Reflections on a Spiritual Path (so far)

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.blue-1907257_1920

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).

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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).

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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”.

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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.

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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.

5 Steps to Release Toxic People

We all have interacted with toxic people. They may be family members, friends (or former friends), neighbors, clients, customers, colleagues, or our boss.

The toxic person is akin to an energy vampire (which I go over here) and in many ways is strikingly similar. Both people are looking to take energy from others because they lack vital energy or access to their own power.

The way that it differs (at least in my mind) is that energy vampires are simply looking to siphon energy. They have a black hole of sorts within them that they are looking to fill. The difficulty, of course, is that hole can never be filled by the energy of another, and unless that person chooses to look for healing and a restoration of the power that they lost, they will continually look to fill themselves with energy (or with drugs or food or experiences).

Toxic individuals have this same black hole, the same sort of missing of essence, but they are filled with such negativity and chaos that they are continually seeking to enact drama and chaos in the outer world. They not only are taking energy, but also shoving their unhealed pain and emotions onto everyone they interact with. This is because they lack the capacity to deal with the amount of unhealed emotions they have within, or because the severity of a trauma that typically occurred in early childhood has caused for them to have a world view (and their energy system/body will reflect this belief and filter energies this way) that people (and the world) are continually out to harm them.

If someone is stuck in this state, it means that they are continually looking to take as much as they can from the world and the people in it, without offering anything of themselves. This will be done in an antagonistic way, as this person is desperate for the healthy connections that being nourished by people and the world create, but as they feel that the world is a place that is frightening or out to get them, they will not connect… and will look to take from the world by any means necessary, without understanding or having the capacity to see what this taking creates… or at the very least, that their world view may be a bit skewed by past trauma.

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How to Know Someone is Toxic
Generally, how we can understand someone to be toxic is that we walk away feeling “slimed” by them. This is sometimes quite literal (at least on an energetic level).

Even if we are not particularly sensitive, there is likely someone in your office or in your life that you inwardly groan whenever they contact you. This is because you leave the situation feeling drained or negative. This is likely not only because of the unneeded drama of the situation, but because you are left taking care of the “slimy” emotions of another, and your system is attempting to deal with it.

This is not just your perception, by the way. People like this the whole office will dislike. This is the person who enters a room and everyone will move or even simply leave so as not to interact with them.

Toxic individuals have little capacity to deal with their emotions and inner chaos and so they are continually looking to push their unhealed emotions and issues onto others. Relationships with them are always and continually about them. While it is trendy to talk about narcissism these days (and there certainly can be some crossover), someone who is truly toxic has no capacity to see or listen beyond themselves and their own experiences of this world.

They are unhealed to the extent that they have no way, no energy, to hold vital space to listen or even see the experiences of those around them. They simply cannot due to the weight of what lies unhealed within them; if we lack vital essence we have nothing to offer to others, and we simply look at the world and the people in it as something to “take” as much of as possible before we are stopped.

In addition to “pushing” their emotions onto others, toxic individuals continually create drama and chaos. This is to recreate whatever is unhealed within them. They will often lack the tools and capacity to recognize that they are doing this, and will often feel as if the world, and all the people in it, are against them.

They are unable to be in groups, don’t interact well with their colleagues, and don’t establish or maintain friendships. In their mind this is always the fault of the group, the work environment, or the world for not accepting them, and every interaction will fuel the ideology that the world is against them, and that they are completely disconnected from everything and everyone. It is a painful way to exist, and the pain of these individuals is palpable.

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In my cording book (which you can find here) I talk about how important cord work is for all of our relationships. In most forms of “cord work” there is talk of cutting cords, and while I find that basic technique effective (and include it in the book), really understanding the energetics of the cord and altering the energetic dynamics of the cord is much more effective (and is gone over in the book).

I mention this because in the book I talk about assessing how much energy we bring vs. take in our relationships. Ideally our relationships would be equal– us offering 50 percent and receiving 50 percent in our relationships. This is true for any relationship, even seemingly “unequal” ones like parent/child, teacher/student, boss/worker etc.

The toxic individual will be taking up more than 90 percent of the energy in this relationship, as well as moving their unhealed emotions through the cord in an effort to get you to engage or take care of them.

Although I understand that the word “toxic” is something of a harsh word, it is really easy to feel compassionate for individuals like this. They are in so much pain and feel such emptiness and they continually live in a world, and perpetuate a world, of incredible chaos.

I have found that the less healed someone is, the less capacity that they have to take personal responsibility for themselves. The toxic individual lacks this capacity to an extent that they are continually expecting others to extend their time and energy when they have nothing to offer of themselves, and create such drama that they will always find someone to engage with and “vent” their issues to in an attempt to get others to not only ascribe to their world view, but to take on their pain for them. This drama fuels the chaos and ideologies around people, or the world, disliking or not wanting them. Frequently toxic individuals are stuck in an infantile state, continually looking for the nourishment and vital energy they did not receive in their childhood.

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Someone being in such pain does not mean that you need to take care of it, however. It does not mean that there is any personal responsibility on your part to either offer them your energy, to take on their unhealed emotions, or to participate in whatever drama they are seeking to cast you in.

Learning these five steps will allow for you to recognize and work with even the most toxic of individuals:

Step One: Recognize your own “stuff”
We may believe someone is toxic because it suits our own worldview. If we determine someone to be “toxic” or “narcissistic”, “arrogant”, or any other word we wish to put on someone, it may be more supportive of our own unhealed emotions or illusions (or not wanting said illusions to be shattered) than anything else.

I went over how to work with this in detail in a two-part blog you can read here (it is about internet trolls, but the same sentiments apply)

Generally if we have an emotional reaction to someone (more than, “ugh, that person is super toxic. get them away from me”), especially one that persists (beyond being rightfully and momentarily angry, surprised… as in you are still thinking about the interaction hours or days later) it is a good indicator that the person is showing you something that you could internally heal.

Whether the person is actually toxic or not is sort of beside the point in this scenario, but by taking personal responsibility for our end of things, we can begin to clearly see the dynamics of others.

Step Two: Recognize what the Toxic Person is doing
Cord work can really help with this, but noticing energetic dynamics of interpersonal interactions is essential to having truly healthy, dynamic relationships.

Do you feel drained, angry, or more chaotic after interacting with someone? Does someone expect for you to do all the work in your relationship?

There are more questions that can be asked here, but in simplicity it is really noticing where your energy is going… as well as what energies you are taking on.

In an equal relationship, there can be occasional instances of being “drained” (like if someone is going through a crisis) but I am talking more about observing your interactions with a person over time to get a baseline understanding of what is going on.

I am not saying that all of our interactions should be sheer joy, but we should gain something out of our connections. If we are not, that is something to consider.

If you are finding yourself angry after interacting, it often is a sign that some breach of boundaries has happened.

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Step Three: Setting up Boundaries
We live in a world in which healthy boundaries haven’t been modeled terribly well. This means that a lot of people have to start from scratch to really discover what their personal boundaries are.

Boundaries are really what we allow in vs. what we put out.

This is, of course, a simplistic definition, and the process of discovering how much of yourself you are willing to offer to others is an ongoing task. It is somewhat lucky that we live in a world in which so many will want to question, tear down, or assume that you have no boundaries, as it will give anyone working on this subject more than enough capacity to begin to build and practice maintaining their boundaries.

The difficulty with boundaries is that they are different for different people. I have different boundaries for my family members, for my friends, and for my students. My boundaries for my students are fairy strict, and tend to be the same for all of my students. My boundaries for my friends are much more fluid, and depend on the friendship.

The toxic individual needs to be reminded, and often, about what your boundaries are. This also requires the capacity to stick to them, by the way.

I recommend saying an inward “no” often to people that are attempting to move beyond your boundaries. This sometimes needs to be paired with an out loud “no”, but the inward “no” is a start, as it begins the process of setting up energetic boundaries.

Step Four: Don’t Rise to the Bait
If you erect boundaries, what will either happen with truly toxic individuals is that they will either find someone else to interact with, or they will double their efforts to create drama and chaos with you.

This will often lead to them being disrespectful, antagonizing, offensive, or overly dramatic in a last effort to engage you in their dynamics.

It may lead to someone also doing a form of “hero worship” in which they butter someone up and tell someone how fantastic they are in an effort to move beyond boundaries. This is more difficult to acknowledge, as it appeals to our ego, but it will still not feel right, and will often end with you ending up firmly off whatever pedestal they have put you on.

The difficulty with this is that someone being disrespectful, obnoxious, or appealing to our instincts to protect (such as toxic individuals who say they are going to kill themselves if someone doesn’t respond or offer attention, which is truly the worst form of this, as none of us want someone else to harm themselves) will bring out our own “stuff”, our own fears and drama.

Work with your own emotions and “stuff” (repeat #1) until you can simply and clearly assert your boundaries as well as engage neutrally with them. I have found that it is best not to call them out, as they are looking for the drama, and it will only perpetuate it or allow for them to create you as “villain” in their minds, or at the very least, add to their unhealed ideologies that the world is against them.

The asserting of outer boundaries (as in, actually telling the person what your boundaries are) done in a neutral (non-emotional) way is also often needed with individuals like this. This does require both personal work (healing your own emotions to the point where you can feel compassion for the person who is doing this, as interacting with the world like this creates immense difficulty), as well as work on your own boundaries to the extent that you know what they are, can say them succinctly, and so you actually stick to them when someone is attempting to broach them, though.

Step #5: Assess Your Relationship
It can be easy to simply state to cut this person out of your life. It is easy for me to say to quit your job, stop communicating with a particular family member, or dissolve a friendship.

It is harder if you are a waiter and have a toxic customer that comes in every Tuesday, really need a job and like your work, except for that one toxic colleague, or have a friendship that has lasted over many years to accomplish that.

The world is full of people, and many of them are unhealed. Some of them are toxic. And it is likely you will need to interact with them by establishing boundaries and saying “no”. I do suggest cutting toxic people out of your life, if you are able to, though.

For people that I need to interact with for whatever reason, I will outwardly establish my boundaries. I will tell them exactly what my boundaries are, and combined with my not responding to their drama, this often works. This works by the person either choosing to interact in a more healthy way with me, or often will result in the sort of baiting and upping of the ante on their part until they recognize that I won’t interact with them in that way.

In my line of work, I encounter a lot of people who are quite unhealed to the point of being toxic, and it is generally my job to be healed enough to not perpetuate or fuel their illusions or unhealed patterns. If we take full and complete responsibility for ourselves, we can recognize that we do not need to take responsibility for the issues of others, that we do not need to be “cast” in a role that others are seeking you for in their illusion and pain, and we can establish boundaries to ensure our safety and well-being.

This all starts with doing your own work, with understanding the interplay between your own wounds and illusions… and the wounds and illusions of another, and choosing to look at your own “stuff” first and foremost. By healing ourselves, we find the boundaries and the self-worth so that even with the most toxic and unhealed of individuals, we can simply establish boundaries and move on with our lives.

Modern Shamanism and Neglected Spirits

One of my largest critiques of the “modern” shamanic movement is that it has stripped away any form of actual spirit interaction. It has, in its own way, stripped away the “spirits” from spiritual work.

If you read modern shamanic books, you will come away with the thought that spiritual work is about the law of attraction, changing your thoughts, ascending to another dimension, or ecospirituality, such as the trend towards permaculture.

If the subject of “spirits” is broached, it is done in an antagonistic or polarizing way. Spirits are “bad”; they are to be cleared, they are to be feared. The idea of purity or cleansing is often used, as if any one of us could be “clear”. I do find cleansing practices quite important (I teach a course in this, as it is the first step anyone should immerse themselves in if they intend to authentically work with spirit) but we live in a world immersed in spirit, in spirits. They are all around us, a part of our lives, a part of our bodies, a part of our world.

The spiritual is not separate from us. Spirits are not separate from us. They are a part of the house we moved into, the history of the land we are on. Spirits and beings are in our yard, our woods, the park. There is a spirit in the lake near you, spirits on your nearest train or on the bus you ride each day.

The idea that all these spirits need to be “cleared”, or even that they could be… that we are intended to be in a world without spirits, signifies our deep disconnect and fear of the spiritual. It is an unhealed ideology, based on a false illusion of separation from the spiritual, and from spirit itself.

We come from a lineage of spirits. Our ancestors are a part of our blood, they are a part of our spiritual power (which is why I suggest working with ancestors as your first spirit contact. I also have a course in this) Elementals and beings of all varieties, including “former humans” are all around us, populating a world that overlays and integrates with our own.

It is a question of if we notice more than the crass physicality of our world or not. If we notice and have ventured beyond the safety of human conditioning to do so.

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There are many reasons why the “spirits” have been stripped away from modern shamanism.

The first reason is fear.

We deeply fear what we cannot see, that which we cannot firmly touch and claim as our own. That which is beyond our rules, beyond our human constructs and mind that grasps to know and rule.

The thought that we are a part of a world in which even the most highly psychic of us can only see a certain percentage of is truly terrifying to those who fear such things, who try to contain such things to a specific thought.

When we fear something, we create rules. This allows us to feel as if spirit follows the rules that we have concocted to ensure our personal needs for feeling safe and in control. The biggest “rule” that modern shamanism has created is the belief that spirits are singularly “compassionate” or not. Generally if someone says to me that spirits can only be compassionate or non-compassionate I know that they do not have the sight to know that the world is literally teeming with spirits and beings of all types, and that they have never authentically interacted with a spirit.

It is no longer shocking or in any way surprising to me that modern shamanism doesn’t believe in spirits, that there are even many practitioners that have no faith or belief in the spiritual who call themselves spiritual practitioners.

People generally find what they are looking for, and I realized at a certain point that what I was offering was the equivalent of broccoli to people who have been fed a steady diet of cotton candy. I am not the only one to offer said broccoli stalk (of course), but the “cotton candy” ideas allow for one to remain in a zone of safety. They do not require any kind of sight or spiritual capacity and focus on psychological self-help.

This is what most people want, as most people do not have spiritual sight or capacity, and simply wish to feel a bit less shitty about themselves. The difficulty, of course, is when someone who has no sight or capacity for spiritual work becomes a spiritual worker. Sight is a part of the job requirements, and it is hard to untangle some of the messes that are created by folks who lack it. I generally do my best to be compassionate these days, but as this is a field that has no outward, technical requirements for entry, and there is a trend away from actually having an authentic, physical teacher that might gently (or not so gently, if you are ready to hear it) tell someone that they should work on themselves first, or that they might want to consider if their spirit guides are mental creations or not… or that they should perhaps pick another career, or that maybe they shouldn’t be teaching shamanism with six months of “shamanic” experience, or that perhaps their creation of a “new paradigm” of shamanism and recreation of a wheel without capacity or study/understanding of the wheel before it isn’t needed, and moreover, may be quite silly…I see a lot that makes me shake my head, upsets me, or occasionally makes me want to go take one of those fake Facebook post jobs where you can move to Italy and be a caretaker for a random place somewhere.

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In some forms of witchcraft, there is the idea of the “hedge”– it really best illustrates this fear, and what is problematic about modern shamanism.

In this concept, the “hedge” separates the contained world. What is contained (between the hedges) is the world of rules, of appropriate societal conduct, of the mind creating illusion and separation. It is our community, what we have constructed as community, and what we consider as “reality”.

To switch up systems, I operate from a quasi-theosophy based system in which I consider there to be our physical body, our emotional body, our mental body, and then our spiritual body. Each of these are “containers” (no, I didn’t put the “etheric” body in there, as it correlates with the physical body in this simplistic example).

Each of these “bodies” has a specific container. This means that if we are at the “densest” or most constrictive container, we only focus on our physical body. If we move outward, we are operating from a place solely based on our emotions– our unhealed ones, at that. Much of modern shamanism is in a firm, mental container.

This is still part of the “hedge”, within the boundaries of polite and disciplined society. This is the level that we create rules out, it is the level that allows for a “top-down” or more expanded look at our emotions (as each container contains the previous ones).

What it does not do is allow for a moving beyond the containers, a moving beyond the hedge, and into actual spiritual experience.

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We deeply fear the spiritual because we recognize its wildness, its otherness. We deeply fear these aspects of ourselves– we prefer to contain them, to push them aside, to stay in the “light” of not only what we deem acceptable about ourselves, but what society has taught us is acceptable.

Without traversing our own depths, we cannot traverse the hedge– we cannot make it out of the maze of our own mental creations, our own projected unmet psychological needs, and the rules we have created to ensure our safety and feelings of being in control.

Shamanic work was brought to the West by people who lacked sight. To psychologists, the work was psychological. To anthropologists, the shaman represented the proverbial “other”.

The combination of these two is devastating to real spirit contact, and to having authentic spiritual experiences. This is because the word “shaman” has turned into something that provides a tidy explanation for “othering” in our culture. What this means is that we now have a culture in which people who have experienced severe fracturing as a form of early childhood abuse now believe that they are “shamans”. When we experience trauma, we formulate beliefs from those traumas… and the belief of a child that has experienced severe abuse will always be that they are that proverbial “other”: that they dislike or hate people, that the world is out to get them, and that they are separate and disconnected from anyone and everything in this world.

The modern shamanic movement feeds into this dissociative and trauma-based fracturing by providing an outlet for people to feed the unmet needs and daydreams of a child that is frozen in time and locked within. This means that people do not receive the care that they need… and their delusions and dissociative tendencies are perpetuated, instead of healed.

If we have created our spiritual reality out of wounds, out of pain, we not only are not immersing in greater spiritual reality but our experiences of the spiritual realm will mimic the abuse– at the far end of this people will believe that they are being constantly attacked. This belief or understanding that one is a “shaman” then allows the person to hang on to their pain, to their beliefs, and to create a spiritual reality out of that unhealed pain and feelings of separation and disconnection. I have seen this for so long and on a daily basis, and as it is rare that people who have created realities like this for themselves are open to questioning it, even if it means that their lives would vastly improve if they healed whatever is causing them to feel “other”, or whatever that pain is that caused them to fracture or separate from feeling human, loved, or appropriately nurtured by the world and the people in it.

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Having shamanic capacity is fairly rare. I have met perhaps a dozen or so people who have it. There is something that happens when you hop over that hedge, when you truly are in concert with spirit, with that “other”– with the wild, vast terrain that is beyond human thought. It marks you, and is easily spotted. The path of the shaman, mystic, root worker, witch, magician, occultist, and other spiritual paths can allow one to come into contact with it. There are many more in the other categories, and I won’t go over definitions here, but if you have traversed that hedge you will notice others who have done so as well, no matter what their spiritual path or label to get there has been.

Trauma of varying types cracks us open. It allows us to examine our deeper parts, to know more than just the crassly physical.If we do not have a reason to look beyond the superficial, the physical container, we tend to remain on the surface of reality. We all know people like this, and those of us on a significant spiritual path may have been jealous at one point of those who can live on the surface, who can play-act the spiritual, and who have not had to be immersed in it. This requires healing, as those who have authentically leaped over the “hedge” can receive the deep connection and nurturing, as well as alliances, to come into a source of flow with what lies beyond that hedge.

So what is beyond the hedge?

It is much easier in a lot of ways to describe what shamanism is “not”– it is not simplistic dualities. It is not a bunch of rules intended to keep the fears of the spirit world, and spirits, at bay. It is not a way to disappear or disassociate due to unhealed trauma. It is not an idea that anything spiritual has nothing to do with this world, and that we should all be clear or free from any sort of spirit contact.

In many ways what is beyond that hedge is what we truly fear. Unknowable, vast, and in many ways uncaring. It is easy to tell when someone has a degree of spirit contact, because not only do they go beyond the “compassionate/non-compassionate” thing, but they realize that there is an entire spirit world out there that not only has little to do with them, that not only is not centered around them, but is just fine without them.

One of the funnier things that I find about the “fear and clear” mentality is that this idea perpetuates a myth not only that spirits are not intended to be a part of our world, but that if we notice them we must declare “sovereignty” and clear them out of our space. The fact that you may be clearing out a kindly grandmother or grandfather who built the house that you are living in from his own two hands and simply might want a bit of peace in his/her favorite place after eighty years of human form based suffering never enters into the equation for those who have this deep fear of the spiritual.

I have worked so many times with spirits who were showed the door or people in their “shamanic wisdom” tried to shove away who were protectors of a land or place, who were fulfilling duties after death that they agreed to, who were protecting occupants from more dangerous spirits and beings (and then those come out after the “clearing”), or who simply wanted a bit of rest before moving on.

When spirit contact is established, the concept of “right relationship” develops.

This is not a “humans are on top of the food chain and must dominate and everything they say, goes” sort of mentality. This mentality is incredibly destructive, and quite frankly, obnoxious to many spirits and beings who often rightly believe that humans are little more than kindergarteners running around with scissors.

In right relationship with the spirit world, there is a realization that develops that is notable in pretty much anyone who develops an authentic connection to the spirit world, and who interacts with the many being there.

This realization is that archangels and angels can be complete assholes. They can be fierce, don’t care about human thought, and often think that humans are incredibly stupid. Deities can be jealous and don’t really care about you making your car payment on time. Elementals don’t think like humans do and don’t share our ethics or even speech patterns. “Dark spirits” can be direct and straightforward as well as simple to work with (much simpler than living humans, for example). Former humans can be “elevated”, as in healed and willing to be of assistance, but most of them are typically similar to the way they were when they were alive… which is why they are in need of healing and still populating our world.

The realization of complexity of spirits and the spirit world develops, to be simple.

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If you go beyond the physical and emotional and mental layers and constructs of this world, you find yourself in the Void. The empty, freefall space… the place that leads to the vast terrains of the spiritual, to the truly seeing and experiencing beyond the capacity of human thought.

What is beyond that place is our own primal nature, our wild, everything we have tried so hard to contain. Everything we tell ourselves is wrong about ourselves. It is beyond our own needs, our own puritanical constructs (even if we do not believe that we are immersed in christianized religion, this is where much of the modern-day ideology of “spirits are evil and must be cleared” comes from). It is freeing, and beautiful. It is endlessly fascinating, and endlessly interesting.

It will change the life and the mentality of someone to realizing how one can traverse immeasurable depths, and once down the proverbial rabbit hole that immenseness just keeps on expanding and expanding to experiences and depths that are simply not talked about, and in many cases are rightly not talked about, or lack words to express.

It moves someone beyond “their” need for rituals and spirit contact. It moves someone from placing pretty flowers on a cloth to bring to the ocean because that is what someone thinks the ocean would like… to actually speaking to the spirit of the ocean, to the elementals who populate in and around the ocean, the beings who inhabit the depths of that ocean, and asking not only if they would like a ritual, but what that ritual should be and what offerings they would like. This is a big difference, and I cannot stress how important this difference in approaches is.

It is like a beautiful, messy freefall to be in a place to explore this “other”. It means continually and constantly learning, constantly expanding, constantly spelunking and discovering what is beyond what you currently know to be true. This world is full of magic, full of spirit, and people, even people on a spiritual path, rarely notice it. They rarely honor it.

To see, and to be willing to see, that our physical world is but a mere glimpse of what lies beneath and beyond it, is beyond the scope of our minds to process, to control, and to allow ourselves to experience.

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It is sad to me how watered down and lacking of spirit much of modern day spiritual work is. Many of the spirits and beings that I connect with would love to be interacted with appropriately. Greater spirit would love to be honored. How to honor it is not controlling, not by fearing, and not by thinking that you are commander. It is by truly honoring, listening, and understanding that you are in a vast network, a vastly infinite universe in which you are not the center but simply a participant, that spirit contact can be made.

It is by breaking outside of your mind, the mind that creates so much of your world, and by questioning what lies beyond your own needs for the Universe, that such contact can be created.

This contact is life-changing. It is healing. It allows one to not only realize that they are not separate, but that they are truly and deeply connected, that the world is full with wonder, and that with an understanding and belief that the world is filled with magic, beauty, and spirit (and spirits) that the world changes from just a materialist self-centered existence to being unique, dangerous, blissful, safe, and everything else all at once.

In many ways, it is a conscious choice to open our eyes. To move beyond what we have been taught. To let go of the control and the fear. To realize that if we go from noticing one percent of the universe to two percent, that not only will we be okay, but we may discover some things about ourselves and the universe that will directly impact our lives and allow for us to expand beyond our conceptions of ourselves.

The difficulty is that this either requires natural sight, something like the physical evocation and manifestation of a being (which forms of magic do, to get people out of the materialist mentality), or something else to “crack’ the person open enough to be willing to move beyond the physically based universe and into the seeing of what is around them.

While this capacity does not require a huge amount of personal stability, it also requires discernment as to what is self-created vs. what is not, and people rarely like to do this as the first “spirits” we meet are typically our own sub-personalities and what we have shoved aside, especially if we are of the “love and light” variety, or the mental creation of a “guide” who will tell someone how wonderful they are and who will perpetuate the psychological wounds and illusory material created by those wounds of the spiritual seeker.

Moving away from this sort of stuff takes time, and willingness. If we have created an entire universe for ourselves based off of an inner wounded child, it is unlikely that we will destroy it, even if it is creating pain for us.

Even if our rules, our pain, and our needs for the spirit world to be a certain way are separating us from spirit, from the spirit world, it is a question of whether we are able and willing to move beyond that. Those that are can move from feeling disconnected, fragmented and isolated in a physically based world in which they don’t really believe in spirit (despite secretly hungering for it) and on to healing the parts of themselves that seek such separation, that believe themselves to be “other”, and into truly being connected to something, for perhaps the first time.

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It sometimes saddens me that people are so far removed from spirit, especially when they consider themselves “shamans” or “spiritual workers” (or any other form of title). Our world desperately needs a return to honoring spirit, to working on our inner shadow so we can move beyond the fear and dissociative trauma-based projections of spirit and needs for control of spirit.

Greeting the spirits of your home, of your yard, and of your neighborhood is a good way to start. Do this without expectation that they will be your “helper” or that they will tell you wonderful things focused on your needs. Do so without asking in return for anything. Although this is simple, it will begin to not only take someone beyond the idea that the spirit world is there just for the taking, and centered around the needs and illusions of the Self, but it will begin to allow the spirit world to see that humans are not just looking to take, and that they are actually listening.

Spirit, and spirits, are always there. It is a two-way street, in which we develop a relationship. What we give, how much we are willing to connect, how far we are willing to move beyond our own fear, to traverse our own depths, is always reflected in how much we can expand, what universes we can traverse, and if and when we can move beyond the confines of the hedge and into spirit, and spiritual, contact.

Moving Beyond the True Self

There is a continual search for the “true”, “authentic” or “pure” self in spiritual and neo-shamanic traditions; the idea that if we just move away the clutter and the pain that we would be one personality, one self, one integrated whole.

This is an important quest, by the way. Finding out who we are, the sort of quest of individuation and realization of who we are in relation to the world… what unique essence or capabilities we have that could be of benefit to the world… this is all important, and this quest is understandable and necessary.

In neo-shamanic and modern spiritual circles, this quest can perpetuate the sort of selfishness and entitlement that comes from not having an outer purpose. If we do not desire anything beyond our own egoic aims, such as the thought of “finding ourselves” really is (or can be), we tend to lack the capacity to see beyond ourselves and our own experiences of this world.

We may, in fact, move into a spiritual path with eyes willfully closed, creating our relationship with spirit, and the spiritual path, as one of righteous indignation and wounding, rather than greater expansion beyond who we currently are and what our wounds and restrictions are. In worst case scenarios, we can use a spiritual path to completely close ourselves off to anything beyond our own basic ideas of ourselves.

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Awakening allows for the capacity to move and see beyond yourself (as a simplistic notion). It allows for the realization that what we think is important is often illusory and fleeting. It is a path of being able and willing to look at what restrictions we have, what beliefs that we have constructed and been given, and what sort of blind reactions that we have in this world. We can move through this world in a state of willful blindness and ignorance or one of being really willing to see… despite that seeing causing our concepts of ourselves that we have constructed with such care and out of such pain to release and dissolve.

It is a path that leads to gradually more and more realization of how selfish we are, and how in that selfishness we rarely consider one another, empathize with one another, or have the capacity or willingness to understand and see how we impact others and what we are bringing to this world.

Reconciling that innate selfishness that binds us to only consider ourselves is a part of the spiritual path. Being willing to see our own selfishness is a tall order, but being willing to see this allows for us to move beyond it and into oneness and further freedom (release of restrictions and that which creates pain in us).

We do not awaken by surrounding ourselves with people who all are the same as ourselves. We tend to put ourselves in a bubble, only interacting with people who are exactly the same as us, and with the same ideas. It takes a fair amount of willingness and effort to move beyond this bubble… and many choose not to.

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I was having a talk with someone the other week about how some spiritual aspirants use their spiritual path to consolidate their own ideas and wounds; that instead of this expansion quality, the sort of lessening and easing of personally held beliefs and ideas, and the interaction with new ideas and movement beyond the Self, that people can become quite righteous, closing off themselves to anything that is outside of their own experience, and into a sort of bubble or cocoon of their own creation.

I sat with the realization for a long time that there were some folks who I chatted with who had been on a spiritual path for ten, twenty, or thirty years who totally and completely lacked any sort of consciousness. There had been no expansion, no movement beyond the self.

Many of these sorts were of a duller consciousness than those who were taking their first steps on the spiritual path– they had no capacity to understand their intuition, no openness to hearing about anything other than they had already thought of, and often with a stockpile of emotions and quite chaotic lives… which tends to happen to people who pursue spiritual activities and workshops without personally processing and integrating them.

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Moving towards some greater purpose: looking for “truth”, or expansion beyond the self allows for one to not get caught in this egoic nature– of having the wounds and needs of the mind create a spiritual path for the person– this path (or tendency to bubble in a sort of solopsistic universe) is mentioned here because in order to move beyond the “true” self, we must first understand the true self, and where many may create diversions for themselves on the spiritual path.

And our true selves are way beyond the capacity of our own mental creations, which typically seek control, order, and are based off of what we already know (and need to be) “truth”. If our minds create our spiritual reality, we lose our tether towards any sort of expansion or truth, and despite authentically seeking– going to workshops, immersing ourselves in teachings, and so forth– we can restrict ourselves from ever really experiencing anything.

The question would be then how would we know? How would we know that we are on a correct spiritual path, and that we are, in fact expanding?

The simple answer to this is that if we are creating and following more rules, have more restrictions, and our spiritual path is only about ourselves, that we may be moving towards a selfish spiritual path.

But the real testament is that if life is chaotic, painful, and the spiritual path is not leading to wholeness and peace, there is something there to heal. Our lives are notoriously messy, and human, and the purpose would not be to have a life completely free from those elements, but there is great stillness and peace that emanates from those who have had spiritual attainment that they have properly integrated… despite what may be going on in their existence… and what they have attained is not only palpable but noticeable by even those who are not what we would refer to as “sensitive” in any capacity.

What this means is that even if there is chaos, difficulty, and all that life can throw at someone on the spiritual path… overall there should be more freedom and a basic movement away from the drama and chaos that we tend to perpetuate in an unhealed state. If our spiritual path is creating more and more imbalance, that may be a temporary necessity, but overall there should be more maturity, peace, and ability to understand and feel compassion for those different than you… as well as the ability to move beyond the sort of chains of basic self-interest that bind so many.

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What a lot of people seemingly misunderstand is the sort of idea of thresholds or spiritual bases of knowledge; that we must pass through a specific initiation to move beyond it.

The true self is one of those gateways.

When we move closer and closer to this true self– releasing the wounds and baggage we carry, healing, understanding who we are at the deepest levels– we realize that the true self is one of those thresholds. It is not a final destination.

When we reach this destination we discover that the idea of a “true self” is just a stopping point, a doorway into understanding a greater truth.

This is like much knowledge– what we know and what we have embodied (processed and directly experienced… as in intellectualism on a spiritual path will only lead someone so far without direct experience) takes us until we reach a specific doorway/wall or initiation.

We then realize that our search is over in the sense that we move beyond that quest, as we realize such a quest is an illusion.

In this case, there is a discovery that we are not one, centralized Self, not one “true” self, but a variety of energies making us up. We may have a part of ourselves that wishes to go out on a ten mile run, and another that wants to watch Netflix in our sweatpants.

Those forces within us are not in opposition, they need not battle. They are simply different aspects of ourselves. We can be both shy and violent, both masculine and feminine, and have differing aspects of ourselves that have a different voice, different aims, and different thoughts on what we should be doing with ourselves.

We tend to believe that these parts of ourselves are in opposition; they are at war. They are not, and we need not castigate the parts of ourselves that are not socially appropriate for our conceptualization of ourselves.

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If we are shy, that does not mean that we need not be also loud and defiant. If we are known as being an extrovert, that does not mean that we constantly need to be “on” because we are known for our extroversion.

By understanding our multiplicity, and that we have different forces within us, different personalities and sub-personalities, we can realize that we are, in fact, many things.

We do like the idea of ourselves as being one concrete whole, as if we look hard enough and for long enough we will come to believe ourselves to be this shiny, white, perfected light.

What happens when we find and peer into that light is that moving beyond the initiation of the “true self” will lead one to their complexity, their messiness, and working with the forces within.

Ideally these forces would be treated equally, and with compassion. There is a neglected voice within us that wants us to relax and eat chocolate. We often brutally shove down that voice because we are a culture of “doers”… or we engage in that activity constantly without really satiating it because we are thinking about how bad we are for relaxing, or doing something non-productive.

Obviously for this sentiment to be understood we need to be past the point of understanding logically that if a voice within us seeks to cause us harm, that we should not create harm to ourselves and others. So if anyone is not past that point yet, this realization is not yet something that should be considered, and other healing is necessary.

But if we consider that energetically we are many things– we are many forces coming together– from the personal to the archetypal, from the elemental to past lives to ancestors, from world and local energies coming together as you were being formed at a specific point in history– we can understand the forces that create us, the different aims within us, and move beyond the threshold of the “true self” to understand ourselves in multiplicity… and cease the battle.

We can be okay and truly offer ourselves what differing aspects of ourselves need, without feeling the regret and admonishing of other forces within us. We may wish to be a masculine warrior type one day, and a shy bookworm the next… you can be both a warrior and a bookworm simultaneously in fact… and they are both “you”, they are not in battle with one another, and you can feel compassion and allow for them to simply be a part of you, without seeking or centralizing a simplistic idea of Self, or of True Self, as a quest or guiding force in ones’ life.

So seek the True Self (I teach this in my Discernment course), but realize that it is but a threshold, as much knowledge is… and if you are ready to move beyond that doorway, the “True Self” that has been learned and quested after will disappear… which is as it should be… to attain even deeper knowledge and understanding of Self.

Can We Take Others Further than We Have Gone?

I get asked this question occasionally in several different ways (most recently the other week), and so I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter.

The basic question here is: can we take others (meaning students/patients/clients) further than we have gone ourselves?  There are also several related questions, such as: if we have not had a particular experience, can we work with that? as well as the different ways we can look at the first question (and if we are talking about experience, education, or consciousness overall)… such as can we bring someone past the point of our own consciousness level?

When I first started doing work with clients (beyond my experiences doing basic massage therapy at a spa-type setting) I took this question fairly literally. My response would have been “sure”, meaning that I saw that I got clients from many different walks of life and was able to provide what I felt was adequate care for them.

Most notably in this phase I worked with a lot of firefighters (my business was across the street from a fire station) and generally I get along with these sorts, likely because we both have a tendency towards dark or sarcastic humor (yes, I am generalizing, but it is a valid point). I have zero experience as a firefighter (and watched a house burn down last week and still can’t believe that there are people that willingly run into burning/smoking buildings for a living) but found that although I had not had the same direct experience, I could still listen, empathize, and care for others appropriately.

Although the question of If we have not had a similar experience, can we work with that? is somewhat clumsy, I found that the basic capacity to listen, to truly hear, and to be neutral (as in, open enough to not judge experiences and personally willing to hear about experiences dissimilar to my own without it creating inner chaos in myself that would pull me away from focusing on my patients/clients) is something fairly rare in our modern day culture… as is safe, neutral (non-sexual) touch. Just the act of having someone listen to you with compassion and non-judgment is incredibly healing.

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We also feel unsafe sharing our experiences, or may simply feel unsafe as individuals due to our individual or collective history. Creating safety and a container for the sessions (a complicated topic that I won’t fully go into) so the person can realize your boundaries can allow for safety to be built. Clients (just using this as a general word) will continually test my boundaries… sometimes this is simply because they are entitled, or irritating, but mostly it is because they are attempting to find some semblance of safety… to know that I have boundaries and what definitively they are. We often balk at the creation of boundaries as healers, but those boundaries being consistently maintained are what creates good healing work and general safety in a session.

HOWEVER… What I will say about the whole “experience” thing is that those firefighters would have likely interacted much differently if there were scheduling an appointment with someone who was or used to be a firefighter, or had more knowledge of that world. This gets complicated, as what many of them may have been looking for was a reprieve from that, or safe touch from a female (even if they were not conscious of those needs). But there is an extremely high likelihood that they would have not only interacted differently but worked on different topics if I had experienced anything similar to what they did in their daily lives and work.

Being heard in community of peers is incredibly important. Having someone deeply know and understand your experience from the inside-out and having the above capacity to listen, hear, and create safety, boundaries, and neutrality, results in an automatic sense of deeper connection and safety. In shamanic work, the purpose of shamanic sickness and the wounded healer concept in general is that the individual will pass through their own healing crisis and come out the other side. This is one of the reasons why those truly called to spiritual work often come down with rather odd and sudden illnesses that they pass through (whether that takes hours or decades is the question, of course).

But even in a more “mundane” capacity, finding friends, support groups, and so forth of people who have had the same experiences that you have had, no matter what they are, allows for the person to move beyond the “I am the only person who has ever experienced this” type of mentality and harmful separation ideology into a profound space.

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This is about an embodiment and energetic attuning process. What this means is that a system (and you know, the person attached) that has struggled with Lyme disease (for example) will not only have the intellectual understanding of what to look for in patients, will also have a history of what has worked for them and what hasn’t on their journey towards personal healing, and not only can deeply listen to others that are a “past mirror” or “former aspect of self” (all tendencies in client work), but that their system can show the client currently struggling what a healed (or more healed than the client is currently, hopefully) system is like.

This is typically on a rather subconscious level, by the way. There is a deep knowing on the part of the client (also very subconscious) about what they can share with their healer/clinician as well as this attuning process in which the energetic system of the healer shows the client a state of greater health or harmony than the client currently has.

So we get to the issue of consciousness here. 

So I will basically say this: the openness and relative consciousness of the healer creates the container for the session.

This sounds complicated, but I will illustrate through a story. I was friends with a fellow Acupuncturist that ran a clinic nearby. She got fertility and pain patients primarily, while I got trauma, emotional and spiritual chief complaints (as well as headache/migraine people, but that is a different story). Clinicians of varying sorts often have specialities, so this wasn’t a terrific surprise.

What I realized after referring patients back and forth was that the same patient would come to me and start talking about wanting to heal their grief, or spiritual patterns and they would go to her and talk about infertility. I realized on a basic level that not only did I have no interest in fertility work, but that my mind was closed to people who wanted to spend a hundred thousand dollars on IVF (this is my issue, not theirs of course) and my thoughts as to overpopulation and effect on the world. So they wouldn’t bring it up.

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When I got more comfortable with my own sensitivities and “shamanic/spiritual” path, I also started having clients show up who wanted this work. At this time I was an Acupuncturist, Craniosacral Therapist (etc. lets just say a lot of bodywork and mind-body-energy work type studies) and in no way on my website or in person did I talk about having sensitivities/perceptual/psychic abilities or that I did spiritual work. They just knew, and as I healed my own inner “stuff” surrounding the topic, the more that I healed the more that people came to me… and the greater service I could be to them.

I have had people say things to me occasionally like: “I never get clients like that” or “clients never bring things like this up” or even “nobody wants to work on that level” and what it is always an indicator of is the healer not having “healed” that within themselves to the point that they can create this container– this sacred space wherein the client feels safe and ready to tackle such healing work.

Additionally, being a healer is a constant evolution. It involves not only the embodied experience of having many different clients over the years, and what you learn from that, but it should be an internal process of healing to offer more of yourself to your clients (as well as further education and practices to do so in the elusive “spare time” healers have)

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We have complicating variables with this, as sometimes a modality has incredibly high “consciousness” but the individuals who practice the modality may not. I am a passionate advocate of CranioSacral therapy. To me it resets the nervous system and allows for a physical-energetic-mental-emotional-spiritual continuum of healing that is one of the most profound things that I have found out there (and I have done a lot of healing work/exploration of different modalities). It has truly effected incredible healing personally for me.

This modality has a wonderful and expanded “consciousness” that focuses on things like neutrality and creating a safe place for people to explore, whatever that exploration may need to be. However, individual therapists do not have such consciousness (and I am not picking on CST practitioners, this happens with every single healing modality out there. Try finding an Acupuncturist these days who is spiritually minded. It is difficult).

Partially this is experience. Ida Rolf used to say something like that she wished people (post her 2-4 year training in the matter) wouldn’t call themselves “Rolfers” (a bodywork modality focusing on the fascia or how the structure organizes around gravity) before they had five years of experience (full time, one would assume, singularly focused on Rolfing) because what they are doing is not Rolfing yet. This consideration has a lot of ramifications for healing modalities that may have a beginner course that is a single weekend, or someone who has not yet seen enough clients to move past barriers that clients will inevitably bring up in them (if they are willing to look/grow in reaction to that, that is)

A lot of people get stuck in this. If we are uncomfortable in ourselves, or have not healed a specific topic within ourselves, we will either shut up the client (redirecting or ignoring what we cannot handle), or more likely, they will simply not bring it up. In the CST community, there is a similar and unfortunate “new-age” capacity to deal with emotions… which is not at all… and the belief that anger needs to turn into hugs, or that the end stage of healing must include forgiveness, a hug, and love all around.

While some of this mentality drops away after solid experience (and hearing about what clients have gone through the idea of suggesting that they imagine hugging whomever to heal seems ludicrous), our own consciousness and comfort level with a particular topic creates this level of restraint in a session, often to the detriment of the client.

I had a client who I suggested work on his inner violence. He was someone who felt a surge of power when being violent, and was having trouble navigating the fact that a part of him really enjoyed this primal, instinctual energy and the power and “masculine/machismo” that it created when it came out. He got noticed, he got seen, and he got more respect in certain ways. He had incredible difficulty in finding anyone that not only he felt comfortable talking about such a thing with, but who was able to move away from their own fear and ideologies enough to help him to understand that this primal instinct did not need to become love and light, or anything other than what it was. It simply needed to have an appropriate outlet. He eventually found this through martial arts (specifically Aikido) but not through Craniosacral therapy, which was the perfect modality for him…. except he couldn’t find a therapist who had worked through enough of their stuff to take him where he needed to go.

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When we talk about this in regards to spiritual teaching and work I will say that the answer here is typically also that we can only teach or take others as far as we have gone. Where the limits are of a spiritual teacher in terms of their consciousness and experience level (including embodied experience as well as, quite frankly, education, as anti-intellectualism in spiritual circles is a huge constraining factor) always restricts their students.

However… (yes, this is another however) in spiritual work I often people show people doorways, or they go through initiations, that take them into what I either have experienced and cannot describe (or will not, so they just don’t take on my cosmology/belief system/experiences verbatim… another huge difficulty in the “spiritual teacher” arena) or they will actually utilize that experience to fuel them to go beyond where I have been with that particular topic.

So the answer is a sort of “yes” here… meaning that on the spiritual path what the individual student does with the information that I offer, whatever that may be, can take them far beyond where/what I have experienced and “expand their consciousness” beyond my current thoughts or realizations about that situation, or in general.

I will say that I am the sort of teacher that loves when a student comes into their own, when I see them move beyond their own barriers, and especially those willing to move beyond the sort of surface layer type b.s. that is so readily perpetuated by so many in the “spiritual” realm. Some teachers are not like that, however many are.

I always warn people to look out for teachers that are static in their understandings. It is a difficulty that once in “teacher” mode that someone may close down any of their personal expansion. This means that students will often outgrow that teacher. These static understandings also may come from an organization or teacher further up who is creating a rather rigid container for them to teach under, however (and unfortunately). This turns into a bad game of “Telephone” and lacks the embodied experience and essence that a truly fantastic teacher will relate.

I will say, as a last aside, that the difficulty with spiritual teaching is that you always hope that students will move beyond your consciousness level– that they will grow and contribute to the world in amazing ways. Ideally the path of “awakening” is to bring as many others with you along the way as are willing or able. I once didn’t understand how teachers could not teach the totality of what they knew. But when you get into things like how to curse (and you teach that to students… which I do not) and so forth, there is a reason for that holding back, and it is because inevitably a student will erupt in some sort of chaos, and despite all the seeing and divination and barriers you put up to ensure that such things don’t occur, they will. And you will have to deal with it. So it is a difficult thought process that guides many teachers who may be holding back information.

So the basic thought here is that in general… no, you cannot take students, clients, and so forth beyond your current consciousness level or your current and basic internal capacity to deal with a subject. But you can, in some cases, show people the door, and they may walk through in an entirely different way than you did, moving far beyond what you taught them. And that is a wonderful sight to behold.

8 Common Ego Traps: Part Two

You can find Part One, and the first three ego traps, here…

There are many ego traps that I could go over here, and some I will not talk about because I talk about them quite frequently in other blogs. The spiritual path is about becoming whole– about expressing compassion and love for ourselves (and every aspect of ourselves). Our darkness is not “bad” and does not need to be turned into “light”, we do not need to set up rules for fear or anger to make them more palatable to ourselves or provide the illusion that we are in control of them, and without truly engaging with the primal aspects of ourselves, and aligning with their power and wisdom, we cannot come into our full capacity and power as human beings.

The spiritual path requires a certain amount of discipline and education, and I do think that one of the greatest ego traps is playing into the mentality that this sort of thing is not needed, thus fueling the outer societal thoughts about how spiritual sorts are ignorant or delusional. It is rare that people are willing to engage in the sort of discipline and move beyond the easy or one-step fix-it popularized spirituality that is ultimately illusory and perpetuates cultural myths about spirituality and the direct spiritual path being “inferior” or even laughable to a society still steeped in materialism, thus creating an outer split between material and spiritual “consciousness”, but I will end my soapboxing (about this at least) and move on with the rest of the list.

I do realize that these are difficult questions to ask of oneself, but the sort of restrictions and blockages that are carried within (and the sort of “traps” they create) can be realized and moved through, allowing movement towards more freedom and wholeness on the spiritual path overall. The question, of course, is if we are willing and ready to sit with difficult questions and realizations and openly and honestly ask ourselves such things… and be willing to hear, openly and honestly, the answers.

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Ego Trap #4: Not taking Personal Responsibility for Ourselves
As long as any part of us is fractured, or separated from itself, we will find such aspects in the outer world. In an unawakened state, we blindly and chaotically react to the world around us, living from the wounds and beliefs created from those wounds.

The spiritual path is really one of radical responsibility, one in which we become more adult. When we are wounded or traumatized, a part of us becomes frozen in that state. We may have had many experiences like this (as well as trauma that was passed down to us from varying sources), and most people are in a childlike state, living from their wounds and constantly re-creating their wounds in the outer world in an effort to heal them.

While the spiritual path is one of deep questioning (at times which is uncomfortable), temporary chaos, dissolution of ideas and the destablization that happens as a result of coming into a state of greater wholeness… as a whole, the spiritual path should make one more “adult”, more centered, grounded, and with less baggage. If this is not happening, it is something to question.

If we are willing to take any sort of responsibility for ourselves, we can begin to realize that we constantly project our wounds onto others. What we see in others is a reflection of what is unhealed within us. Our reactions to others are rarely coming from a current, adult state– they are coming from engaging in a scenario, or with an emotion, that is “looped”– that part of ourselves, unhealed, that is frozen in time.

So there are some questions here that can be asked to move past this:

  • What do I see in this person that is a reflection of myself?
  • What am I projecting onto this situation or person?
  • What age is this response from? (when reacting to a situation or person… as in, is it your current, adult self, or might it be a surly teenager, a know-it-all twenty-something, an abused child)
  • Am I finding an outlet for my internal emotions and pain in the external world?

For that last question there is a realization that when we have a stockpile of anger within, we will always find things (or people) to fixate that anger on. Same with anxiety, or fear, or grief. If we believe that the world, or the people in it, are always out to victimize us, we will create that scenario again and again until we heal whatever is within that caused that belief to be created. We can find external ways in which to validate and externalize our emotions into the physical world. If we sit with our emotions long enough, we can understand that our inner pain is always looking for an outlet, and we can always find someone or something to make us angry, cause us to grieve or despair, someone to recreate our issues with our mother, or father with. The question of what am I really angry (fearful, anxious) about always comes into play here… because chances are that it is not your current, adult self that is feeling this way.

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I will say as an aside that this world is chaotic, and noisy, and filled with wounded people who do wounded things. It is wonderful to feel emotions, to get angry at your boss, or to feel grief at others looking to simply take and wound in their pain and separation. We should feel emotions that are from the present moment, and allow ourselves to deeply feel them and use them appropriately. But there is a question of if what we are feeling is current and appropriate for the situationThis distinction can only be had if we are willing to take personal responsibility and assess how we may be projecting our inner wounds onto others, and the world. There is also the question of if you are using your anger as a creative, vital, flowing “get stuff done” sort of force of action (as it can be in its healed state) or if you are simply shoving it down or stockpiling it for later because you do not wish to feel it, or do not have the skills to feel it (or the compassion and/or wholeness towards the emotion to recognize it as a valuable source of wisdom).

Ego Trap #5:  Not recognizing the Persecutor- Selfishness and Lack of Heart
When we are in pain, it is nearly impossible to see outside of ourselves. It is important in times of personal chaos to focus on the Self. But for many the spiritual path may be a way to be the eternal victim– always seeing the world and the people in it as looking to take, victimize, or harm us.

Because we have experienced harm in the past, we have closed our hearts in our need to protect ourselves. The difficulty with this is that with a closed heart, we cannot empathize with others. We cannot look beyond our own fleeting and often insignificant needs, our own trauma, our own beliefs. The great irony here is that we have closed ourselves off so we cannot be hurt again, but in doing so, we hurt or are not available to others.

On the spiritual path it is incredibly important to reconcile and heal all of those hurts– all of the pain, difficulty, and integration of the parts of ourselves that have separated, frozen in time, and are “looping” again and again. But it takes a soul of great courage to reconcile the sort of selfishness that causes for one to take, to not give, and to move beyond the mindset of the Self being the protagonist, or the center of the Universe, on the spiritual path.

The end result of a spiritual path is always one of giving. It is about moving beyond those wounded pieces and then about seeing how you can be of service to others. The spiritual path is not about you, basically. It is about you moving beyond your “I”, your ego, to the point that you can be a adult, mature presence of strength, wisdom, and stillness in a world that could really use those sorts of people.

Realizing that we have been selfish, self-centered, and do not consider others is a difficult thing to awaken to. But it is a huge ego trap for people, and realizing how we interact with people, what we ask for others, and if it comes from a place of “taking”, or a place of reciprocity is the first step. Do we express gratitude when others offer themselves to us? In our pain and self-interest, we naturally assume that the world and people in it are going to simply offer themselves to us. When we expand beyond our own selfishness, we realize not only that we can take personal responsibility for ourselves, but that what we ma be asking of others and of the Earth may not be of right relationship.

Moving beyond “right relationship” and basic reciprocity (considering what we offer to someone or something vs. what we take) is the ability to be in a heart-centered place. This does not mean lack of boundaries, or thinking everyone is the “same” with equal value… it means that you can, with compassion, realize that someone is lashing out at you because they are not in a place to take personal responsibility for their pain, and you can decide to not engage in recreating their “loop” or trauma, and can also express compassion towards the parts of yourself that may have at one time resembled or resonate with such pain.

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Ego Trap #6: Seeking Bliss and Highs– Spiritual Escapism
Some of the most amazing experiences can be had on the spiritual path– the sort of bliss and expansion that contact with divinity can create is addictive. The moments of bliss can help for those going through difficult spiritual experiences to have a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” and see them through some incredibly rough patches on the spiritual path.

There are also those who seek out drugs, spiritually vacation, attend endless retreats, or create imaginary worlds for themselves in which they are a goddess, god, or demi-god in order to move away from their daily lives, and to escape the pain and difficulty of being human.

If we are seeking spirituality because we are unhappy about our lives, the solution is to use spirituality, or to work with a spiritual path, to heal that. Our spiritual existence is not separate from our physical existence, and if we are disassociated, disembodied, unhappy, or constantly seeking the next high on the spiritual path, that indicates that something within needs to be healed.

Ego Trap #7: Not Reconciling Race, Class, and Privilege
We tend to not want to look at how we may have had privilege in our lives, about how what country we live in, what race or culture we are from, or what class of society we are in affords certain privileges.

We tend to largely surround ourselves with people with the same backgrounds, the same race, class, and ideas as ourselves. We also tend to read things that we agree with (and the same shows and books over and over again, just with different names on the cover) to shelter ourselves from new ideas, contrasting ideas, or the reality of our sheltering.

In our spiritual seeking, we may not realize that we are enacting history and the same issues of “taking” that colonization created. Without reconciliation that we are participating in the same “loop” that our ancestors did, just in a different way… without reconciling that we are ignoring that such a history or loop exists, we cannot fully move beyond and heal the internal judgment, persecution, and dominant beliefs that have been passed down to us by society, by our family or ancestry, or by world history at large.

All of us, no matter race, religion, spiritual path, class, or caste, have judgment or seek to separate from others in some fashion. Recognizing and being willing to admit our own biases is a difficult thing to ask, but the effects of this are not only personal wholeness, but the realization that our differences make us beautiful. Cheesy sentiment, I realize, but if you consider that the spiritual path is one of relational changes– meaning gradually understanding that your neighbor, your community, the world, the Earth, and the cosmos are all part of you… and being willing to see what judgments, hatred, divisions, persecutions, and unwillingness there is to engage with some of those parts, and that inner hatred, racism (etc) that you have unreconciled within will give way to wholeness (and the ability in the outer world to engage with more than just people that look, act, and think exactly like you).

The solution to this is to realize that your mind/ego wants sameness. It doesn’t want to reconcile disparate ideas. So read books by authors totally different than you, read about religions and spiritual paths from people living them, and meet, interact, and most of all listen to the stories, experiences, and pain of others. We have a tendency to dismiss pain that we have not experienced directly, to dismiss the experiences or see them as invalid if they are not the same “truth” as our own. Actively seek to expand and open your mind to people, places, and ideas that you do not agree with, and see if you can feel compassion or understand how others who think, believe, or have experienced differently than you, as it is the key to your own expansion.

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Ego Trap #8: Not realizing our own Beauty and Worth
One of the funniest things on the spiritual path is that you get to a certain point that you realize that you are restricting yourself not out of some deep, dark, childhood wounds (or ancestral, etc) but because there is a mechanism within you that doesn’t believe that you can move beyond a certain point on the spiritual path

Who are you to feel power? Who are you to feel joy when others are struggling with so much? Who are you to be great or worthwhile or succeed or awaken? Who are we to feel divinity or oneness or grounded or heart-centered? Who are you to heal? Who are you to have a job that you love, to know what you are here to do? Who are you to know who you are on the deepest levels? Who are you to move beyond the blind pain and reactivity that the world and the people in it engage in? Who are you to be whole?

We struggle so much with healing the parts of ourselves that are broken, frozen, disassociated and afraid. We come up with realities, and like a six year old putting on a super-hero cape, we pretend to be powerful and the “chosen one”. We pretend to be happier than we are, more complete than we are, superior to one another. All of this is a perpetuated outer reality created by inner pain and trauma.

When we come to states that we have not felt before, we feel uncomfortable with the unknown, of treading new territory. Of experiencing what we have not before, and what sort of changes that will create.

We fear our own greatness, what we could be if we really allowed ourselves to heal and become… instead of being a series of masks and illusions covering up our pain. We fear our authentic, powerful selves.

One of our primal wounds is that of separation, and we fear really and truly being connected. Connected to ourselves authentically, connected to divinity.

We fear opening our hearts, because in our woundedness we have closed them and have created protections around them. When that protection is in place, we cannot truly love one another. We are closed off, and are constantly looking at the world as if it were looking to wound us, to take from us. Opening this center requires moving beyond our various trauma and pain, but it also requires for us to move beyond the idea that we are worthless. That we deserve to be happy, that we deserve to be connected, that we deserve to be open and embodied and authentic in a world that is filled with people who are not.

The thing is, of course, that if many people are willing to see their own immense worth, without the cages and masks and illusions, that it would create a revolution. One person can be a catalyst, a way to show others how to do the same. And that person could be you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I continually hear from people things like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working with Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So what does this all have to do with fear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And not to be condemned or changed into something else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Shamanic Illness and the Wounded Healer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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