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).

Spiritual Work vs. Neo-Shamanism Part Two

In my previous post, I began talking about the differences between neo-shamanism and spiritual work. The blog this week will likely contain a few things that may be more controversial, but are necessary to talk about:

Let’s start with a big one: the “S” word.
In traditional and indigenous cultures, it would be considered disrespectful to announce oneself as a shaman. This is because it is a title that is given not only due to a calling, but because the shaman fulfills a vital role for the community.

To put this into perspective, I will do a crass simplification here. Say you want to be a firefighter. You get the miniature truck and play with it, you watch a few movies or TV shows about what a firefighter does. You even go to the day where you can sit in the truck and meet firefighters and put on their hat. But without the training to become a firefighter, and without actually serving the community by going and putting out some fires and assisting some folks, you really aren’t a firefighter.

To take this even further, someone who has been a firefighter for ten or twenty years will have a depth of experience and knowledge that someone who has just finished training will not have.

There is the unavoidable issue that what most people call shamanism amounts to someone getting a miniature fire truck and saying vroom while playing in their bedroom and calling themselves a firefighter.

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There is a saying by Ida Rolf (creator of Rolfing) that she wished that people with less than five years of full time experience (post-training, to be clear) wouldn’t call themselves Rolfers because what they are doing isn’t Rolfing yet. This same thought applies to spiritual work, which takes a considerable degree of experience to get decent at.

Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery at something. These thoughts are understandably not popular with the neo-shamanic crowd, as the idea of being “advanced” quickly and without much effort are pretty prevalent. The idea that it may be several lifetimes of continual work to fulfill a shamanic duty or calling would be upsetting, at the very least.

Spiritual work is difficult, dangerous, and the calling often puts one and their family at risk. It is typical for there to be a period of grieving and even anger at having this calling, and the intensive amount of training and initiation that is required to become one.

One of the larger ways that I can tell that someone is called to spiritual work is that there is this anger and grief, along with feelings of not being in control (due to being called and seemingly having no choice in the decision). There are also often struggles with feeling insane due to seeing and experiencing so much beyond what society deems to be normal. In the modern world, there is also a feeling of ridiculousness and disbelief at having a “spiritual calling” due to mainstream society being fairly mechanistic and physically-oriented.

In contrast, neo-shamanism has largely changed the “s” word into a title that anyone, no matter what training, education, or natural inclination, can and should acquire. It is perceived as something that makes someone special or superior, and is utilized as a way to provide meaning for past experiences of illness or feelings of being different than others.

Feeling separate is one of our primary wounds, or something that all people experience (consciously or not). We desire to feel special because we have experienced so much that has told us that we are not special. We look for meaning and significance in our illness, and the neo-shamanic movement provides easy answers or a “calling” for anyone and everyone who has these wounds. But these are human wounds (although they are spiritual), and it is by understanding that everyone has them, and has experienced them, that we can move through them.

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Shamans are Mentally Unwell
There is a perception that because spiritual workers think differently and “see through” (more on this later) that they are mentally ill… or that conversely, everyone struggling with psychosis or mental illness is secretly a shaman.

The capacity of spiritual workers to see beyond, to see incisively and differently than most of the population may be seen as “insane” by those who are only capable of seeing and sensing material existence, but there is differentiation here that is necessary.

If someone is not functional in their daily lives, dealing with delusions or wounding patterns, it is a result of trauma, mental shattering, and soul loss… and is not in and of itself a calling to be a spiritual worker. Even if someone is “called” or has some shamanic capacity, dealing with personal trauma to be able to clearly see (and not see through the filter of a fractured mind) is essential.

Even in societies in which there is a natural understanding towards disability or “otherness” meaning an inclination towards spiritual capacity or “sight”, there still is a training and evaluation period to see if the person does in fact have this capacity.

Spiritual workers for the most part tend to actually be saner than most of the population. They have to be to be able to be immersed in other realms/worlds/realities and to interact in a balanced way spiritually. It takes a great deal of sanity and remarkable embodiment as well as grounding to be an effective spiritual worker. Most spiritual workers tend to be pretty embodied and have an “earthy” quality to them that comes from deep grounding and relationship with the Earth.

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This is a far cry from some of the ideas of spiritual workers being wounded, fractured, and disassociated. The idea that someone who doesn’t want to deal with their body or life can simply travel elsewhere is immensely appealing, and this tendency or belief in neo-shamanism can mean that people who are struggling with trauma and forms of psychosis (as well as mental fracturing) do not receive the help that they need, and perpetuates a new-age mythology surrounding “ascension”.

The reason that discernment and sight are so important for the spiritual worker (especially the modern day one) is because when you are working with clients (or even doing your own self-help work) that there is a huge difference between someone dealing with a dark spirit that is internal (part of the self that has been neglected or fractured), archetypal, thoughts projected, and an actual dark spirit that is external. This is why having a spiritual calling, the training period that is required, and the sight that is required for the job is so important.

Mental Fracturing and Present Day Spiritual Practice
There is an unfortunate belief that there “is no such thing as mental illness”. There is also a thought of “shaman being the first psychologists” (Krippner, I believe). There is no denying that this work is powerful at working through emotions, beliefs, and traumas.

This is also born out of the understanding that in traditional cultures that there are varying thoughts of mental illness, or that all mental illness is spiritual in origin. While I certainly agree that all things are spiritual in origin technically, in our modern world we are divorced from the earth to the extent that we are either completely disassociated from our bodies, or are just in our heads (our mental “body”), and we lack the connections to our fellow humans that allow us to heal in community.

In modern-day society, there is a lot of purely mental work that goes into the practice (and is why spiritual workers tend to now work “with” people, as unless the person mentally works through the process, they tend to reject the spiritual changes that have happened to some degree)

It is hard to convince people who have not worked in psych hospitals and similar situations that some people are so divorced from any form of communal reality or are fractured to the extent that what they need is mental help, not spiritual. It is also an understandable hope for people who are struggling, or who have a family member or friend who is struggling, with significant mental illness that they are secretly a “shaman”: it can bring hope to a situation that is incredibly difficult to traverse.

The muddling of the spiritual with the psychological has delineated the boundaries a bit too far– it would be an ideal society in which people would refer to the appropriate professionals. To recognize spiritual awakening or shamanic sickness and refer to a spiritual worker… to differentiate that from someone who may need mental health support and “light” spiritual work from perhaps a therapist trained in neo-shamanism and its visualizations… to the people who are struggling with psychosis and delusions that threated their safety and make them non-functional in their lives and get them the help that they need.

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Focus on Spiritual Relationships
Moving to something slightly less abstract, I will say that spiritual relationships are quite different in spiritual practice vs. neo-shamanic traditions. I went over some of this in part one (the idea of dominion or indentured servitude, the understanding that spirits are not these one-dimensional beings with no personality only interested in working how and where you want), but I am going to be a bit more simplistic here.

Neo-shamanic practices largely focus on “power animals”. This is in no doubt due to Michael Harner being the sort of godfather of the neo-shamanic movement (which is odd, as he would state some of the same things I do, and I know this because I have asked him a few questions before).

In contrast, most spiritual workers that I know focus on ancestral relationships. This is often first and foremost.

Our ancestors form the basis of spiritual work, and hold the power of our lineage. They care for us and have considerable power and spiritual capabilities.

I do believe that the focus on power animals is a way to take the “spirit” out of spiritual practice– as it is easy to put traits and ideas, as well as to feel compassion, for an animal (popular fuzzy cat videos, for example), while if we introduce the idea of working with spirits the thoughts of control and ideas about dominion and safety start to go out the window.

The funny aspect of this is that in my own experience of “power animals” is that they are not safe– they connect us to our “inner wild” and our power. Meeting and finding, or having a “power animal” stalk you for a period of time, can be something of a frightening experience, especially if it involves a dismemberment.

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What is Shamanism?
While talking about this word I will say that there are different camps. There are those who believe that shamans are only Siberian (Tungus/where the word originated from), there are those who believe that shamanism and the term “shaman” can be represented by a specific set of spiritual practices, and then those who believe that any form of spiritual contact, or anyone who is in the role of being intermediary between the spirit realms and the physical realms, is doing shamanic work (or that all spiritual work emerged from a shamanic past).

The spiritual practices that are considered “shamanic” have to do with being an intermediary between the physical and spiritual realms… but it also has to do with “spirit flight”. Basically this means that the shaman travels (or journeys) to the “other” (the spiritual realms) in order to interact with and heal spiritual difficulties or imbalances. There also is the concept of the “hollow bone” and of trance states (allowing energy and spirit(s) to “ride” or work through the shaman) that are also utilized. This is of course a simplistic, one-paragraph explanation.

By contrast, practices that are more mediumistic (for example, Spiritism) typically work with the understanding that the spiritual is all around us, and that it can be worked with in this reality (basically, not going anywhere). So this would make a lot of folk practices, Native American practices, and Peruvian practices (I mention these both as they have been taken up as “shamanism” by the neo-shamanic movements) technically not shamanic.

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Animism and Shamanism
We have been so separated from the natural world that the idea that there are entire cultures that are animistic, or who do not separate the spiritual from the physical, is often missed. To be simple, all spiritual workers are animists… but not all animists are spiritual workers.

Animism is the belief that this world is vitally alive, that everything has spirit, and a sort of flow through it. Anyone can tap into this understanding (if they are ready to, as it requires moving past a materialistic and mechanistic version of “reality” to do so), and can work with spirit.

In cultures that have not separated their folk practices, every day magic, and animistic practices from their physical reality, it is quite common for people to be animists and to work with a variety of household and personal spirits. However, the depth of what can be achieved, and the basic power for working with larger forces, or providing clarity to spiritual situations through developed sight, as well as the trance states, spirit flight/visit to “other” and hollow bone-type qualifications would largely be the realm of the spiritual worker.

The good news about this is that while not everyone is called to the daily practices, training, and rigor that is required to become a spiritual worker, that many people can interact with the spiritual realms as an animistic universe in profound and life-affirming ways.

If more people realized that we are not separate from the Earth, from one another, and that the world and everything in it is vitally alive and filled with spirit, we would stop our unconscious “taking” of things, and learn to live a more harmonious, peaceful life. I do think that neo-shamanism is a good introduction to practices like this. My basic point in all of this series of blogs is that there is a lot more under the surface, and if you are looking for more than surface practices, or are actually called to be of service to your community spiritually, that different training and experiences are necessary. My other point would be for some of you, who are willing, to reconsider your relationship to the spiritual realms and open or expand your beliefs a bit, but I understand that that often only happens with personal readiness.

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Next week I will talk about the “Wounded Healer” concept, shamanic illness, and what spiritual workers do in their work. I will end this series (yes, it turned into a four-part series) talking about the “inner wild”, which is one of the most (if not the most) important concept to understand that differentiates neo-shamanism from spiritual work.

Spiritual Work vs. Neo-Shamanism Part One

It has been a while since I have talked about shamanism. This is partially because I came to a point in my path where I realized that if people wanted authentic information about shamanism and spiritual practices, that they would find it (for starters, I would suggest either Holger Kalweit or Sarangerel’s books). I also realized that in some ways I was being unfair to neo-shamanism and new-agers, as the sort of practices that they gravitate towards are arguably what they need. Not everyone needs to immerse themselves like I (and plenty of others) have, or has a calling towards doing so (that inner urge to find deeper reality paired with a calling towards spiritual work itself).

But I have realized lately that there are a lot of people that are searching for information like this, and that it could propel them forward into such deeper terrain, if they are ready to do so. So I will admit my bias here, as I am a “Spiritual Worker”– I do not use the word “shaman” as I understand both the indigenous hatred at a bunch of white people coming in and then announcing that they are “Peruvian Shamans” or whatever the flavor of the month is… and I have no interest in identifying myself with the practices of “modern” or “neo-shamanism”, which is a lot different in scope than what I do.

So I will talk about the biggest differences between spiritual work and neo-shamanism here, and attempt to do so with as little bias as I am able to at this time, having been immersed or at one point studied both paths (I no longer do any sort of neo or “core” shamanic work, just as an FYI):

Spiritual Work isn’t safe
This is one of the biggest differences that I notice. Neo-shamanic work will state that this sort of exploration is safe, that there are safe places to go, that you just need to announce your “sovereignty” or imagine white light and you can control the cosmos, and everything in it.

In contrast, spiritual workers realize that there are no “safe zones” and that announcing your sovereignty and imagining white light surrounding you in some situations is as about as effective as stating that your house shouldn’t be robbed because it is yours. The chances that someone is going to rob it are minimal, but you telling the robber if they are in fact breaking in that it is your house, and that you are “sovereign” over it isn’t likely to do much.

This idea of safety has a lot do with the illusion of control. We have a lot of fear, and so it is easy to reach for illusions of having such great control that you literally control the Universe. That it is centered around you, or that if you just think right or act right enough nothing bad will ever happen to you. So the neo-shamanic realms are filled with these ideas about control, while people authentically interacting with spirits and the spiritual realms will realize that control is an illusion, and that using white light on everything doesn’t work.

There is a great quote by Gopi Krishna, by the way, that emphasizes this: “those men and women who arrogate to themselves a transhuman stature or position of authority… must have a poor opinion about the staggering dimensions of the universe”.

Believing that we are smaller, or even less in control, or less safe, than we would like to provide the illusion of ourselves being is what happens when you authentically interact with spirit. This is in contrast to neo-shamanic work and workshops, which provide the illusion of control and power to the individual (without much effort or cultivation required, as to allow for weekend workshops and the like). But interacting with strange spirits and lands and dimensions and even the inner aspects of Self isn’t safe. It requires courage, and cultivation, and spiritual workers will often come into situations and interactions in which they realize that they are a tiny human, and that there is no way that they will have control over a deity, or a nature spirit, or even an upset former human (spirit).

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Spiritual Work is about Spirits
Without spirits, there is no spiritual work. I find that this is one of the strangest things that I have to contend with in my line of work. “Shamanism” was discovered by anthropologists and psychologists who brought this work to the West. The difficulty with this is that it was either shown as the proverbial “other” (meaning an anthropologist describing things that they do not understand nor have background in) or more popularly, merged with pop psychology.

If we were to put things into simplicity, I find that neo-shamanism is largely about mental and emotional healing, while spiritual work is about spiritual healing and interactions (which then spans the spectrum– spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical, meaning that removing a spiritual block can create a lot of change, if the person receiving it doesn’t block it).

The reason why this came about is that people without “sight” translated what they believed to be shamanism/spiritual work and created entire modalities/techniques surrounding it. They may have not believed in spirits personally, or they may have just had their “lens” fixed to the point that they put it into their already developed container of psychotherapeutic mechanisms, or assumed it was just simply another method of psychology.

Shamanism is deeply animistic, meaning that the universe is deeply alive. It has soul. And there are things other than the Self. If someone cannot see or sense these things, it doesn’t mean that they are not there, but simply that the person has never experienced them. Creative visualization, mental mind-coaching, and psychotherapeutic work flavored with “light spiritual” type work can be helpful. We certainly have a lot of energy stuck in our minds, and as we move further and further away from experiencing the Earth, mental work is needed in order to fully heal.

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But Spiritual Work is about interacting with spirits and beings. This is why there is a “calling” or natural aptitude needed for this work.
There is “sight” needed for this work. This means that someone has the natural aptitude to see beyond. This is typically genetic. There is no way of convincing someone fully versed in psychological/neo-shamanic work that there are such things as spirits, or that they are always around us… or that curses are real (or that you can’t simply think them away or not believe in them a la The Skeleton Key), and that you can’t just white light things away from yourself.

One of the funniest examples of this was someone who in the same breath told me that she couldn’t get her fifteen year old son to clean his room, and then went on to tell me how she commanded dark spirits away from her. This is typical of the sort of neo-shamanic thinking. We love the illusion of control, and I have had the experience more than a few times of students with a fair amount of “shamanic” experience getting freaked out in my courses because a spirit actually starts interacting with them. We deeply fear the spiritual realms, and so the illusion of control persists… leading to a whole host of people stating that they can tell us everything about the cosmos, or about spirits, because it allows us to feel safe.

I do realize that telling people how prevalent spirits are, or that there are people that can curse you despite you not believing in them, is a bit of wasted breath, because if you don’t have the experience, and you really need to believe in this idea of control (based on fears of the spirit realm, typically and oddly), that people will engage in cognitive dissonance in order to keep their fears/needs for control in tact. The fact that things like curses are rare, and that someone fully engaged in neo-shamanic work would likely never interact with someone could authentically curse, or who has any sort of actual spiritual power or cultivation, is a very good thing, but it doesn’t help the “all spiritual work is psychological” movement.

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Typically the person being called to the spirits would show this capacity since birth (or even have divination while in utero, or be a “caul” baby or so forth), and would be further emphasized by having an illness, typically a significant respiratory illness, in early childhood. This would “wake up” this capacity further, as well as allow the person being called to move beyond their fear of death (which would move them beyond the illusion of neo-shamanic control, or need for that control).

This can only be taught to a certain extent. In neo-shamanic work, this calling has been turned into something that makes the person “special” or “superior”, or an explanation/reasoning for someone was terribly abused as a child, but that is far from the reality of what someone coming to terms with “sight” and a spiritual calling experiences. There typically is a lot of anger, fear, and grief about how every other pathway but spiritual work is seemingly blocked, and that resistance to doing this type of work (not answering this calling) means imbalances, pain, and disease.

So no, not everyone is a “shaman”. Not everyone can be their own “shaman” (and this is odd, because as a spiritual worker with a lot of experience I regularly have others work on me. We lack perspective about ourselves a lot of the time, and need assistance to work through big blocks).

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Shamanic Work is about Power
This is likely the thing that most people really, really do not want to hear. That is because I am going to talk about cultivation here. By cultivation I mean that every single spiritual worker who I have known has given up a large segment of their life in order to enter a “training period”. Whether this is via spirit or human teacher, this means that for five or ten years the called spiritual worker will go through the unique sort of hell that is requires so they can work through enough of their own garbage to be of service to other people.

Because that is the point of spiritual work. Neo-shamanic work is generally about self-help, while spiritual callings are generally about serving a function to the community. These are the people who have “sight” and have gone through intensive initiation in order to learn how to heal others.

This initiation and training period is also so that the spiritual worker can build enough power to be safe. Because spiritual work isn’t safe, and how you deal with that is building spiritual relationships (with spirits) that can keep you safe. These relationships do not spring up overnight, and spirits and helpers do not offer their guidance and support simply because you are you. Like any relationship, there is a lot of work that is required to build and maintain a relationship.

Personal power takes daily practices to build. For the rest of the life of the spiritual worker they will have daily practices, meditation, and have to take care of the spirits they have built relationships with. Because if this doesn’t happen, the spiritual worker gets sick.

Power is a funny thing, and one of the biggest differences that I notice between neo-shamanic work and spiritual work is that neo-shamanic work lacks any sort of power. I do not say this to be mean, but when you have never experienced power, it is easy to create illusions about it, or to pretend you have it. Power emanates from someone, and it is quite easy to spot if someone has it. The difficulty is that the neo-shamanic movement has stripped anything even resembling power from its techniques and teachings… because interacting with power isn’t terribly safe.

What I mean by that is the following example. It is well-known that people of “power” can be easily sensed. For example, there are spiritual workers/shamans who try to kill, harm, or otherwise steal “power animals” or other spirits or beings the spiritual worker has likely taken a huge amount of time and dedication to cultivate a relationship with. Now think about the average neo-shaman and if anyone would want their “power animal”. I realize in saying such things that I may have hordes of angry neo-shamans after me (or maybe one or two), but the biggest difference that I notice between neo-shamanic work and spiritual work is the distinct lack of power.

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Spirits are not Indentured Servants
Going off of the last point, I will say that spiritual relationships are a two-way street in spiritual work. Spirits are not something to come through, tell you how fantastic you are (I always laugh at the whole “I am the only/greatest/chosen one of my generation” that some people who claim to be in contact with “spirit” state), and then do whatever you want, in which ever manner you choose.

If we understand that spirits and beings are real, they are not flat one-dimensional energies that simply wait until you command them to do something. They are not slaves, or indentured servants. They are beings with their own beliefs, understandings, and desires. They are likely to have different viewpoints, understandings, and are more likely than not going to treat you (at least at first) like a kindergartener that might run with scissors.

This is, of course, if they care for you. Plenty of spirits don’t care about you. You are simply one human (so am I, so is your neighbor). And even with a natural capacity for sight, a relationship rarely starts with someone telling you the secrets of the Universe. From the neo-shamanic community I hear all the time about people who are in relationship with Yogananda, Kali, Hecate, with a side of fluffy, attractive power animal. In contrast, someone may spend several lifetimes (yes, I said that) just devoted to Kali.

Additionally, the idea of “safety” has created this thought that spirits are either “compassionate” or “non-compassionate”. Anyone who has interacted authentically with spirits will understand that this is an illusion, and that an archangel can be incredibly fierce, that deities can be jealous, that nature spirits don’t think like (or communicate like) us, and that most spirits are not evil– they simply are like humans are in their bodies– rather confused and filled with emotions and trauma that is blocking them from their path.

Most spiritual workers work with the understanding that interacting with spirits is a two-way street. We cannot expect something for nothing. Offerings as well as understanding why and how someone/thing would want to work with a spiritual worker is part of the path (similar to any physical relationship, it takes time, and you do not command anything).

If there is authentic contact with spirits, especially ones of power (and these relationships take even longer to build, typically with a lot of initiation involved to prove your worth. Yes, I said that you prove your worth to the spirit/being/etc. in order to show that you are ready and worthy to interact with them and to work with them), there is a realization that the spirits often know better than you. We have a tiny, human brain that sees linearly (for the most part. This is another differentiation, however, but even so) and so something that has been around for much (much, much, much) longer than you likely has a perspective that you should listen to.

I will continue this in Part Two (talking about how spiritual work isn’t a series of techniques, how spiritual workers actually need to be fairly sane, and how spiritual work actually gets you in touch with your inner “wild” and “other”, as well as other thoughts)

Energetics of the Spinal Column and Head

The spine and the brain are the altars of God– Yogananda

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One of the long-ignored symptoms of a kundalini awakening is back pain and/or headaches. While this may happen in a more gentle, or less intensive awakenings as well, the realization that our spine is an important energetic center, or highway, in our bodies, and the link to physical symptoms such as back and neck pain, isn’t discussed terribly often.

Our chakras emerge from and through the spine (yes, I am being simple with this), and the sushumna, ida, and pingala (which form the caduceus) are the primary energetic circuit in our body, forming the basis for our physical as well as spiritual nervous systems.

In a kundalini awakening, the divine/cosmic energy (that allows one to move onto the path of realization) lies dormant  in most, but in awakenings emerges from the perineum/first chakra and rises up the back. This experience may range from completely subtle and temporary (lasting for an instant, or an hour, or at most a week) to explosive and volcanic, wreaking havoc on the life of the person it exploded within.

Most researchers talk about kundalini awakening as if it is a temporary state, or refer to “neuro-kundalini”, which is a term for seemingly the type of kundalini awakening that emerges with some mild nervous system issues and for a specific phase of life. I believe that these were mostly people who not experience a “full” kundalini awakening, which is a bit different.

“Full” kundalini awakenings are permanent. While there are waves and tides and generally over time the process gets easier in many ways, the permanent release of kundalini within the body means that it is not a singular experience, but an ever-unfolding process that will carry the person forward into realization. Whether this means kicking and screaming, being stuck and unwilling to surrender, or through tumultuous waters and then ever-increasing beauty and serenity… or through the abyss and then bliss until what needs to be healed and revealed and released has done so, the process can be a thing of great beauty or great fear, sometimes simultaneously.

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In Chinese Medicine, the channels that split us into left and right parts are called the du and ren (the du on the back midline/the spine and neck, the ren going from the genitals up the body); these are termed extraordinary channels because of the depth of theses channels, as well as their connection to our spiritual nature. In Chinese Medicine, the du and ren are pure “yin” and “yang”, feminine and masculine, dark and light. If we break everything down into a form of duality, these are represented by the du and ren. Basically, this is “out of the one emerges two… emerges ten thousand things” sort of thing (badly quoted tao te ching).

These channels (du and ren) are formed first, and are the basis of our being… they take us from singularity (or oneness) into creation– something that has physical manifestation. Basically, they are our first step in our emergence as a physical, human being.

We are not a structure from which energy flows through, however. We are energy. We are energy that has come together and compressed and formed us for the purposes of this lifetime. We are energies from our ancestry and ancestors and past lives and family and society and history and the culture from which we are born and the world as well as our own unique expression of divine energy (you can read about these layers in my Spiritual Awakening Guide).

The difficulty on the spiritual path, of course, is that that unique expression of divine energy is seemingly beneath all of the other stuff I listed above. The spiritual awakening process is really healing all of that stuff, surrendering all of that stuff, so we can move beyond our brokenness and stories and ego and everything within us that is fractured, angry, and separate to realize our own unique divine expression, our core energy.

Rather than this creating great difficulty for us, or further fracturing us, the reveal of this central energy brings peace, relief, and connection on the deepest levels. It is strengthening, and quite pretty.

Ironically (or perhaps just unexpectedly– I have an ongoing discussion about modern usage of the word “ironic” with a friend) what happens is that when we remove everything that tells us that we are separate, we release our needs for superiority, or feelings of inferiority, our feelings of being unloved and unwanted and broken beyond repair, is that we discover who we are. And we discover that through realizing that we are not just a singular being, not a “true self” or even a “core self” but that we are deeply connected beyond measure. That we are much more than a single human expression of something.

We are compressed energy that has come together… an unique expression of that energy… and that letting go of who we thought we were, all of our fears and stories and unhealed baggage, we can come to a state where we both deeply understand who we are and what we are supposed to do, as well as realize the limitations of our human form, as well as realize that in the grand scheme of things that who we are and what we are and our daily human-based issues are not terribly important.

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Even having this connection for a moment allows you to realize that it is there. If you recognize this once– this direct experience of oneness (non-intellectualized, but deeply felt and then the ego allowing it to be an expression of becoming humbled rather than something to brag about in order to maintain a need for superiority based off of still feeling separate. Our minds sometimes will do anything to preserve separation, including utilizing the momentary feeling of all that is as a form of energy to create a mask, or story, to allow the person to stop on their journey and not move forward. Why might that person not want to move forward or to actually integrate their experience? Because the realization that you are incredibly small and yet so fully connected and loved and held is too much for people. They are not worthy, who is worthy of actually doing such a thing? Of feeling that connection?. This causes a lot of people to retract and then get stuck in ego awakeningsagain, see my book– in which they stop themselves from moving on from that point and use their experience to fuel whatever remaining wounding and stuck belief systems remain).

So where does the spine and head come into this?

As I describe such things, please remember that this is a 1500 word blog or so. This means that I am not offering a dissertation here. There are a few things to consider when we realize that the spine and head form a primary circuit, basically meaning the core energetic structure, or loop, or center, of our bodies.

This contains our nervous system. For the sake of simplicity, I will say that we have a physical and then a spiritual nervous system. Our nervous system is responsible for states you may remember from high school biology class: fight or flight and rest and digest (or sympathetic and parasympathetic).

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Our nervous system basically is how our body communicates with its varying parts. Our brain communicates via the “highways” that are set up. The difficulty is that most of our nervous systems are not in great shape. We are a highly stressed culture, and a whole host of digestive, heart, depressive, anxiety, and host of illnesses start to happen when our nervous system gets out of whack (which causes our muscles and organs and immune system and basically everything in our body to not do so well either).

The other difficulty is that our nervous system is how we receive information energetically/spiritually. From the energetic anatomy of our chakras, the nervous system (first spiritual, then physical, to be simple) is the first recipient of spiritual energy, the first interface between spiritual and physical.

This information is then transmitted to the rest of our bodies, but it gains access to us through our nervous system. This means that a system that may already be struggling can interact in a spiritual capacity, or have a kundalini or other significant awakening, and easily fry their nervous system(s).

This also means that if this “highway” is not burnt out, that this interface is clear and well-kept, that this means that a “pure” flow of spiritual/divine energy can come through. This is deeply healing, and can actually heal the once-fried nervous system. Accessing this takes time, however, and the more time that has passed since my own “fryings”, the more I realize that gaining knowledge of how to heal the nervous system, how to repair this system, are a form of initiation; a knowledge that can allow you to heal and to heal others in ways that would not have happened if your system had not been “fried”.

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As mentioned, the kundalini when awakened flows through the spinal column. It does this through the cerebrospinal fluid. This is the fluid that cushions and protects the brain and spinal column– it flows through it. Although drastic kundalini awakenings are often felt as if a volcano or out of control forest fire are decimating or purifying the body, there is a flow to kundalini that emerges in later stages. This flow can be felt through the spinal column (typically with imagery of snakes, “ladders”/DNA, light pouring through the spinal column, and so forth) and will typically arise to the brain, unless there are significant stoppages in the process.

In the back of the skull is one of the most significant spiritual points in the body. This is where the skull meets the back of the head. In some Vedic traditions, I have heard this point referred to as “the mouth of God”, and in some Native Traditions I have heard this referred to as a point where there is direct access to the soul.

This is a point that also energetically separates the head from the body, the brain from the spinal cord. Many of us live solely in our heads (I look at people and often just see a big swirl around their heads, and no embodiment or energy anywhere else) and there are a lot of trauma-based reasons why we may not wish to connect our heads to our hearts. How many would really like to know what their heart is truly saying to them?

This is an area associated with the medulla and pons, deep structures within the brain that begin to rewire the nervous system as well as the other “grids” that make up the body once accessed (or, “lighted up), and then energetically transmit to the third eye, where ida and pingala meet, and the realization of reality as illusion begins to be realized.

This is also an area that magically is associated with telepathy, and people who tend to take on the thoughts of others, or are sensitive to others gossiping about them, tend to have a fair amount of pain or obstruction here. It is also a place that is typically more “open”, meaning that it can both be utilized as a gateway to access larger spiritual energies but can also be utilized as a sort of “achilles heel” and attacked during spiritual work.

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But this is an access point, or a sort of gateway. If you have energy flowing through your system and into your brain this flow can be felt, it can be tasted, and seen as light that is coming from the inside out. Often a powerful realization of oneness is had, and the experience then allows for the realization of permanent connection to divinity to occur.

This is an important realization because you always can carry it with you from that point on. No matter what happens, the invariable knives and anvils and unfortunate experiences that being human sometimes create, there is a realization of connection, as well as a moving past your own wounding to the extent that you are no longer responding from past beliefs, traumas, or fears (or that of your ancestors and so forth).

Our spinal column and head form our energetic center. Our crown opens to the “heavens” and our root chakra to the “earth”, and through them we draw energy to sustain us, to feed our energetic circuits, and to realize how deeply we are truly connected.

Although we can certainly feel flow through the rest of our body, and the flow of kundalini does go through the arms and legs, the primary way that we are connected is through our nervous system via our chakras and the channels that form the basis of the energies in our bodies (our du and ren). They are the altar to God, and as we awaken, we allow energy to flow through our spine and head, releasing the previous traumas and separateness that we have once held on to.

By the way, as many of you may know, I have a background in CranioSacral therapy (both biodynamic as well as “Upledger”, in case you were “in the know” about such things), and the reason that I love it so much is because it focuses on the cerebrospinal fluid, the spine, as well as the head and all of its nooks and crannies. Whether someone who is a CranioSacral therapist will consider it a “spiritual” act (or if they simply got interested because of the mechanistic approach to it) is a different thing entirely.

But it is highly suggested– I suggest finding someone with at least five-ten years of experience who is also certified in this modality. I also suggest finding someone who directly studied with the Upledger Institute or as affiliated/approved by the Biodynamic Craniosacral association, as modalities like this don’t have much regulation and some teachers out there don’t have much training themselves (or are certifying people without being certified). I do not assist people in finding a CranioSacral therapist in their area. Google and phone calls/email to assess whether whomever you are interacting with fits your needs is your best bet.

Sleep, Wake, and Fear

I talked a few weeks ago about how whenever global energies get a bit chaotic, that I get a huge increase in the amount of trolls sending me emails (you can read about this, and a breakdown of how my reaction has changed over the years, here)

But basically it is to be expected, as people who cannot deal with their emotions tend to push them outwards, as they lack the capacity to take any sort of personal responsibility for themselves and have not developed adult-level coping skills (I could talk about how few of us have really gone through the initiation of becoming an “adult”, but that is perhaps a separate blog). We can always find a target for our anger, fear, and pain… and because I am somewhat in the public eye (well, have written a book or two and have a blog that has a “contact me” form meant for people to sign up for classes and such) that means that I am a convenient target.

I don’t get upset at these trolls much, but in general they can make me a bit tired, and occasionally sad. Not for the individual who contacts me to tell me how horrible I am, or tries to control me or what I say, or even for those who believe that they are so enlightened/full of kundalini/shaman etc because they really need to believe such things… but that they exemplify the sort of sleep and delusion that many exemplify, and how spirituality as a whole can and is utilized to facilitate and placate (rather than solve or heal) fear, sleep, and delusion.

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In my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide, I talk about the state that many of us are in: I refer to it as the “sleeper” state. It is a state in which we believe what we are taught without questioning, and are the accumulation of the energies and history of our parents and ancestry, our past lives, our culture, and of the world in the time that we were born (as well as other energies and our personal history).

In this state we do not critically think, and we are in a state in which we lack any sort of capacity to recognize how we have been influenced and formed by our personal history (let alone the ancestral influences, family, and so forth that I described).

While in this state of sleep, we lack the capacity to look inward, to see how our traumas have created beliefs, to recognize that what we see of others in the world is a reflection of our own sleep (and the sleep of others), and we are in a state of blind chaos and reaction.

I am all for experiencing emotions, for truly feeling them, but someone in a state of sleep will react emotionally and formulate their idea of reality based on personal wounds and emotions.

We like to think of ourselves as logical creatures, but we are not. We are emotional creatures, and invest a lot of time and energy into the swirling chaos around us.

The awakening process is the ability to extricate oneself from this chaos, and from that the ability to see things from a perspective not based in unacknowledged trauma and emotion emerges.

One of the hardest things for people who are in a state of sleep or who are in their first steps of awakening is to recognize and really being willing to acknowledge a few things.

The first is that we do not have the control over our lives that we delude ourselves into believing that we have. 

We continually have input and our lives shaped by outer forces, and they have a profound impact on us and our daily lives. Any time that we wake up to the realization that we are not in control, we become deeply afraid.

And then many of us lash out in anger, and find a “safe” target for our anger (a la internet trolling) because anger is an expressive emotion, while fear is an emotion that causes us to freeze (an introverted emotion, if you will).

If we are totally asleep, we will not be able to acknowledge why we are lashing out. If we are in stages of awakening, we will be able to understand that we are lashing out because there are a lot of chaotic world energies having an impact on us.

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If we are even more awake, we can recognize that chaotic world energies play into our own fears.

So, I am not telling people not to be afraid, but there must be a bit of understanding of the fact that at the base of our being, humans all have similar fears:

  • fear of being out of control
  • fear of death
  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of being separate
  • fear of change

All of these can either be summed up as “fear of death” or “fear of being out of control”,  or even perhaps “fear of life” but it can be helpful to see those fears plainly laid out. As you can likely see, much of mainstream spirituality is to comfort people about these fears– to make the unknown known, to assert dominion and control, to suggest immortality or health could be achieved if only someone were “spiritual” enough, to suggest that someone can control every facet of their lives if only they were “spiritual” enough.

Ironically, what happens in the awakening process is that you surrender these ideas again and again. The spiritual awakening process as a whole is really a discovery of these fears, an acknowledgement of the restrictive traumas and beliefs and fears and a surrender of them.

I do very much believe in some aspects of free will, but I more believe that if someone surrenders, and gets out of their own way, that things will go much better in their lives. Our tiny human brains can only fathom so much, and if we try to control or pretend we know everything about the cosmos, or direct our lives based off of our mental and emotional logic, we often will dream of lesser things for ourselves than the divine/spirit can.

I have seen time and again that the more someone is willing to heal those beliefs and constricting energies that are created from personal (ancestral, past life, etc) traumas, that their lives go much better.

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What is rarely talked about is how our fears are used against us.

It is incredibly well known to studied magical and spiritual practitioners (as well as NLP enthusiasts, in a somewhat different capacity) that we are emotional creatures. If we link a thought or saying to a base fear (one of those I listed above), it doesn’t matter if what we are saying is logical, has truth, or is right.

We will react.

We will react chaotically, we will recall every time we have been full of fear, every time we have felt out of control. We will react blindly and without thought based off of someone using these baseline fears against us.

We all have a cyclone of chaos around us. Unexamined, we believe we are who we are, and what the world is, based off of that cyclone. We identify with that cyclone. Not only that, but we perpetuate that cyclone. We are used to a certain level of chaos and drama in our lives, and if we are not experiencing it (and we are still asleep) we will actually create chaos to maintain the same cyclone.

When spiritual masters talk about not identifying with emotions, that has been thought of that you no longer experience them, or like you become some sort of zombie-like new-ager with their head stuck in the sand, with no capacity to talk about or consider anything “dark”.

But what actually happens is that you stop identifying with this cyclone. You start to step away from this cyclone, and recognize the unhealed parts of you that have created this cyclone. You work your way through the emotions, traumas, and layers of this cyclone.

Some of this cyclone will still be there, but as you awaken, what happens is that you no longer blindly identify with it. Healing the baseline fears means that you no longer can be manipulated by others, who use those fears knowingly against you.

As a side note, as part of my occult training I learned how to “push” thoughts. It is incredibly easy to do so, and relies on this connection to emotions and this cyclone to do so (I don’t teach this, so don’t ask). You can get people to think what you want, and to not even recognize that it is coming from you, as most people are so lost in the chaos and mental chatter and personal cyclone-ing to recognize not only that these thoughts don’t come from them, but that on a larger scale, they may be assimilating those thoughts without recognizing that they are fueled by emotion, and not a personally held, logical understanding of anything.

I am not alone in knowing how to do this, and it is interesting to even have a cursory understanding of NLP, how advertisers operate (and you don’t even need to have magical training on how to utilize thoughtforms, but that can be quite interesting as well) to understand how words can be linked to these baseline fears and we will take them on without any sort of conscious realization about what we have just done.

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When we talk about what is happening in the world today, it is important to understand that I am not suggesting that you not get angry, that you are not afraid, that you do not contribute to the world, riot, react, or do what you deem is right. I often suggest locally volunteering, as being of service can help people who are in the stages of being aware of world energies and other energies “controlling” (or at the very least shaping) them, but feel helpless because they are too massive for one person to really do too much about… as well as obviously will assist to make this world a better place overall.

What I am really saying here is to recognize these fears, to understand how others may use fears like this to sway your beliefs and “truths”, and to take a step back from that cyclone. Work on your own issues (as well as do outer work that you deem appropriate), work on your personal cyclone, until you can realize some measure of clarity.

Because an interesting thing happens when you do start awakening. As you let go of this cyclone it is easy to completely separate– to become a hermit, to separate yourself from the world, to see others creating chaos for themselves again and again (and wanting to drag you in to said chaos)– and to realize a sort of insignificance about what happens in the physical world.

Your own issues, as well as the issues of others, begin to seem rather insignificant and temporary.

But we are physical beings, living in physical containers and in a physical world. We awaken through our bodies, through taking personal responsibility for ourselves, and by being willing to heal, to let go of what ties us, to surrender again and again beyond the ego-based mind that wants the chaos, wants the commotion, wants the fear.

And what ironically also happens when you awaken, as things begin to become expanded and insignificant and separated, is that you feel a lot of love and compassion and sort of primal urgency to be with people you care about, to love the physical world and your physical body, and to deeply root in this world (and to move beyond the traumas making you not want to be here).

It is by working through our own baseline fears, by recognizing the energies that surround us and inform us, that we can expand beyond blind reaction and to act, and live, from a place of stillness (even in the midst of personal or collective chaos), and to make our decisions from that place.

I do realize that things are tough out there right now, but realize that inner as well as outer action truly changes the world. We can accomplish so much as individuals, and as a collective, if we are willing to move beyond our chaos and to see what needs to be done, on a personal level, to make this world a place of thoughtful individuals willing and able to see and act from beyond the cyclone, from beyond the baseline fears, and from a place of clarity and compassion.

Expressing Forgiveness For Ourselves, Trauma, and Clarity

One of things that happened as I began to work my way through the varying traumas and difficulties that I had dealt with was that I began seeing with clarity.

This clarity was wonderful. I was no longer fixated on the event(s) or experience(s), and the beliefs, emotions, and other energies that congest and clog the body as a result of trauma began, and continued, to lift.

It is hard to describe how much psychic weight that we carry until it begins to lift off.

Or how much our reality is colored and constrained by our wounds until they are healed.

It is also hard to describe (to those who have not experienced it) that a significant spiritual release of trauma can immediately release an area of the body (have an impact on it physically, as in pain disappearing), release a huge amount of “stockpiled” emotions, and further out (once the release has integrated) have a profound effect on your life and general well-being.

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One of my teachers used to describe this process as a “softening”, as when we are abused and harmed and coming from a place of woundedness we are sharp and harsh. Our bodies become stuck and hard or even can disappear (we will no longer register a body part as a part of ourselves) when we carry wounding, and when we become less wounded we experience more flow, more peace, and more understanding and compassion.

I do notice that people misunderstand compassion, by the way. Having compassion does not mean that you do not recognize a person as being cruel, or horrible or stupid or even evil, as a human being. Having compassion doesn’t mean that you allow for that person to violate you, leech off of your energy, or otherwise take advantage of you.

And some view any sort of boundaries as harshness. I have to say “no” to a lot of people, and have quite strong boundaries (you pretty much have to in this line of work, otherwise you will get sucked dry and burned out quite quickly) and some people invariably dislike me for it. But you can be quite soft and also have firm boundaries. This is a sort of paradox that can take people a long time to puzzle out for themselves, though.

Compassion also does not mean that you never judge others, or that you think everyone is the same… with the same value in understandings, realization, and intellectual capacities. If anything, clarity allows you to exercise discernment, and healing allows for you to have healthy and specific boundaries.

Compassion allows for you to simply see people as who they are, and to forgive them for being that way. It means that you can see how badly someone is struggling, or how misinformed or unbalanced they are, how much chaos and difficulty they have created for themselves, and feel compassion that they are suffering.

Compassion also allows for you to forgive yourself. When you have totally (or pretty close to totally) healed from something it doesn’t mean that you have erased it from your memory. It is something that you have experienced, and it has made you who you are. It also gave you strength, and wisdom. It has given you a depth of experience and soul that those who have not experienced such things cannot understand.

This is not a “your trauma is wonderful because it made you deeply feel” sort of thing, or me saying that the person who has experienced the most amount of trauma or the most difficult traumas “wins” in the personal depth/spiritual understanding arena… or even that the purpose of trauma and difficulty is personal growth.

But crisis is often a form of spiritual awakening, as is trauma. The most “spiritual” people who I have met– those lovely individuals who have depth and intelligence and can critically think and feel (and really make the best healers) are people who have suffered the most.

Again, not a contest. At all. But there is something about touching that void, of being not only witness but a part of a darkness where you can no longer deny its existence. And when you begin to work with that darkness, to understand and truly not only come to terms with it, but to recognize it as a vital force, a creative force, a force that can be befriended instead of pushed away and villainized… it can become something that you sit back with and reminisce with like two weary friends who have been through a war together.

When you work with such darkness it can be utilized as a creative force and a generative force… and you begin to realize and understand a certain depth of humanity that few gain access to. It is an initiation past a certain gateway, a threshold, and what is past that threshold can actually be quite beautiful and powerful in its own right.

This is if the healing process is seen through, though. Unhealed trauma means that we are stuck and constantly in a state of reaction and chaos due to emotions and beliefs obscuring and cluttering our system, we are trapped in time, frozen in an incomplete loop of when that trauma occurred. That part of us is separated, frozen in time, and comes out when we are reminded of the circumstances or emotions having to do with that trauma. We enact that trauma again and again until resolution is (hopefully) found.

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I realize that people may be wondering what the official considerations of healing are. Meaning how and by what standards is something “healed”. To heal something (in my mind/clinical experience) requires several different steps, which all allow for the eventual processing and healing of a trauma:

  • Recognition that a trauma occurred, and that it is impacting you. This may be difficult, even for larger trauma. Our mind is inherently protective, and we shield ourselves about things that are massively impacting us. Recognizing that even child abuse that is documented can be, in some small way, disbelieved as a part of this protective mechanism.
  • Start to consider the trauma, either through meditation or exploration with a healer or counselor. I do recommend healers, by the way. Occasionally I get silliness from people who say things like “I should be able to heal myself” and you certainly can, and healing does come from within and all that… but a healer is a witness to our pain. Energetically having someone else in the room with us acknowledging the pain and helping in a skilled manner to release it or to diminish its impact is huge. There are some patterns that are too large, or we are too close to, or we are currently unaware of how to process, that we will not be able to heal ourselves.
    • I say this as someone who has a lot of different degrees and certifications and has worked for a healer for over a decade now… if you are stuck, or a pattern is too much for you, or you simply do not understand how to heal a pattern, or would like to simply cut down on the time that it takes to heal something, find a competent healer.
    • We also return to the idea that have personally “touched the void” of experiencing trauma and life events that they have then worked through, or seen the other side of. These people are rare gems in the healing world, and their ability to sit in a centered, grounded, and compassionate way… as well as a knowledgeable way (through direct experience) is something that is often life-changing for their (lucky) patients and clients.
    • I say the above knowing far too well that people are attracted to healing because of their own issues. I cannot count the amount of therapists who have contacted me (yes, I am going to pick on therapists, but it is pretty well-known and documented by this point in time) who are non-functional, chaotic… and more compassionately, I would say… still attempting to work with their trauma.
    • I also say the above knowing that the common cultural archetype of the “wounded healer” comes into play here. People really do have an increased capacity to work with something they have directly experienced. HOWEVER… this person should have made it through this list (of healing), including having a bit of distance from it so they are no longer reacting emotionally to their clients to be of service. If someone does not have enough distance from something, the healing work lacks clarity, and the session (which should mainly, if not pretty close to totally) be about the client becomes partially about the healer and their issues.
  • Understand what happened from an adult perspective and provide closure
    • When something is unhealed, it is like a broken loop. We just keep on energetically cycling things through our minds, and hold that loop within our bodies. Our former self could not deal with whatever was going on, so they energetically blocked themselves off. When this happens that loop just keeps on repeating again and again, drastically shaping our lives. By understanding what has happened from an adult perspective (rather than the wounds and needs of whenever the event happened), and by understanding what this “loop” and this former self need for closure, the loop will complete, and dissolve. As will the held emotions, beliefs that were created, and frequently, physical tension will release.
  • Express Forgiveness for what has happened. I will return to self-forgiveness, but there is a lot of forgiveness needed in the moment here. This does not mean that the perpetrator was right (if there was one), or the circumstances were good. This is a huge hang-up for people, so I will say that a lot of truly unforgivable things happen to so many people each day that as a healer I am rarely shocked at what people bring to me about what they have endured. What this means is that the circumstances were awful, that what happened wasn’t right, that the person involved may be a truly sociopathic narcissist who should be locked up and have the key thrown away… but that you have worked through the wounds, the emotions and beliefs and understandings so you are no longer relating from a child (or whatever age it happened) level, from the wounds of that time, and have let go of the beliefs that were created as a result of that trauma.
  • Basically, you may realize the total shittiness of what happened, but you can express forgiveness. You can understand what happened, you can realize it was not okay, and then you can forgive the situation, the people involved, and yourself for having to be a part of this situation.
  • Stop wishing things would be different
    • One of the markers of healing is that you not only have recognized trauma, understand its impact, release emotions and express forgiveness, is that you release the desire for things to be different… the “if only’s” we shall call them. You accept what has happened fully, have moved on from disbelief, have released emotions and worked through needs for closure. When you provide closure, that part of you stops thinking about if only: if only the circumstances, people, or events were different.
    • This can be worked with even if there is not clear memories or 100 percent knowing of an experience. While I know that not 100 percent of people who feel as if they “might” have been sexually abused as a child have actually been sexually abused as a child, even the thought of “I wonder if something weird happened when I was a kid” is enough to start to explore with a healer or counselor why you may feel that way.
  • Release the story
    • This doesn’t mean that you do not still have the story, by the way. This has been really, really misinterpreted. Nobody needs to delete their past, or part of their past. What releasing the story means is that the loop is healed, it means that there is no longer a part of you fixated, obsessed with what happened. It means that that part of you is no longer frozen in time, screaming out for attention.
    • I would state that this is perhaps best called a “change in story” instead. Because what happens is that when you realize the strength that has been borne out of hardship, the wounds instead of being large gaping holes, something that needs to be constantly mentioned and focused on (out of all of the other events in your life) to simply being a chapter in your story… one that has a lesser impact and driving force on the “character” (protagonist/you) as the story moves on.
  • Express Forgiveness for Yourself
    • This is the last one, and it is difficult. What came up for me after a significant amount of “closure” (what I have written above) is that the stories no longer cycled, the beliefs that were developed by trauma released, and I no longer held the emotions from various traumas, was that my adult self was grieving.
    • At first this was grieving for how much I had been through. But what happens when you heal and provide closure it is as if you are no longer on several “chapters” of your book at once. To mix metaphors, I will say that our timeline is like a rope. When we experience trauma, there is a “knot” that develops in that rope. We are sort of frozen in time there. But the rope continues to move on, developing more and more “knots” as we get older. Some of these knots are larger, some small, but they all are taking up some of our consciousness. Meaning that our ability to “unknot” these knots one by one means that we will be an adult, and our current age… and not be inhabited by a bunch of two year olds or fifteen year olds or twenty five year olds all with different needs and opinions about our lives when we are forty.

What was interesting about this last part (expressing forgiveness) was that as I gained increased clarity (worked out a lot of “knots”) was that I had a lot of complex emotions about how my current, adult self felt towards what I had healed. I saw with clarity how much chaos and pain and suffering I had caused myself over the years because I was wounded. It can take a while to understand and express forgiveness for ourselves (for we knew not what we did, and so forth), but it is a part of the process once clarity has been achieved and some distance has been had.

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To end, I will talk a little about my definition of trauma. I will say that some things that fall under trauma are quite obvious- abuse of all types and so forth. We can experience trauma in many, many ways, however. Any time that we were struggling and overwhelmed in our lives due to circumstances beyond our current capacity to handle would equal trauma. This is different for different people, by the way. For example, if we have a big “knot” from when we were an infant, our capacity to handle further life stressors when we are fifteen, or forty five, is likely greatly diminished. Unless we have done the work to heal, of course.

There is also microtrauma… which is the experience of trauma over time (things like poverty, homelessness, hunger, and so forth are good examples of this).

I will also say that the more “knots” we have, the more confused we tend to be. This is because we have a small (or large) crowd of “smaller selves” informing who we are and what to do with ourselves. We also tend to have a lot more chaotic lives the more knots we have. There also is a huge tendency for people with a lot of “knots” who want to explore spiritually who want to consider anything but those knots (people who want to explore past lives, ancestral history, and things like external energies impacting or “attacking” them, but have “skipped” the step of considering how their own timeline impacts them), but I will stop.

It may seem like a long road, and every single person on Earth has experienced trauma of some sort. It is always a personal choice if we want to (or are ready to) work with such things, of course, but it certainly can be done. Even if one of those knots can become a bit looser, you will notice a difference, and see the impact it has on your life. It is always good motivation to move forward, even if some of the knots are a bit more difficult than others to release.

Changing Our Reaction to Others Part Two

Read Part One Here…

So what is a play? It is our individual reality, constricted by our wounds. Our wounds are from a specific time and place (well, we won’t get too existential here, so I will say that is totally correct). They can also be from sources passed down to us (ancestral, past life, and so forth).

We act out these wounds again and again until they are healed. Until they are changed.

Nature doesn’t like loose ends. The cosmos (as it were) doesn’t like for things to be unresolved. Most of us are a mess of unfinished wounds that never got the healing, the compassion, the hearing of (or the witnessing of), and the closure that they needed to dissipate.

This is a result of trauma.

When I began to realize how I was casting my play, I began to wake up to why certain people were in my life. Why I attracted certain types of people to me, and why I couldn’t seem to move past certain perceived barriers in my life.

Although healing this is complicated in some ways, in other ways it is incredibly simple. When you realize how and why you have cast someone in your play, you act differently.

You reflect on what wound you are recreating (people will often say they do not know, but pretty much most people have childhood wounding patterns, and so you can just start there) and what your part and the part of the other person is. You notice how you react, how they act. And then gradually you recognize a pattern, a particular “play” enough, that you let it go.

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You may be wondering why I still have internet trolls if I have let go of this much. What happens if you release all of the baggage I listed above (and, you know, acknowledge it when you don’t and put it on your to work on list for meditation) it is not that the world is any more kind or loving to you. You will still have people cut you off in traffic, or try to be unkind or manipulative to you, and all of the sort of things that people do who are in pain and don’t know what to do about it.

But you begin to notice their play (step four). I began noticing their projections. In the case of the internet troll (of this varietal, at least) he began appearing to me not only as a perpetual teenager who hasn’t moved through the rites of adulthood, but as a screaming toddler who didn’t receive the proper nurturing from his mother.

I realize that this may sound like projection to some of you, but when you really start to notice patterns, it doesn’t remain about the person any more. You recognize that a lot of people act and think similarly because they are wounded in similar ways.

And you begin to feel compassion for them. Because people are fighting against so much. They really cannot help but be who they are… and they are the sum of their parts, and the parts that were given to them. They are simply acting them out again and again. Maybe at some point they will wake up, and realize the pain and illusions that they are creating for themselves. Or maybe they won’t.

Most people are battling themselves, creating plays and illusions to perpetuate their wounds again and again. It is their decision to stop doing so, and to look at the chaos of their lives and begin to heal and take responsibility for it.

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By this point I no longer talked about “people” as if I were separate from them, by the way. What happens in realizing “oneness” is not that you have reached this perfected “guru” state where you start to talk in riddles and never experience any pain or difficulty in your life again. You realize that you are a person, someone who is continually working on their patterns and flaws. The only difference is the conscious realization and decision to work on what arises within you… and the ensuing freedom and peace that is created by doing so. 

Basically, at this state I realized I was a person. Someone who had to continually work on herself. Someone who was willing to do so. I also realized at this point that there literally was nobody talking like I wanted to about subjects like this (or it was fairly rare) because when you reach any sort of spiritual realization, it is a tendency for the ego to tell you to speak as if you are some sort of exalted being that knows everything. And this is the opposite of what happens. On the path of spiritual awakening you begin to realize how small you are, how little you know. How human you are. And how it really is a choice to take personal responsibility for yourself and to work through your own wounds, even if those wounds contain beliefs and things that we know to be true that we are totally sure are true. Because chances are, they are false.

At this point (this was about 3-4 years ago) I began to feel really tired. I saw all of the plays, all of the illusion (and delusion), and believed our entire reality to be false, and it upset me that it was false. I was angry again… not at individual people or even the world. I couldn’t place this anger for a long time, but it lingered, and was from a part of me that felt incredibly tired at witnessing these plays and all of this illusion happening. I saw the same things happening on repeat.

I began to be tired of my own patterns and wounds. When you have worked for so long on yourself it can at times feel like drudgery, and the idea of going to another healing session, or doing more meditation, or questioning your beliefs and reactions again and again became tiring. What happens when you “awaken”, or begin that path, is that you begin to see your own patterns very clearly. But at a certain stage acknowledging things doesn’t mean healing. It can take years for a pattern to break apart, even with consciously working on it.

As with all things, I turned within and found that this fatigued part of myself was incredibly tired of being human. This is an incredibly different sensation than being suicidal or depressed, but a sensation of weariness on a spiritual level that so many people were in pain, and projected so much, and created such chaos for themselves.

I sat with this for about a year, not getting much of anywhere. At this point I had been meditating for about 17 years, and so I didn’t force that fatigue to do anything. I had visions of myself falling through the Void(s), of being in virtual nothingness, and of having visions of the chaos and patterns that surrounded people as grids, as a sort of inexplicable geometry. I was upset at how the whole universe was a lie.

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I also felt incredibly peaceful. Whenever I noticed a projection, or mirroring, or myself in a play (or others trying to cast me in a play) I simply acknowledged it and worked through it. I do love Ho’oponopono for this, at least for a start: I am sorry, Please forgive me, I thank you, I love you are said when envisioning the person who harmed or creating emotional reaction in you. These words are spoken to creator, to the person, to whomever you feel as if should hear them. There is then a softening of your reaction to the person as you repeat these phrases to them (this may take a long time for some people, as in years. But it is worth it).

Step Four

I began really fully realizing that what remained in me in my reaction to others was a desire to control them. Although I had realized this before, I didn’t have the clarity necessary before (I was clouded by emotion and my “play”) to really understand it. I wanted people to act the way I thought of as appropriate, or correct.

I started asking myself a question of Am I trying to control this person (would I like for them to act differently?) 

The answer is almost always a resounding “yes”. Yes, I would like for internet trolls to realize that I don’t care what they have to say, and to realize that I don’t want their emails. Yes, I would like for those trolls to realize that if I wanted someone to “teach” me, I would find someone to do so. Yes, I would like for the trolls to awaken from their narcissism just a tiny bit to ask themselves if they are coming off like a complete asshole and if their “expertise” actually warrants a random email to someone such as myself. Yes, I would like for those trolls to see the “hey I can’t respond to emails except about my classes” and actually realize that yes, that message is meant for them too.

By the way, I have that on my contact form (I can’t reply to messages or give free advice) not to be mean, but when you have written a book or have a blog about a spiritual subject and/or are a spiritual healer, you get a ton of emails. And there is nothing that makes someone like me want to go live in a cave somewhere or disappear (or consider the “help wanted” sign at the local Target) than having five hundred emails in my Inbox from people, many of which were vaguely or considerably inappropriate, psychotic, or from people who just want you to spend several hours for free giving them free advice and healing because free.

After I let this desire to control go I still had the fatigue, the weariness. Although I would say that this about 70 percent gone (some days more gone than others), the fatigue isn’t much in reaction to people any more. It is the fatigue of someone who has seen too much, perhaps… and is still somewhat admittedly in reaction to the illusions of the world, the chaos that people create for themselves, and sometimes the amount of delusion that specifically is in the “spiritual” space.

I still occasionally react to people. It is somewhat rare. But when I do I realize (and yes, I do realize that this is incredibly trite) that they are my teacher. They are showing me something that I need to heal. And I go through the whole list: mirroring, projection, what play I may be casting them in, if I am wanting the person to act differently/to control them.

And when the next internet troll contacts me, I will do what I always do now. Have compassion for the wounds that they are showing me, and what they are trying to project onto me (what role they are trying to cast me in). And hit “delete”.

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Summary: Steps to this Process

  • Step One: Look at your mirroring.
    • What part of you is represented in this person? What age?
    • What emotion is this person exhibiting? What wounds does this person show you that you may relate to (and may need to acknowledge?)
  • Step Two: Projection
    • What emotion are you feeling? Is this person creating much more emotion than is warranted for the situation? Are you two, or five, or fifty times the reaction that you should be? (For more clarity, who or what are you actually angry/sad/fearful of? Chances are that it may be the person you are reacting to– a little bit– but mostly you are projecting a whole lot of emotion and belief onto the person)
  • Step Three: Casting your Play
    • Who is this person in your play? Do they remind you of anyone (mother, father, sibling, friend from grade school)?
    • A good hint to this is to notice what types of people are “magnetized” to you. They are coming into your life for a reason
    • If it is not from this lifetime (or you are acting out family issues) you will notice the same type of person come into your life, or be attracted to you, without you being able to place it. You likely will need a healer to help you with this.
  • Step Four: Noticing their Play
    • What role are they trying to cast you in?
    • How are they relating to you? Are they treating you like a mother who they express anger towards? A nameless someone who is out to get them?
    • What age are they relating at? You can begin to notice their wounds, and this will help to develop compassion. Nobody wants to be a two year old and have to navigate the world that way when they are forty. It must be difficult to navigate the world with such wounds and beliefs constricting them.
    • Say “no” to their play. This goes the same for your play, but if you want to heal yourself from a whole lot of stuff act differently. Don’t play to your role (the one you have given yourself or the one that others have given you). Refuse to do so. Notice what is repeating in your interactions and act differently
  • Step Five: Letting go of Control
    • Chances are that you are seeking control of the person. Basically, you are wanting them to act differently or in a way that you deem appropriate. Consciously choose to let go of control. Say “I am letting go of control of you” internally when you notice this pattern arise. Repeat as much as you need to.
    • The part of this that always is sticky is that chances are very good that you are right. Do not let that get in the way. The person may be acting atrociously, they may be violent or aggressive or filled with hate. They may be doing things that not only you but society deems inappropriate or incorrect. Let go of wanting them to act or be any different. 

It is hard– the last one (the letting go of control). But as you achieve distance, and work on your own “stuff” you will realize that people are people. They cannot be expected to act any more than the sums of their wounds. It would be lovely, of course, if they would awaken and heal those wounds… but having compassion for someone without wanting to change them is a powerful act. We always have a choice to change, to heal, to awaken. But it is our individual choice, and it will be in our own timing. Letting people be who they are, without desire to change them, can allow for a lot of release and healing. All of this work can, and I do hope that those of you who stuck through this whole blog gathered something useful from it.

Changing Our Reactions to Others

I have been thinking a fair amount this week how my reaction to people has drastically changed through my awakening process. This came up because this past week I had a fair amount of “internet troll” type emails that came my way. Way more than usual.

This is obviously because it was the holidays, and people who don’t have the tools to handle their emotions and acknowledge the pain and wounds that might come up for themselves during the holidays do things like send obnoxious emails.

I was perhaps going to write a blog about the dynamics of internet trolls, but they are reasonably simple (and I was guided to instead utilize them as a framing device about how I react to people differently than I once might have or did). Trolls don’t have the adult tools to acknowledge and work with their pain, so they energetically try to push it out and on anyone who will accept it. There will often be “takers” (people who get upset at them, which they want) which allows for the “troll” to not only push out their pain but also temporarily feed off of the energy and emotion created by the emotional field of the person that got upset at them.

There is also a huge problem in our modern world that many of us have not gone through the initiations that allow us to spiritually (which would then mean emotionally and energetically) become adults. When this happens, the person exists in a prolonged sort of adolescence. Internet trolls can be so infuriating because they are the perpetual teenager, narcissistic and pretending to know everything, and being obnoxious while doing so.

One of my varietals of internet trolls is always male, and is someone who emails me with “corrections” and “helpful suggestions”. This is always someone who has no idea what they are talking about, or has a kindergarten-esque understanding of spiritual matters that they believe to be expertise. Often they are incredibly (almost laughably) wrong in their assertions (which wouldn’t be a big deal if they were to move on and learn more, as we all were kindergarteners at some point, but the problem here, of course, is the willingness to realize that they are not actually experts after their two weeks of internet searches about something). There also is frequently an undercurrent of misogyny (or “mansplaining”) present (as in, this person has not done any sort of self-inquiry or questioning of if they would send such emails to a male spiritual teacher/author. The answer is “no”, by the way).

I do, by the way, get contacted by people who think critically and wonderfully, and can engage in discussion. This is not the type of person I am referring to. For clarity here, I will also say that one of the things that happens when your consciousness begins to expand is that you realize how much you don’t know. You also realize that even if some people are in spiritual kindergarten, and you are in spiritual college, that there are people getting their third PhD; you will invariably meet these people if you get too uppity and they will help to cram you back down to size in some way.

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So I will use this “troll” as an example of how my reactions have changed over the years, as this type of troll is someone that successfully infuriates a lot of people. By the way, this shows a progression of about 15 years time span, so don’t expect mastery tomorrow (or to never have anyone trigger or upset you ever again. It doesn’t happen… even when you get to the “people are people, and do what people do” sort of stage)

My personal thoughts and stages are really only for example– they are not necessarily a roadmap to follow. But hopefully they will provide some good food for thought, as the people who upset us the most can allow for us to recognize what we need to heal within.

Step One: I used to get infuriated at people like this. I would engage them and delight in telling them how wrong they were, how little they knew. I would think about little they knew, how egotistical they were, how narcissistic, and that the world is going to ruin because of intellectually lazy people who read a Wikipedia page and then want to lecture someone who has seriously studied what they are talking about for five to ten years (at this point, and based on topic).

Step One Realizations:  Obviously this is how a lot of people react. This is how I used to react. Obviously I am talking about interactions over the internet in my example, but this did of course happen in person as well. That person who cut me off in traffic, the television reports on people murdering puppies (or whatever atrocities were being shown), a book or article being rejected. I was clouded by emotion (not just anger, such interactions would create sadness/grief, as well as fatigue, which I will refer to later) and emotionally reacting to people, which I would then replay throughout the day, continuing the emotions that I experienced in reaction to the person who seemingly caused that reaction.

In step one, you can do mirroring work. This is the first step for anyone (it is just not the only step, as some believe).

What this means is that anything that truly irritates you about another is something divorced or disassociated from you. It is something that is wounded, or that you do not wish to acknowledge within yourself.

So this can go one of a few different ways: you can acknowledge that the internet troll is irritating you because you have the same sort of energy as him in some way, shape or form. You can also check in with the emotion: do you have the same anger as the internet troll?

You can also notice if that person is mirroring a disassociated part of you. We all have trauma that causes us to “freeze” in our timeline… and to disassociate. Simply put, the “troll” may be showing you the fifteen year old aspect of yourself that was filled with anger and didn’t know how to process it appropriately. The teenage part of you that had low self-esteem and/or low self-worth and tried to make up for that by pretending to be an “expert”. Or, in some cases, that two year old aspect of you that really, really wanted that cookie and never got it.

Recognizing this aspect of you and how/why it has disassociated can allow for you to heal that part of you.

Step Two

The next step is to work with projections. This is part of mirror work, but most of us have a stockpile of backlogged emotions. They are bottled up within us, and we are not yet at a place of being able to understand or work with our anger, or our grief, or our fear. So when we come into contact with someone who makes us sad, it is not just the sadness of the incident– we are projecting onto the person and onto the situation all of our unhealed sad. That “troll” may now be someone else entirely.

The way to work with this is through “play” work… but at the projection level you can begin to ask yourself Am I much angrier (sadder, fear more, feel more anxiety) than I should in this situation? 

Because chances are that you are. That backlogged emotion is coming out and creating a situation where are much more upset at the person than they warrant. You may experience twice, or five times, or five hundred times the emotion (directed at the person mixed with beliefs and our “play”) that the situation warranted. Asking yourself this question can allow for you to cut yourself back down to size, so to speak… and to begin to recognize your projections.

During this stage I found that my anger, which I thought was directed at the person and their behavior, was primarily not about mirroring. This was because I worked with mirroring, and found myself still angry. I also have never really acted like many of these people do– I have been lucky in that I have always realized how much further I had to go in my journey, and how much more I had to know.

In this scenario, I realized that my anger came from the fact that I had to know so much, that I was pulled so deep. That I no longer was at the sort of surface, kindergarten-type knowledge and that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. That I had given up an incredible amount of time and effort to become an expert in my field, to really and truly know and feel and heal, and my anger was not actually about someone who had the equivalent of two weeks of knowledge trying to claim expertise, or even at the culture of laziness and sameness or the new-age movement that perpetuates this idea that everyone has equally valid ideas (although I still can go on my soapbox about that one at times). It was at the fact that I had given up so much of my life to learn what I needed to learn, and that I was angry at myself for having to do so.

I was projecting that onto these “trolls”. Once I was able to work my way through the anger and the grief over this, I found myself much less reactive.

While I am talking about a specific framework here (reaction to internet trolls), really being willing to sit with what emotions and experiences we may be projecting onto someone can be done in any scenario in which we find ourselves emotionally reacting to someone.

Step Three

We create our entire universe out of our projections. A lot of people believe that this is a narcissistic saying (or utilize it to fuel their own narcissism) but we have a universe that we all participate in… one that we collectively create. But we all have our own private reality. This reality is based off of the pains and wounds that you have experienced (or have been passed down to you). Our backlogged emotions, what has happened to us in our lifetimes, in our family line/ancestry, past lives, and what is going on in history/in the collective when we are born makes us who we are.

We project our “private” reality on top of the collective reality. So we really are “creating” our own universe, it is just on top of another “universe” that has been created collectively.

Our wounds create our beliefs, they create our restrictions. Although I will write a separate blog about this, this is why a spiritual path cannot be disembodied. Why it has to be grounded in collective reality and not individual delusion. It is because the spiritual path is one of freedom, and to free ourselves we need to acknowledge and work with our pain. The more we can release what holds us, what beliefs constrict us and hold us in fear, the more freedom we experience.

As we free ourselves from our wounds, and the beliefs those wounds created, we can be freer, and wholer. And more clear. And deeply feel and sense and be in this reality (along with whatever realities we wish to work with).

I say this because there are steps beyond mirroring. The next step beyond mirroring and projection work is to understand how and why you are casting this person in your play. 

So back to the internet troll. My reaction when I was working with my own mirrored parts, those disassociated aspects of me out in the universe, was to be angry. And a bit self-righteous. As I recognized and took back these parts I found over the months that I now felt sad, and not upset at people like this.

I was still reacting to them, but I was no longer responding to them, or giving them the energy that they were really looking for. I felt sad because people felt the need to be like this, I felt sad for humanity. I felt sad because I had worked through a lot of my projections over the course of a few years and I stumbled onto the truth that I was casting people like this in my “play”.

Read about what a “play” is, and Part Two here…