person to look within, to heal on an individual basis, and to be proactive in their own healing efforts in a rather large way. We can do so much work on our own, and be so integral and empowered in our own healing process. It does require effort, but healing is worth it. It is so worth it. Self-exploration and inquiry is worth it. The freedom that can come from releasing long-held beliefs and traumas from the system is worth it.

By anchoring and resolving healing work in the human form, and by working with the body deva, all aspects of our life– physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual– not only are attended to, but are resolved, healed, and integrated with one another so we can be balanced as well as understand ourselves on all levels.

I am excited for the book to come out, and I know that it will be of immense assistance to those who are ready to look inward.