It is a time and season for change, and I have decided after much consideration to end my online/distance courses to focus on my writing, as well as new avenues that will be opening up for me (I will announce these closer to the New Year, but it will include a new book!) I will be leaving enrollment open until 11/5/2017 if you wanted to still take a course. I do hope you consider it, as what I teach is much needed in this world, and my courses are offered in a focused, step-by-step manner that allows for comprehensive understanding of the subject
You have until 11/5/2017 to sign up for a course. The Facebook group connected with the courses will remain available for guidance and feedback beyond that date.
If you are or have been a student, please save or print your course material before January 5, 2017
I wish to extend my gratitude to my students, clients, and others who have made my courses such a success. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I look forward to hearing from those of you who take a course.–
You can find Part One here, and a framework of the spiritual awakening process here…
To start, I am going to set up a basic polarity concerning the differences between spiritual awakening and mental fracturing or illness. I will then go into the nuances, or how and why the basic polarity may not always be present, or so straightforward.
The spiritual awakening process is one of expansion. Whatever its source– from a shamanic calling or training, kundalini awakening, or many of the other paths up the “mountain”– what occurs is a perspective shift and relational shift in which someone moves beyond looking at themselves as the protagonist in this world.
This expansion allows for a releasing of beliefs and energies that hold the person separate; this largely means a process of noting what is external (what is creating reaction) and reconciling it inwardly.
It is a process of taking responsibility for oneself– in an adult, mature capacity (this has been greatly convoluted, by the way. We are not responsible and did not “create” our abuse as a child, and the 1 out of 4 children who go hungry in the US on a daily basis do not need to take “responsibility” for themselves). Rather, it is a process of moving past conditioning, past trauma, and primarily beliefs that create restrictions to the extent that there is clarity, and an emotional intelligence that allows for personal chaos and situations to be looked at inwardly.
This awakening process is best described as a series of relational shifts. When we are “asleep” we have only a small dot (our wounded, insular conceptualization of ourselves) and as we awaken we can consider as well as feel compassion for others– not only because we have moved beyond our blind, emotive reactions based on past trauma and rigid belief systems– but because our “dot” has expanded… and we now can recognize that what we are reactive to in others shows us what is unhealed within ourselves.
Awakening is also not a personal process in many ways, although it outwardly appears that way. It is about seeing clearly the self in relationship to the world (or the cosmos) and to one another.
If we heal what we are reactive to outwardly, we are no longer reactive and have reconciled that aspect of our “shadow” (the repressed aspect of ourselves that is brought to our attention in the outer world) and begin to understand that we are in a large web of being– we are one– and can relate on a spiritually adult, clear level to one another. This does not mean that every emotional reaction will cease, or that emotions are “bad”– emotional intelligence and maturity allows for the full feeling of those emotions and the ability to have them flow through you without the reactivity of past traumas coloring them.
The awakening process allows for the immense amount of chaos that surrounds us in many ways to lessen. We create so much chaos for ourselves– sometimes out of just the idea that we should have so much chaos– and this can and does release so there is greater clarity and relationship between the self and outer.
There is the ability to sit with even the most disparate of beliefs, and consider the personal illusions and falsehoods created with openness. Someone who is “awake” will have the capacity to consider any belief or instinct that is creating separation (or heightened sense of ego) and understand that it is false, and reconcile what is behind it. There is a moving beyond the mental “rules” and societal constructs, not because there is no balance and grounding in reality or in the body, but because such things have simply been inwardly reconciled.
The need for judgment and outer division ceases, not because people are “all the same” or “all have equal things to offer”, but because you can simply meet them where they are, rather than try to change them or believe yourself superior to them. We all have things to work on, and someone awakening will know this with humility, and will simply work on what arises, knowing that as long as we are in a human body, we all will have struggle and things to work on.
In contrast, mental fracturing and illness creates contraction and separation. There is no capacity to see outside of the self (or expand beyond the “dot”); this is because if the daily experience is a battle there is no room or energy to consider anything else other than the self. In simpler terms, if a lion is currently chasing you, it is not a good time to consider the emotional needs or projections you are creating. It is a time to get away from the lion.
The “purification” process of awakening allows for chaos and fracturing to heal, which means not only less chaos, but less energy expended on the internal battles, or the fractured aspects of us fighting one another. This results in the capacity to actually have the energy to help others, to see outside the self, and to realize that in helping others you are helping yourself– it is a natural outreach of the path to be of assistance to others in some capacity. This does not mean you are completely “healed” by the way– it means that at some point your work will be to reconcile yourself outwardly, or to offer yourself and what you have learned (as well as your presence) to others who are former aspects of you, or who simply may need some guidance on the path you have already partially or fully walked down.
With mental fracturing, there is the idea of being alone, separate, an individual identity… often at war with the world, or endlessly being persecuted or victimized. There will be understanding of Self as the protagonist and the center of the universe– often with illusions and ideologies around being the “chosen one” or having immense power (or being “enlightened” or having nothing left to work on, or being on the eight level when everyone else in history has been at the seventh), while simultaneously creating a reality of being incredibly victimized by the spirit world, by people, and a removal or separation from the physical body and from the Earth as a whole.
In this fractured capacity, the person will either have the eventual clarity and healing to move beyond the needs and projections of the separate self, and to utilize tools to come back to the body and to the earth… or the rigidity and fear that comes from trauma and fracturing (and the need to feel like a separate protagonist) will perceive any outside information that runs contrary to this contracted self, healing, or healing professional as a form of attack– turning the person or information that goes contrary to belief systems into yet another attacker that must be defended against.
There are many reasons for this– the simplest being that the parts of us that are separate or fractured are that way for a reason: they were overwhelmed, traumatized, and deeply afraid. This traumatized “self” then created a reality or overlay, complete with belief systems, to make this separated reality “okay”– often complete with the illusions of the power that has been lost.
Ironically, the call for the modern-day “rugged individualism” comes from illusion and a fractured sense of self. The idea that one must heal themselves, or cannot reach out for support, is an illusion, and a hugely detrimental one at that. We heal relationally, which includes both inner, personal work, as well as reaching out to others and healing within the context of our communities. We are meant to share our burdens, as that allows for transcendence beyond the ideas of the fractured, separated, and illusory self.
In shamanic terms, this separated and traumatized self has experienced power loss and so has created the illusion of power, centered around the self as protagonist. If this power loss is healed, the illusions of power, the needs to be superior, and even the need for solipsistic ideologies lessen or cease, and humility and lessened chaos are a result.
One of the difficulties in creating such a binary is that it is easy to look at this as “spiritual awakening– good; mental fracturing– bad” and although such a framework is necessary, it is also necessary to transcend it. So let’s go ahead and do so…
The difficulty with determining spiritual awakening vs. psychosis or mental illness is that the overall trajectory needs to be understood. This is because there is carry-over between the two, and because the experience of ego death (read the previous blog) and relational shifts in and of themselves can be traumatizing. They can also trigger or bring up latent, or subconscious imbalances. We carry a lot within us that has been subconscious for a reason: it is because we lack the capacity, tools, or support to work our way through it. Such things emerging can be overwhelming.
There has been a lot of illusion about how the spiritual awakening process just creates this concept of “bliss”, or incorrect illusions about how we simply become happier and healthier, in a state of bliss as a result of the process. This is untrue, as what lies dormant within us are things we have difficulty reconciling or are rejecting for a reason.
For example, it was probably my tenth year of meditation that I first came upon the “Destroyer” energy (in the Spiritual Awakening Guide) and the aspects of myself that wanted my destruction, or to no longer be alive. Coming across our inner serial killer, our inner pedophile, our inner (insert something horrific here) and all of our shadow parts is a hard task, and they come up long beyond the time of simply responding to outer chaos and the sort of blind “sleeper” state of simple reactivity to the outer world. Having compassion for those aspects is key, and these parts of us arise for healing. However, we may still be reactive to them or lack the tools to deal with these aspects of ourselves.
The other difficulty is that there is bliss in the awakening process, there are flows, and waves, and heightened states that allow for an understanding of freedom. This can result in despair, despondency as they “flicker” (or you come out of them), and it is a hard thing to describe to people that you develop (or become aware, rather) of emotional complexity in the awakening process. Basically, you can be both in a state of bliss and depression simultaneously. You can be in pain and experience great stillness. You can be deeply grieving, feel joy, sadness, and love simultaneously. This is emotional intelligence at its most finely tuned.
As mentioned, there is even greater complexity in the fact that the experience of these “ego deaths” or relational shifts are traumatizing and overwhelming themselves. The sudden clarity of realizing a pattern that has shaped your entire reality being untrue is a hard thing to digest. The realization of inner patterns that were once held subconscious arising is difficult.
There is also the difficulty of the awakening process happening to someone that is already considerably fractured and unstable. If we picture ourselves as a mirror (with a gleaming, whole surface as being “enlightenment”… which is much rarer than popular culture espouses… and most of us having cracks and chips and severe trauma or biological/physical and etheric issues of the mind creating fractures or portions missing) the awakening process may happen to someone who has a few cracks, and can see through the process reasonably intact.
It also may happen to someone who has no idea what is going on or who has small or large cracks, or sections of their “mirror” missing. In the previous blog, I referred to how my process was so difficult largely because my physical body was out of line– and if we physically, mentally, emotionally, are already significantly out of balance, the process of accepting, surrendering, and working our way through relational shifts and identity shifts is much harder, and in some cases, insurmountable without assistance.
Erich Neumann referred to this concept as “higher” and “lower”– basically the differentiation being the in tact, or healthy “ego” (or the mirror having only a few cracks or scuffs). The “higher” spiritual experience would then be someone who can integrate the trauma of the experience and the subsequent release of beliefs and reformulation of identity. The “lower” experience would be someone who cannot, and who is further traumatized or becomes psychotic due to the overwhelm of the experience.
Similarly, there is the famous Joseph Campbell quote: “the psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight” which describes this as well.
However, while there are many, many people who fit the above… there are people who utilize the awakening experience as a framework for their fracturing or psychosis and who are not undergoing the process. Even people who are undergoing the awakening process may reach for things that reinforce trauma and disassociation (or are a comfort to their illusions and sense of separation) which are all to prevalent in the spiritual awakening “community”.
This is why looking at the overall trajectory– if the person is going through an expansive process and identity shifts, or if they are contracted and fractured, utilizing the framework as a resource as a way to experience relief or control or to feel powerful due to a fractured mirror.
Awakening should allow for ease in living, more freedom, a relationship to the earth and the people in it to develop. It should allow for expansion of beliefs, acceptance of others, release of judgment as a result of inner needs for control, and an increase in functioning if seen through.
It should also allow for understanding that the “transcendence” of the physical body is a way to reconcile inner fears of death, and realization of the temporary nature, and is not an excuse or reasoning for disassociation and isolative tendencies that arise due to fracturing and false beliefs.
The “shaman” is in this reality as well as the other– both worlds are equally important. The physical body and its senses are important, and without grounding in the physical body, and an appreciation of the physical body, disassociative states simply create more illusion, or needs arising from the separate and fractured self.
As we are relational beings, it is important for us to relate– to be grounded in this reality, in our bodies, in this world. Our greatest modern pattern is one of separation, of isolation– from one another, from ourselves, and from the world. This is what is not understood about the “what a shaman sees in a mental hospital” thing– it is that we largely nowadays have most of our energy around our heads, and our mental and emotional bodies are clogged (or unhealed) to the extent that we cannot even access the spiritual.
Native and indigenous spiritual workers that I have talked to did not have this separation to this extent, and do not understand this type of modern, energetic construct. This is why any modern day spiritual worker needs to work on the mental and emotional levels as well (not just, but as well) because unless we do, much of the spiritual work will be rejected or will not filter through the mental, emotional, and physical layers to be integrated and reconciled fully.
There is a belief that if we just correct the “spiritual” or purify enough, that we will be cured or healed of every struggle, every mental illness. This does not include the understanding that we have many bodies, one of them physical.
There is an energy field, or grid, of the mind. This is largely an “etheric” or blueprint (genetic, biological) field. Separate from any of the discussions above, the correct “body” must be treated. For complex issues– we would need to look at the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical reasonings for the imbalance. What this means is that for some people, medications (either for a short time, or for this physical lifetime) are necessary, just as medications for diabetes and so forth are. This is not a failure, either in short term or in long term. While there are problems with medications that I wish were talked about more (like how difficult it is to come off of them) if one of our “bodies” is out of balance it needs to be brought into balance.
However, something like forty percent of Americans are on anti-depressants and so forth– I do believe and have seen great efficacy with spiritual healing, with immersion in nature, microdosing, exercise, nutrition, bodywork, and talk therapy– with impact on the physical body, of course. Connection instead of isolation can do wonderful things. Letting others who have walked the path of “wounded healer” assist us is not an act of weakness, it is an act of strength. The modern myth of the rugged individual, that if only we were “spiritual” enough we would have no burdens, is deeply ignorant and results in people not receiving the help that they need.
There are wonderful things that can happen with awakening, but as it has been treated as a commodity, we have heaped our illusions onto it, and have created a space where there is significant illusion being offered to us concerning the topic. As long as we are human, we will still have struggle and things to work on. If we have clarity, we will be willing to look at our complex issues and imbalances and treat them how they need to be treated, including physically.
At times our burdens are so great that we lose the capacity to take care of them ourselves. We are not intended to heal in isolation– we are relational beings– and there should be absolutely no stigma in healing at whatever level, and through whatever means, are necessary– be that spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical/biological. The purpose of our physical bodies and lives is to be functional, to connect, to love one another. If there is something interfering with that, especially significantly, there is nothing more “spiritual” than taking care of yourself and your “bodies” to come into a clear and integrated view of reality that includes the highest level of personal functioning for you or your loved ones.
If you are struggling, reach out for help. There are a lot of people out there suffering exactly as you are. In our separation and trauma we believe ourselves to be the only one, or in isolation… or the myth of the rugged individual that we must take care of all things ourselves. We do not– we heal relationally, and no matter what you are experiencing, others have as well. Find an in-person bodyworker focused on trauma, sympathetic counselor (Jungian or transpersonal usually means they have a “spiritual” bent or will look at the spiritual path as a way to seek meaning, rather than pathological), or spiritual healer who has at least ten years of experience. Reach out to friends, family, and hotlines if necessary, or in crisis. Due to the amount of emails I receive, I am unable to offer guidance individually, and often an in-person resource to forge connections is critical, especially if you are significantly out of balance or lack functioning. Be safe, and take care of yourself. It is courageous for you to do so.
Before we get into the second part of looking at spiritual awakening, psychosis, mental illness, and shamanism (you can read the first part here) I realize that a few definitions and a basic framework for doing so should be explored. You can also now read Part Two here…
In doing so I will also talk about some of the common illusions on the path.
Spiritual awakening is a two-fold process involving:
- “Purification” (release and healing)
- “Expansion” (relational shifts)
During the spiritual awakening process, what happens is that the person releases held energy from their physical and energetic bodies. Held energies are old emotions, traumas, and beliefs from a variety of sources (from personal to ancestral, societal, etc.)
We shape who we are around our belief structures. What we believe to be true is what we interface with, and we reject what we know not to be true. We do not do this consciously (most of the time) and so our projected universe is limited by our belief structures, or what we know to be true.
People really believe an ideology that if they change themselves that the world changes– as if the universe is based on an inherent self-centered idea that they have created and are in control of the world– as in, if we only work on ourselves for long enough nobody will ever be mean to us, or cut us off in traffic. There will no longer be suicide bombers, and that there will be clean drinking water in Detroit if we only heal ourselves.
It is a nice, but inherently solipsistic thought, and furthers incorrect ideas and ideologies, as well as allows for division and illusion to placate personal fear. This means that we can blame the person for what has happened to them… because if they were “awake” enough they would be in perfect bliss, never have a problem again, and would be in complete control and have a sense of knowing about their existence.
In this state we can also judge others, because obviously the person got cancer (experienced disease, death, abuse) because they were not “awake”… even though Ramana Maharshi died from cancer… and so we can contract our energies, judge, and placate our own fears around death, not knowing, and so forth by this illusory division and separation.
But there are eight billion people in this world. We create this world together. Certainly working through our own issues has a ripple effect on the “ocean”, or our collective consciousness. Certainly people should take personal responsibility for themselves to whatever extent they are able to (and this is a big differentiator that I will talk about in the next post between mental fracturing and spiritual awakening). If many people take personal responsibility, that heals the collective.
So in some ways the world does get easier with healing your own “stuff”, because you no longer are projecting your unhealed issues and general chaos into the world. You are no longer in a state of blind reaction due to your unhealed issues, and awakening allows for the eventual capacity to look at what you are emotionally reactive to and utilize it to reconcile something that is unhealed inwardly.
But that doesn’t stop people with unhealed issues and chaos from projecting onto you.
It also doesn’t stop you from having emotions, and while you can be compassionate for someone being abusive towards you (for example), it doesn’t mean that you have to take it or that you cannot or will not get upset because you are “awake”.
Awakening allows for the full range of emotions, full emotional capacity and depth, with the realization that nothing within us, no matter how fearful or angry, is “bad”: often it is simply unheard, misunderstood, and in pain.
And it doesn’t stop you from having issues. Healing your own “stuff”, or the purification process allows for a perspective shift. You are expanded beyond your own chaos and fracturing and can begin to look deeper into more “soul-level” type issues (for lack of better phrasing) as well as begin to see outside of your limited view of yourself.
The spiritual awakening process is really the capacity to traverse your inner depths, thereby expanding into outer depths, by taking personal responsibility and becoming conscious of what beliefs and unhealed material are preventing you from realizing this expansion.
It is a state of being, a state of stillness, and a state of realizing complexity and nuance, rather than casting oneself as the eternal victim and others as persecutor.
When we are not “awake”, we are in a state of only being able to consider ourselves and our own experiences of this world. By healing or “purifying” we are able to move beyond the considerable chaos and drama that we enact.
What the awakening process creates is a state of being able to regard the experiences of others as valid (as a start), to move out of the bubble of only interacting with or considering the small realm of existence that supports your version of “truth”, and to move beyond the illusory rules and ideologies, as well as the controls, that people try to put on things like “awakening”.
In simple terms, most people lack the inherent capacity to consider anything other than themselves and their own pain. They cannot see outside of themselves, and in this state they are only able to draw to them, interact with, and consider valid people, places, and realities that are a small part of the contracted bubble that they have created.
In awakening, this bubble expands more and more until the person reconciles their inherent selfishness, begins accepting other viewpoints as valid, and can work their way past the belief systems (both their own as well as imposed by society or even the “awakening” community).
What is confusing about this is that there are plenty of sensitive people out there who are wounded and feel separated. This does not mean that they are “awake” (although they may be in the lower stages of awakening), as they lack the capacity (willingness or ability) to move beyond themselves.
Put even more simply: the long lists of “rules” and commands, what music someone should listen to, what television (or no TV), what someone should eat, read, what gender/sex, what portion of the population someone can interact with (as in, “you can only interact with “awakened” people), only working in the “light” because the dark is “bad”…are all mental illusions that can be transcended. They are inherently limiting, contract this “bubble”, and create judgment and division, thus separating the person from the whole.
In contrast, an awakened, or awakening person can interact with anyone, and has an increased capacity to interact with every part of themselves (with compassion, yes… including the “dark” without wanting to change it) because their mental limitations and needs for control are gradually transcended.
They have moved beyond basic binaries and polarities, and have moved into realizing complexity. There is no longer the reaction or automatic villainization of things that are out of the control, or beyond the experiences of the limited perspective of the individual.
All of this takes time and effort, of course, and is a process rather than something that can all be done tomorrow (another common illusion on the path).
This process of purification and expansion is life-long. As long as we are in human bodies, we have something to work on. It is a question of if the person awakening is going to believe the forces within them that tell them that they have transcended such things… or not (I refer to this in my Spiritual Awakening Guide book as “ego awakening”, which is the most common type of awakening in which someone basically stops themselves in their process).
There is also a contraction process during awakening. We are always in a state of contracting and expanding. When we expand, we eventually will contract. This is a consolidation of what has been learned in the previous expansion phase and an integration of it into all “bodies” (more on this later).
This also can be referred to as “ego death”. What happens when we expand, when we heal/purify, is that what we know to be true about ourselves and the world changes. We do not experience one ego death but many along the path.
This means that a part of us must “die” and reformulate (or go through a cycle of death and rebirth). This process can be quite difficult, especially if the person in this contraction cycle either lacks awareness of what is going on, or they fight the process.
We get used to who and what we are, and so any change in that, as well as feelings of “death” (which is a huge baseline fear of ours that is worked through later in the awakening process) is a large trigger with a lot of unhealed emotions and beliefs.
There also is the difficulty that during this process there is a “black-out”, or a return to the physical body, sometimes with a “dark night of the soul” in which someone experiences despair, isolation, and feelings of being alone, or without spiritual guidance at the very least.
Further in the awakening process, this “contraction” cycle can be realized and worked with.
In my personal framework (which is loosely derived from theosophy) we have our physical body, our etheric (our “double” or blueprint of our physical form), our astral (or emotional), mental, and then our spiritual.
Each “body” goes from densest to most expansive. So our physical body is our most contracted and densest “container”. The mental body would then hold our emotional, etheric, and physical bodies.
This is why I have so much difficulty with modern shamanism and spiritual communities, by the way… they are firmly in the “mental” container. This is where and how so many rules and definitive knowledge and placation of psychological needs (such as the need to know, to feel superior, to feel the center of the universe with everything having a specific personal meaning, and to feel in control) get developed.
While I very much understand why people may desire the container of the “mental” rather than the free-fall and move away from being the protagonist/center of the universe that happens in the spiritual, there are vast amounts of knowledge and wonder that happen in the spiritual.
It is also quite different than the mental, to put it mildly. But like all things, working on the mental can open up the clogged mental “body” so someone can experience the spiritual… if they are willing and ready to. The problem is that most people do not know, or are not ready, to move into this space.
What happens when you try to cram something into a lesser container is that it loses its magic, it loses is efficacy, and it becomes watered-down (in shamanic terms, it experiences power loss). While I do recognize that the capacity to interface with power takes time and willingness, seeing things like shamanism become a pale, mentally derived technique without power, or a soul, is still a sore point for me.
Because while the spiritual “body” is the least dense, and it holds the other “bodies”, it isn’t really a container– it cannot be contained by rules and thoughts and polarities. However much you explore, you can only explore .000000000001 percent of the universe(s), if that. The more you explore, the more that decimal point moves to the left and the more zeroes you add, by the way.
The reason that I bring this up is because treatment at the correct level or “body” is really, really necessary.
So what does this mean?
It means that if a vast majority of your unhealed energy is at the emotional level/body, working with the emotions first will often be the most helpful.
If your difficulty is spiritual, working with the “mental” body will only be so helpful. If your problem has a biological imprint (hereditary, hormonal, etc.) treatment on the physical level is often necessary.
You would ideally work with the “body” that is most out of balance first, and then proceed to look at the other “bodies” so that they are in balance. In complex situations (chronic or simply complicated) all “bodies” should be looked at, and often need to be worked with, to create a state of balance.
Most importantly, if one of your “bodies” is out of line, especially in the spiritual awakening process, the process will be much more difficult for you. It took me many years to realize that one of the reasons that my own process was so difficult was that my physical “body” was really out of balance, and to move beyond my resistance and beliefs to the extent that I could work on my physical body. This made all the difference, as this body becoming aligned meant that I could go through expansion and purification processes more smoothly.
And finally, a few quotes:
“Emotions– fear, anger, love– are as necessary for the organism’s survival as nerve impulses, immune cells or hormonal activity”– Gabor Mate
“Magic is not below our present level of knowledge but beyond it. Magic is a state of cognition that psychology has yet to attain”– Holger Kalweit
“Emotional competence is the capacity that enables us to stand in a responsible, non-victimized, and non-self-harming relationship with our environment… Few of us reach adult age with anything close to full emotional competence. Recognizing our lack of it is not cause for self-judgment, only a call for further development and transformation”– Gabor Mate
This is Part One of what will be a Two Part Blog. If you are interested in an in-depth look at Spiritual Awakening, I suggest my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide.
This topic is a notoriously sticky one, as well as one that I have hesitated to write about in the past because I have some inherent biases. I am very conscious of them so I will discuss them, as they may be helpful for others to see clearly laid out.
The main bias that I have is that I have interacted with (or received emails/correspondence from, I should say) a disproportionate amount of people that would likely be diagnosed as either severely mentally ill or suffering from some sort of psychosis.
This can be quite wearing at times, and I have known many wonderful spiritual workers and spiritual teachers who have decided to step away from offering their services due to their experiences with this population.
It is natural for us to remember the chaos, the outlandishness, and the people so far removed from reality and mental clarity who contact us when we are in any type of customer service– and I could tell story after story of the sorts of odd and frequently bizarre things people have asked me for, planned for me, accused me of, or claimed, that have had no basis in any sort of reality.
They are the creations of a mind and spirit suffering, and represent a lack of wholeness, as well as the typical and recognizable effects of trauma… or of a mind and mental structures that lack cohesion and clarity as well as grounding in this/physical reality, and have lost anchoring to consensual reality.
It is hard after interfacing with this population for so long to not see clearly that a lot of people use spiritual work, and spiritual and shamanic communities, as well as concepts like “awakening” to foster and perpetuate delusions and unhealthy mental states that are not bringing the person to greater clarity, wholeness, health, or increased consciousness or spiritual connection.
I also have interacted with many people who are suffering due to the weight of trauma who may or may not have been diagnosed with mental illness. Trauma is separating: it causes the person to separate from themselves, to separate from the world, and to maintain harmful belief structures that they are alone, or the only person to experience something, and that the world, and the people in it, are in some capacity out to get them.
In my line of work this is commonly referred to as power loss and/or soul loss. The effect of having an event that is overwhelming, traumatizing, or too much to handle is that we “freeze” at that aspect of our timeline. Put simply, many of us are fifty with an unhealed six year old within us. That six year old, unless “unfrozen”, and integrated with the adult consciousness, will have the pain of the experience still continually reverberating through the consciousness of the fifty year old adult.
Additionally, that six year old will have specific likes, dislikes, and specific tools as well as emotional reactions, especially when the original wound is triggered.
Put in energetic terms, there is a held, stagnant vibration that the body no longer recognizes as its current consciousness.
So what does this really mean? This means that this six year old may have had divorcing parents. The six year old felt overwhelmed, like it was their fault that their father (obviously this happens in the world with both parents, this is just an example) left. This person is now fifty. Say this is a heterosexual female– every relationship she is in with men will now create the same “loop”: the repeated, unhealed and habitual behaviors we enact again and again based in our unhealed trauma.
Her inner six year old desires healing. Desires a way to complete and resolve this situation. So she continually puts people in the position of “father”, and when there is perceived abandonment, this six year old is triggered, and the adult fifty year old begins acting from the consciousness of a six year old and through the wounds and eyes of that six year old.
Out of these wounds come daydreams and opposing creations. For example, this fifty year old woman may daydream about a man coming to save her. If we are talking specifically about power loss, what this turns into in a quite unhealthy/unbalanced state are people talking about how they can do things like control the moon, or are being continually attacked by spirits and beings, or have an incredible amount of power in reaction to the subconscious realization that they are missing some of their power.
If they are willing to look at the power loss, the trauma experienced, they can move on from these harmful and isolating belief structures. But there is a certain “tipping point” at which people are in such a state of imbalance that the suggestion that someone could move on or heal from such beliefs triggers feelings of lack of safety as well as the original trauma to the extent that the person is not able to be open to such a suggestion.
The ability and openness to look at a spiritual situation first psychologically is an indicator of mental health, however. If there is rigidity, attacking of others for questioning beliefs, or immense pain that comes from questioning aspects of reality, that would be an indicator of mental patterns, fracturing and soul loss/power loss.
A healthy mind can question itself.
A mind that lacks consciousness may not want to, but that is something of a separate issue.
If we have parts of ourselves that are unhealed in terms of self-worth, we will constantly need to “prove” ourselves. This means that many spiritual communities are people continually telling one another how they are better than them, tearing down others, or trying to get someone engaged in a fight. If people who acted like this had the willingness to ask what part of them needs to feel superior, or even what age they were acting from when they were interacting, they would come across an aspect of themselves that feels (or was told it was) worthless, unimportant, or not special.
Repairing the power dynamics, healing the wounded aspects of self, the frozen aspects of self, would cause for the outer person (the adult) to stop needing these beliefs, and they would no longer act the way that they are currently.
Power is another tricky subject, and could likely use its own blog, but spiritual work always comes down to the topic of power. We can lose power by trauma, by it being taken by us (by being victimized, most commonly), or through “microtrauma”– basically, the experience of being worn down over time by the small things (which are still important and large, such as needing to pay bills, have enough food on the table, shelter, feel safe, get enough rest, and all of the hierarchy of needs type stuff).
Hopefully the woman in my example will heal her inner child, break through habitual patterns, and break the “loop” of relating so that she can find a suitable partner, as well as become more whole. But my purpose in providing this description is to suggest that it is incredibly rare for someone to spiritually be an adult in our society.
Just look online for many examples of this. How many people act like mature, thoughtful adults and have the capacity for a neutral (as in reasonable, as in not acting like a teenager or like a wounded child) discussion?
Who can act respectfully, engage respectfully, at an adult level? Who is healed enough that they are not looking to tear everyone around them down? Who, even if in disagreement, can interact rationally, respectfully, and maturely?
Beyond even that:
- how many people have the adult capacity and consciousness to truly think for themselves?
- To move beyond the empty memes, the restrictive rules and logic created by others in their scrambling for control and constructs intended to pigeonhole spirit, awakening, shamanism, or any other topic?
- How many people can clearly assess where they are at on their path, and are willing to see how much more they have to learn?
- How many people actually look for opposing viewpoints, different viewpoints, or are willing to expand beyond their current bubble?
- How many have truly thought about the sayings and teachings that they have learned critically so they know why their cosmology, or their identity, is the way it is?
- How willing would people be to put aside the labels, and think about what needs for healing would be there if that were taken away?
For example, “Okay, if I were not an Empath, what would I have to heal?” If I did not have Kundalini, or wasn’t a Shaman or Psychic, what would I have to work on?
What happens when you are an outlier and you realize that the world is filled with people in pain, believing that they are all outliers– separate, unheard, unloved– in the same manner that you do?
What happens when someone realizes that whatever it is that makes them an outlier– their intelligence, perceptiveness, beauty, strength, spiritual or artistic capacity– is not a weakness at all, but their greatest strength?
I am suggesting such things on a topic on mental illness and psychosis because we act as if there are members of society that are distinctly “mentally ill” and that they act a specific way, with a specific delineation of symptoms and experiences, and a segment of our society that is “mentally healthy”, with specific ways of being, but the topic is incredibly more nuanced than that. Even many of those who are solidly in the “diagnosed, mentally ill” category are fluid, with days in which they are more functional and capable of seeing themselves and the world with clarity, and days in which they are not.
Finding someone who has worked through enough of their own stuff to become a spiritual adult in our society is really incredibly rare.
Who no longer is reacting from their various frozen parts, who is willing and able to take responsibility for themselves, to look inward, and to continue working on themselves. As someone enters spiritual adulthood, they have the capacity and willingness to examine their beliefs, especially their unhealed emotions and beliefs that are creating significant restrictions for themselves, and has the capacity to consider if they are true or not.
The person that can do this is, again, rare, and should be talked about in terms of mental illness because if we pigeonhole the “mentally ill” to be a specific aspect of the population, we must contend with a few things:
- That spiritual adults or people that we would determine to be “mentally healthy” in our society are incredibly rare
- That people determined to be “mentally ill” may be in the midst of chaos and personal creation to the extent that they no longer know what is societally appropriate, they have lost functioning and capacity to interact appropriately in this world and to understand what consensual reality is
- That the “mentally ill” may be seeing reality more clearly than most people will ever have the capacity to
I am in no way romanticizing mental illness here, but if you work with people enough who have the capacity and willingness (and readiness and openness) to consider their reality, you begin to realize that many of those who have inherent difficulties fitting in with this world are actually quite sane… just not by communal or societal standard.
For example, if you consider Dabrowski’s Theory of Depression (which I will post on my Facebook page) there is the understanding that people looking for meaning are likely to experience disintegration of self and realizations that shift identity as a result of being more gifted– having more capacity to see and think deeply in a society that does not (and does not encourage this sort of process).
In our society there is a base understanding of how inward looking, how intelligent, how conscious, how perceptual or sensitive, and what sort of meaning one is intended to derive from their existences. Someone who has a 150 IQ (yes, there are more forms of intelligence than this, but this is utilized to highlight a point) is going to be immersed in a world filled with people who have a mean IQ of somewhere around 95. They are going to see and experience the world differently due to this. It is going to likely be traumatic for them.
Similarly, someone who has incredibly high perceptual capacities (is “psychic”) will notice more than just our physical world, and society (and the individuals within that society) will redirect the person to “ordinary reality”, sometimes quite harshly (creating trauma).
But if we consider such things, we have to talk about the experience of trauma and shock that comes from such experiences. Healing the trauma and shock of being someone who has high IQ, or higher perceptual qualities, or in some way is different than the “mean” of society doesn’t mean that people in the world are going to suddenly get smarter, or more perceptive. What it means is that you have let go of enough of your emotional reactions, have healed enough from being that “outlier” that you have moved into a place of clarity, understanding that you are still a part of the world, a part of the whole, and are not feeling traumatized, or large parts of you “frozen” as a result of being said outlier.
Going through the spiritual awakening process, embarking on a spiritual path with depth, leads to disintegration and reforming of the identity again and again.
The question is what happens when this happens too quickly?
What happens when this occurs suddenly, or at a rate that is too much for the individual, especially one who is resistant, traumatized, or has not consciously learned what is going on yet, to be able to integrate?
What is more about learning tools (such as how to calibrate the nervous system, consciously create filters, learn discernment) and understanding and learning to discern clearly, and what would be helped by healing trauma?
What happens when you start releasing core aspects of your identity?
I am not talking about the outlying trauma here. I am talking about what happens when you realize that your life has been in reaction to a specific belief that has been created out of trauma, and then have released it. There is a shock that happens when core aspects of your identity are stripped away from you.
What happens when you realize that you do not need to repeat the loops of your parents, your ancestors, or continually live out the wounds of your early childhood?
What happens when you move beyond the quests, the struggle, the battles that we spend so much time enacting? When we move beyond being abusive and blocking ourselves and telling ourselves that only certain characteristics, certain perspectives, certain aspects of ourselves are okay?
Mental wellness is actually fairly rare, spiritual adulthood is exceedingly rare, and those of us who think differently or perceive differently have the opportunity and consciousness to move towards spiritual adulthood in the way that people who have never had a reason to think about their existence, or their habits, do.
But it also means that there can be more fracturing, trauma, inability to tether to reality (be functional), disembodiment, delusion, and/or a lack of congruence of the energy field of the mind (I will talk about this all in Part Two).
One of the things that I always tell my students is that even if they truly have experienced the proverbial other, and know for a fact that spirits and the spirit world is real… to only do so 97 percent… leaving 3 percent doubt remaining.
This allows for critical thinking in terms of experiences– it allows for people to discern and really think about their experiences, to take a step back and to separate the creations of the mind and mental story versus spiritual experience, to see how the overlay of mental creation and spirit can intertwine, and to extricate themselves to see with clarity.
That 3 percent allows for a step back, and the employment of logic, pragmatism, and critical thinking.
Part of the reason that people engage with spiritual work is to explore a more mythic reality. The difficulty with this is that it is incredibly easy to go off of the deep end, and the effects of this are widely displayed in many spiritual communities.
It is said that a “shaman” has one foot in this world and one foot in the “other”, and people tend to lose the “one foot in this world” part of the equation.
Without that tether to reality, it is easy to engage with delusion, and to be of no use to yourself or to anyone else… to lose functioning, health, and general enjoyment of the senses: music, dance, nature, pie, good sex, movies, and interactions with friends and loved ones.
Spirit will cause for you to move beyond your boundaries, in both gentle and fierce ways. We have such a vested interest in control, in our own mythic reality, that to interact with the sacred requires recognizing our smallness. It requires humility, patience, and grounding in this world deeply.
I used to be surprised by the fact that most people, even spiritual practitioners, had no belief or interaction with spirit. That they had no faith in spirit, or in the world having magic and spirit in it in ordinary life. Without this belief that the universe is animistic, we are missing the magic in our backyards, and not integrating the spiritual in our daily lives.
In my eyes, the capacity to sense and interact with spirits is one of the core job functions of being a spiritual worker. I believe it was Martin Prechtel that described spiritual work as “spirit lawyering” and that is what much of my job is–working with spirits and beings of all types to negotiate for balance, or healing, or at least a reprieve in symptoms.
The other half of my job is often taking someone through their mental and emotional reactions and experiences so they can integrate the spiritual work done. This is necessary in the modern world because of the general disconnection from the earth and from spirit that many of us experience, and the mental barriers that people have constructed to stop themselves from experiencing the spiritual.
I have been surprised by spirits and beings of all types being interested in interacting with me– not because of some inherent “special” quality on my part– but simply because I am open and willing to recognize their existence, and to do so with curiosity and respect. It is amazing what curiosity, solid boundaries, and a willingness to learn from those different from you can garner in terms of interacting.
We close ourselves down to spirit. We are so wounded and separated that we can no longer recognize the sacred, the immense spirit (and spirits) that surround us. We reach for practices that allow us to remain with the known, to not even understand the hidden vitality and animism of our own backyard or the spirit of our house.
This is a protective mechanism, of course.
If we think about the fact that no matter how sensitive we are, that we can only see and sense a small percentage of what is around us… and that what may be around us may be thousands of years old, immensely wiser than us, large, small, may possibly not like us in their location, or may have trauma themselves, and may do anything from deeply inform our existence to create immense difficulty for us… that is frightening.
There is an element of disbelief that is never discussed– this is often because of an element of opposing reactivity to mainstream spirituality. There is also an aspect of trauma in terms of spiritual experiences that is not discussed.
Much of mainstream spirituality is intended to comfort people, to allow for basic self-help: to feel special, heard, and connected to others with similar interests. For a long time I didn’t understand this (nor appreciate it), but I very much do now. It is not hard to look in they eyes of someone in deep fear over death, or grieving the death of a child, and understand why they may reach out for spiritual teachings (and teachers) that tell them what they need to hear to feel comforted and in control.
This however does mean that many people who are finding the vast unknown, the proverbial other, and engaging with spirit and the spirit realms lack community and often resources to feel heard and seen, however.
Holger Kalweit (who I always suggest as a foray into understanding shamanism) talks about how people in the modern world who have connection to anything other than the materialist universe are seen as insane, and often protect themselves out of fear because they are having experiences and realizations that are not scientific, nor rational, nor materialist.
This creates an immense difficulty for people who are logical, pragmatic, functional, and reasonably mentally healthy who are having spiritual experiences. It causes them to quickly find out that most spiritual communities are not for them, and it creates immense doubt… especially if they are generally healthy and/or well-educated individuals.
Disbelief is a protective mechanism. I read an interesting article the other day about how our brains have a delay to shield us from hallucinogenic experiences (I will attempt to find it and post it on my Facebook page), and I have had many spiritual experiences that have taken me years, if not decades, to move beyond casting them aside, disbelieving them, or thinking myself insane for having experienced them.
Some of them have been traumatizing, and it has taken me time to not only move beyond my own processing, but to be willing to include others in the process (moving beyond fears of what others may think of me for my experiences) to fully heal from them.
Spiritual experiences take longer to integrate. We have to integrate them on many levels to bring them up through and beyond the protective disbelief, the oppositional reactivity (to what is seen in many spiritual circles) and to vitally change who we are as a person in relation to a spiritual experience, especially a significant one.
Mainstream spirituality only goes so far in describing interaction with the “other”. There are very good reasons for this– spiritual exploration can be a deeply personal thing, and at a certain point showing an altar, or an object you work with, sharing who you work with, or sharing an experience, would be like excavating the very private aspects of your soul. In shamanic terms, it also means that someone could utilize those spiritual helpers, experiences or objects to gain access to you, which is more a consideration for people who are deeply immersed in practices, or who have gathered power, as the amount of people in modern day that would know how to use those access points in is quite rare.
There is also an inherent difficulty that much of what is represented in spiritual circles, for lack of better description, are people who are at point “A” and “B” on their path. Someone who makes their way to point “C” then will feel alone, and may not recognize that there is the rest of the alphabet, and plenty of people at “G”, some at “Q” and some who have completed the whole alphabet and are starting back at point “A” to learn more through another round of the alphabet.
What once struck me as odd about this is that people at point “C” often do not want to hear about the rest of the alphabet. They do not want to hear from me, for example, that their experiences are something that any spiritual practitioner with experience will hear about weekly, or that they could venture to the rest of the alphabet, if they were ready to.
This is also a protective mechanism– as if we believe that we know everything, we do not need to learn anything new. We do not need to move beyond our own fear or mental barriers. It is also a trauma response, and sometimes past experiences with teachers and communities who could not serve the individual who needed help navigating spiritual realities (instead of self-help) were failed, or simply weren’t helped or heard to the extent that they needed to be.
But mainly it is a protective mechanism because if we truly believe ourselves to be separate, if we truly believe that we are the only person out there who has experienced such things, who has leapt into the wild and wondrous “other”, that that means the person can remain suffering, alone, and not move forward on their path. Not move forward beyond the fear, not move forward beyond disbelief of their experiences to integrate them as a vital aspect of their being.
Unfortunately, this also means not moving forward into seeing the spiritual world(s) as something vital, sustaining, wondrous, and life-affirming. It also means not moving beyond the fear, the trauma from past experiences (from spiritual experiences as well as spiritual communities), and learning how to navigate the spirit realms properly, and with the appropriate tools to protect, clear, and discern.
It means remaining separate, and stopping ourselves from connecting (or realizing the connection) to something that could be the very source that could sustains us.
I do understand this fear. Interfacing with the unknown creates fear. We are inundated with pop culture references to evil spirits and possession and people who played with a Ouija board the wrong way. The polarity of this is the bright white falsehood of believing the self to be immensely powerful to the extent that one can concretely know and control the cosmos.
Many of my students need to move past whatever is creating fear within them to actually interact or connect with anything spiritual. I also have met many people who have immense spiritual talents who are not ready to move beyond their own fear and needs for control in order to interface with spiritual reality with any sort of depth.
This is the real requirement, the real “secret sauce” for interacting with the sacred, for truly interacting with spirits and the spirit world, or for really doing anything of a spiritual nature.
It is respect and openness to understanding that our physical world is only a small portion of our reality, and having the respect, knowledge, tools, awareness, and openness to honor, rather than fear.
Opening beyond the materialist universe, the universe that has been created by and for people with “normal” perceptual capacity, is a lot to ask of people, especially in world that creates the polarity of “seer” as insane and illogical.
Certain people do have this aptitude ingrained, or never lost their child-like capacity to understand that there is more to this world than its physical presence. In teaching I have realized how lucky I have actually been to not need to convince myself that the spirit worlds are “real”, as I have always understood them to be that way.
I have had many experiences that have solidly freaked me out, or have taught me just how “real” things can get, however.
There are experiences that are had on the spiritual path that will immensely destabilize what is known. Some forms of magical ritual will have a focus on specifically bringing a spirit or being into the physical world because it breaks the person of any notions they may have that spirits are not real, for example.
There is trauma that happens with spiritual experiences– the destabilization of what is known, the realization that one does not have as much control as one thought, the direct experience of the vastness and wonder, the excitement of moving to a new terrain, and the scramble of a mind and body trying to fit those experiences into an already established world view and identity.
The healing of trauma, especially with difficult experiences, is important in these cases. It is easier to point to a physical event or experience and equate it with trauma (although we can point to disbelief as a protective mechanism there, as well), but anything that has caused for us to experience overwhelm or a drastic shift in views or relational shift between self and the world, self and the people in the world, or within the self, takes time to integrate.
In some cases it could “freeze” and remain with the person until they are ready to move beyond the disbelief and recognize what an impact the experience they had. I encourage people to consider their experiences at that 97 percent level (as in, do not fully believe spiritual experiences to the point that clarity, discernment, grounding, and just plain logic is lost), to always question things with openness, and to realize that with openness, the world can be more magical, more expansive, than one once thought.
I am no longer taking new clients for spiritual work, but offer a variety of distance courses for individuals ready to learn the skills to properly navigate the spiritual realms, with respect, discernment, and clarity. You can find them here
There are times in which I find that I need to take a step back, to reassess. Times of rapid expansion, initiation, or going into a cycle of death and subsequent rebirth in which there is a necessary reconfiguration and surrender of who I was (or thought myself to be) and who I am emerging into.
This is the a difficulty on the spiritual path… that there can be that single irrevocable moment in which what you thought you knew has changed within an instant. There are also times of months or years in which expansion of the Self, a letting go of patterns and wounding and the subsequent clarity result in this same surrender and identity shift.
This can result in reaction. This reaction is not of an inner wounded child, or something unhealed within, but the adult self who realizes that they have enacted certain patterns and beliefs for so long, an understanding that the patterns and beliefs that we set up our world around that have come from inner pain and wounding. When these core beliefs are transcended, there is the realization of how restrictive these beliefs were, and a subsequent grief, guilt, or anger on the part of the more “adult” or current Self as they realize just how much impact they had.
One of the largest changes for me recently has been the focus on embodiment and this world. I am more impressed at this point to be in the presence of those who have immense stillness as well as embodiment in their physical form than any form of magical prowess, spiritual capacity, degrees, or initiations.
As I embody more and more, I find that my experiences have become quieter, and that I can go to deeper places within myself. I find myself increasingly less willing to participate in chaos, and letting go of inner polarities at an increasing rate. I have let go of many of the fears of how others will react to me for expressing who I vitally am in this world.
There are some hardships with this, as I find that my ability to relate to the chaos of others to be diminishing. I can certainly understand it, and have compassion for it, but generally I find that what people come to me with are things that are temporary, things that they will quickly forget about the next day or the next week.
I also honestly find myself with less ability to engage with people who are at the very beginning of their path. Perhaps this is something I will move beyond, and I have compassion and understanding for these folks, as I can recall how confused I was almost twenty years ago when I started having dreams about being devoured by snakes and I went on a message board for kundalini-ites and an experienced yogi talked me through what was happening, and kindly suggested to me to not meditate on my bed any more, as it was encouraging fear and disassociation.
But I cannot help but notice that the “end” of the spiritual path (at least in the traditions I find most resonant) is about simply returning to the body, to daily life, and to a heart space (the seat of our consciousness).
It is hard not to look at the spiritual community and to see that so much of it is supported by wounding, and the beliefs and perceptions perpetuated by that wounding. It is hard, quite frankly, to not look out and to see much of what is created by this community as being rather, well… stupid. To see it as false, illusory, anti-intellectual, and supportive of people who are all convincing one another that they are special, that they alone know the truth, that they alone know the totality of the cosmos.
I have been realizing that a big part of my path is now authenticity– to be willing to not devolve into guru-speak, to say “I don’t know”, to be fully flawed and human. To pass through those multiple initiations, those tests, on the spiritual path, that will always offer a choice between feeling superior and special for having attained and humbling myself for what I still do not know.
Many fail this test, even those who have gained immense spiritual knowledge and presence. Many fail this test the first time, and many fail it the fiftieth time. Quite frankly, the fiftieth time is harder, as you gain energy and presence you will realize your inner divinity, and it is easy to fashion some sort of mythology of self as deity in an egoic fashion, and to allow the words and energy of others to create this mythic structure for you.
I can only imagine what this test is like the seven hundredth time, as I have read enough and seen enough to see when others have failed this initiation after having authentic, palpable, and incredible spiritual attainment (much more than myself, just to be crystal clear).
When I look out at mainstream “non-religious” spirituality: the entitlement, the deep inherent selfishness and the sort of solipsism of a mind that wants to believe that they are the center of the universe is front and center, it is hard as someone who has been immersed in this path for quite a while to not see it as silly. Perhaps this will change at some point, as things inevitably do.
We live in a world now where elders and people who have been studying and working their path for decades can be screamed at or told “that is just your opinion” by someone who has read half a Wikipedia entry. What happens is that those elders simply disappear and carry on with their lives. This has created a space of entire online spiritual communities where it is the blind leading the blind, a toxic blending of energies in which people are often told things that will simply support their delusions.
A place in which modern shamanism, modern spiritual work, has been so diluted and made safe for minds that truly want to believe and think that if they just think positively enough that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
This is all based on fear, by the way. It is hard not to look at the water crisis in Detroit, the fact that people are being assaulted on trains and in public for being certain religions or orientations, and to feel helpless. It is easy to insert oneself in a bubble of ones’ own creation in reaction to this fear if we have the capacity to do so, to preach peace and love and light if we have our distance.
We hold deep fear about if we are going to be okay, around our physical death, of being the victim to harm, and so we create beliefs like this to simply get ourselves through the day. What we don’t realize is that we fully immerse ourselves in those things because of our fear, and that our fear creates polarities so we can feel good, superior, and safe.
We can feel as if there is a simplistic “bad” or “evil” out there, instead of someone who is simply trying to get through their day under the weight of their struggles, and who feels separated from the whole, just like most of us feel. We can pretend there is only “love and light” in the world only in our separation– our separation from the world, and our separation from the parts of ourselves that are not “love and light”.
We hold deep fear around the spirit world, around spirit, and so we create illusions that we can control everything about it. We can control death, if we only think hard enough about it.
I remember the first time that I worked with someone with ALS. If you are not familiar with ALS, it would certainly be in the running for one of the world’s most horrific diseases– it is like watching someone be slowly walled in within their own body. I remember working with a six year old who was so joyous and filled with light who died that year from cancer.
I remember a woman who was had spent her entire life being abused and harmed by men, including in her adult marriage and work. She became a flight attendant and during cutbacks was told (by a male) that she could either have her salary cut by half or she could be laid off. She chose to stay. I met her when she had end-stage cancer, cancer that had started in the breast and had rapidly moved through her body.
There are many more experiences that I have had working with people, but these stand out because they show not only what deep suffering we endure in our human forms, but also that we are human. We eventually fall apart, become ill, and our human bodies are incredibly temporary.
It is all too understandably why we fear, why we create illusions about if we only act a certain way that we will never experience this. Why we seek control. It is easy, and incredibly offensive, to suggest that anyone suffering has caused it, that anyone could simply think their way out of it.
But we are inundated with this material, and it becomes increasingly popular. This is why we have life coaches suggesting we just need to “think differently” if we have depression and our depression will be cured. This is why that life coach will have millions of hits for his video. If this person had any experience with any sort of depression personally or clinically, he could not say these things. He would find them reprehensible. But he does not, because he is steeped in ignorance and lack of experience and in this state can blame others for their issues, because it is too painful to consider that for some, these things are all to real and not simply fixed.
The books and workshops and teachers who cater to this mentality will always be the most popular. They are that way for a reason. We can have compassion for this and still move beyond it… if we choose to.
I was talking the other night with a friend about how hard it is to see and sense the level of suffering and pain that is in the world. When you talk about the things that I do, and call yourself a “spiritual worker”, what happens is that you will get tons of emails from people that will try to throw their pain at you. Without any prompting or prior conversation, they will send you long diatribes about the horrors they have experienced, and all the pain that one who is suffering endures.
I am compassionate towards this, as I understand that people are in so much pain that they are simply looking for someone to understand, to hear, and to ideally take their pain for them. They do not see that they are doing this, that their aim is to have me digest their pain for them (and I do not, by the way).
I have a note on my website that says that I do not offer free guidance or advice, and this has certainly cut down on this, but people who are in pain are so separated that they either simply don’t see this message out of a type of willful ignorance, or they assume that they are unique in their pain, or most commonly, they assume that they are not people.
A strange realization, I understand. But the more suffering we endure, the more fractured we are, the less we recognize ourselves as part of the whole. The less we understand and can relate to our own bodies, our own inherent humanity, our own personhood. The more fractured we are, the less capacity we have to see beyond our own pain.
I have long seen the link between the amount of fracturing and woundedness one carries in relation to how able they are to see anything beyond themselves and in their ability to take personal responsibility for themselves.
One of the largest difficulties of being in this space is that you need to respond to some of the illusions out there. There need to be people that say that the emperor is wearing no clothes. The difficulty is that this sets up polarities in which people believe that I am saying that said emperor is “bad” and that I am “good”.
I personally look at much of modern shamanism as little more than a form of mental masturbation (pardon the term) and illusion, but I can also suggest it to people who simply want some self-help techniques to make them feel better. I can understand how people can find healing in the work, and feel heard in their “tribe” of “shamans”. I can talk at length about how spiritual work and psychology are incredibly different, and the effect that the integration of “shamanism” in psychoanalysis and how it has had an indelible and unfortunate impact on people actually connecting spiritually… but also recommend that some people see a therapist who has dipped their toes in the shamanic waters because that would be the best fit for them to heal, and that person may be open minded enough to see their clients’ appreciation for spirituality as hunger for depth and connection, rather than a pathology.
I can lament how people taking their tenth spiritual vacation to Peru would be more “spiritual” if they stayed at home, meditated, and volunteered at a soup kitchen… how the money they spent could likely feed the village they walked through for a few months or could be donated to those suffering and in need of assistance, and at the same time understand how incredible it is to travel and feel “spiritual” or “expanded”, if not for a brief moment in time.
I look a lot at how people set up their world in reaction to things, and the modern spiritual and shamanic movement has been a large source of reaction to me. There are a lot of reasons for this (mainly immersing myself in this work and study for a long period of time and the hardships that are on this path when done with any sort of depth) but as I let go of focusing on said hardships, as well as reconciling the aspects of myself that are “new-ager”, or want to escape, feel special, superior, or seek (or sought) mythic meanings for my experiences, I find myself in new terrain. I am unsure of what that terrain exactly will be, as I do feel my calling to write and be of service in a spiritual capacity, but am being patient with what emerges, and am hopeful at some point that I can simply talk about spiritual engagement, spiritual work, and associated topics without having to engage said emperor.
As always, thank you for reading. I am in deep gratitude that there are so many who are willing to move beyond the surface level ideologies and the easy answers to actually think about themselves, and their world, with depth and increasing clarity.
We all have interacted with toxic people. They may be family members, friends (or former friends), neighbors, clients, customers, colleagues, or our boss.
The toxic person is akin to an energy vampire (which I go over here) and in many ways is strikingly similar. Both people are looking to take energy from others because they lack vital energy or access to their own power.
The way that it differs (at least in my mind) is that energy vampires are simply looking to siphon energy. They have a black hole of sorts within them that they are looking to fill. The difficulty, of course, is that hole can never be filled by the energy of another, and unless that person chooses to look for healing and a restoration of the power that they lost, they will continually look to fill themselves with energy (or with drugs or food or experiences).
Toxic individuals have this same black hole, the same sort of missing of essence, but they are filled with such negativity and chaos that they are continually seeking to enact drama and chaos in the outer world. They not only are taking energy, but also shoving their unhealed pain and emotions onto everyone they interact with. This is because they lack the capacity to deal with the amount of unhealed emotions they have within, or because the severity of a trauma that typically occurred in early childhood has caused for them to have a world view (and their energy system/body will reflect this belief and filter energies this way) that people (and the world) are continually out to harm them.
If someone is stuck in this state, it means that they are continually looking to take as much as they can from the world and the people in it, without offering anything of themselves. This will be done in an antagonistic way, as this person is desperate for the healthy connections that being nourished by people and the world create, but as they feel that the world is a place that is frightening or out to get them, they will not connect… and will look to take from the world by any means necessary, without understanding or having the capacity to see what this taking creates… or at the very least, that their world view may be a bit skewed by past trauma.
How to Know Someone is Toxic
Generally, how we can understand someone to be toxic is that we walk away feeling “slimed” by them. This is sometimes quite literal (at least on an energetic level).
Even if we are not particularly sensitive, there is likely someone in your office or in your life that you inwardly groan whenever they contact you. This is because you leave the situation feeling drained or negative. This is likely not only because of the unneeded drama of the situation, but because you are left taking care of the “slimy” emotions of another, and your system is attempting to deal with it.
This is not just your perception, by the way. People like this the whole office will dislike. This is the person who enters a room and everyone will move or even simply leave so as not to interact with them.
Toxic individuals have little capacity to deal with their emotions and inner chaos and so they are continually looking to push their unhealed emotions and issues onto others. Relationships with them are always and continually about them. While it is trendy to talk about narcissism these days (and there certainly can be some crossover), someone who is truly toxic has no capacity to see or listen beyond themselves and their own experiences of this world.
They are unhealed to the extent that they have no way, no energy, to hold vital space to listen or even see the experiences of those around them. They simply cannot due to the weight of what lies unhealed within them; if we lack vital essence we have nothing to offer to others, and we simply look at the world and the people in it as something to “take” as much of as possible before we are stopped.
In addition to “pushing” their emotions onto others, toxic individuals continually create drama and chaos. This is to recreate whatever is unhealed within them. They will often lack the tools and capacity to recognize that they are doing this, and will often feel as if the world, and all the people in it, are against them.
They are unable to be in groups, don’t interact well with their colleagues, and don’t establish or maintain friendships. In their mind this is always the fault of the group, the work environment, or the world for not accepting them, and every interaction will fuel the ideology that the world is against them, and that they are completely disconnected from everything and everyone. It is a painful way to exist, and the pain of these individuals is palpable.
In my cording book (which you can find here) I talk about how important cord work is for all of our relationships. In most forms of “cord work” there is talk of cutting cords, and while I find that basic technique effective (and include it in the book), really understanding the energetics of the cord and altering the energetic dynamics of the cord is much more effective (and is gone over in the book).
I mention this because in the book I talk about assessing how much energy we bring vs. take in our relationships. Ideally our relationships would be equal– us offering 50 percent and receiving 50 percent in our relationships. This is true for any relationship, even seemingly “unequal” ones like parent/child, teacher/student, boss/worker etc.
The toxic individual will be taking up more than 90 percent of the energy in this relationship, as well as moving their unhealed emotions through the cord in an effort to get you to engage or take care of them.
Although I understand that the word “toxic” is something of a harsh word, it is really easy to feel compassionate for individuals like this. They are in so much pain and feel such emptiness and they continually live in a world, and perpetuate a world, of incredible chaos.
I have found that the less healed someone is, the less capacity that they have to take personal responsibility for themselves. The toxic individual lacks this capacity to an extent that they are continually expecting others to extend their time and energy when they have nothing to offer of themselves, and create such drama that they will always find someone to engage with and “vent” their issues to in an attempt to get others to not only ascribe to their world view, but to take on their pain for them. This drama fuels the chaos and ideologies around people, or the world, disliking or not wanting them. Frequently toxic individuals are stuck in an infantile state, continually looking for the nourishment and vital energy they did not receive in their childhood.
Someone being in such pain does not mean that you need to take care of it, however. It does not mean that there is any personal responsibility on your part to either offer them your energy, to take on their unhealed emotions, or to participate in whatever drama they are seeking to cast you in.
Learning these five steps will allow for you to recognize and work with even the most toxic of individuals:
Step One: Recognize your own “stuff”
We may believe someone is toxic because it suits our own worldview. If we determine someone to be “toxic” or “narcissistic”, “arrogant”, or any other word we wish to put on someone, it may be more supportive of our own unhealed emotions or illusions (or not wanting said illusions to be shattered) than anything else.
I went over how to work with this in detail in a two-part blog you can read here (it is about internet trolls, but the same sentiments apply)
Generally if we have an emotional reaction to someone (more than, “ugh, that person is super toxic. get them away from me”), especially one that persists (beyond being rightfully and momentarily angry, surprised… as in you are still thinking about the interaction hours or days later) it is a good indicator that the person is showing you something that you could internally heal.
Whether the person is actually toxic or not is sort of beside the point in this scenario, but by taking personal responsibility for our end of things, we can begin to clearly see the dynamics of others.
Step Two: Recognize what the Toxic Person is doing
Cord work can really help with this, but noticing energetic dynamics of interpersonal interactions is essential to having truly healthy, dynamic relationships.
Do you feel drained, angry, or more chaotic after interacting with someone? Does someone expect for you to do all the work in your relationship?
There are more questions that can be asked here, but in simplicity it is really noticing where your energy is going… as well as what energies you are taking on.
In an equal relationship, there can be occasional instances of being “drained” (like if someone is going through a crisis) but I am talking more about observing your interactions with a person over time to get a baseline understanding of what is going on.
I am not saying that all of our interactions should be sheer joy, but we should gain something out of our connections. If we are not, that is something to consider.
If you are finding yourself angry after interacting, it often is a sign that some breach of boundaries has happened.
Step Three: Setting up Boundaries
We live in a world in which healthy boundaries haven’t been modeled terribly well. This means that a lot of people have to start from scratch to really discover what their personal boundaries are.
Boundaries are really what we allow in vs. what we put out.
This is, of course, a simplistic definition, and the process of discovering how much of yourself you are willing to offer to others is an ongoing task. It is somewhat lucky that we live in a world in which so many will want to question, tear down, or assume that you have no boundaries, as it will give anyone working on this subject more than enough capacity to begin to build and practice maintaining their boundaries.
The difficulty with boundaries is that they are different for different people. I have different boundaries for my family members, for my friends, and for my students. My boundaries for my students are fairy strict, and tend to be the same for all of my students. My boundaries for my friends are much more fluid, and depend on the friendship.
The toxic individual needs to be reminded, and often, about what your boundaries are. This also requires the capacity to stick to them, by the way.
I recommend saying an inward “no” often to people that are attempting to move beyond your boundaries. This sometimes needs to be paired with an out loud “no”, but the inward “no” is a start, as it begins the process of setting up energetic boundaries.
Step Four: Don’t Rise to the Bait
If you erect boundaries, what will either happen with truly toxic individuals is that they will either find someone else to interact with, or they will double their efforts to create drama and chaos with you.
This will often lead to them being disrespectful, antagonizing, offensive, or overly dramatic in a last effort to engage you in their dynamics.
It may lead to someone also doing a form of “hero worship” in which they butter someone up and tell someone how fantastic they are in an effort to move beyond boundaries. This is more difficult to acknowledge, as it appeals to our ego, but it will still not feel right, and will often end with you ending up firmly off whatever pedestal they have put you on.
The difficulty with this is that someone being disrespectful, obnoxious, or appealing to our instincts to protect (such as toxic individuals who say they are going to kill themselves if someone doesn’t respond or offer attention, which is truly the worst form of this, as none of us want someone else to harm themselves) will bring out our own “stuff”, our own fears and drama.
Work with your own emotions and “stuff” (repeat #1) until you can simply and clearly assert your boundaries as well as engage neutrally with them. I have found that it is best not to call them out, as they are looking for the drama, and it will only perpetuate it or allow for them to create you as “villain” in their minds, or at the very least, add to their unhealed ideologies that the world is against them.
The asserting of outer boundaries (as in, actually telling the person what your boundaries are) done in a neutral (non-emotional) way is also often needed with individuals like this. This does require both personal work (healing your own emotions to the point where you can feel compassion for the person who is doing this, as interacting with the world like this creates immense difficulty), as well as work on your own boundaries to the extent that you know what they are, can say them succinctly, and so you actually stick to them when someone is attempting to broach them, though.
Step #5: Assess Your Relationship
It can be easy to simply state to cut this person out of your life. It is easy for me to say to quit your job, stop communicating with a particular family member, or dissolve a friendship.
It is harder if you are a waiter and have a toxic customer that comes in every Tuesday, really need a job and like your work, except for that one toxic colleague, or have a friendship that has lasted over many years to accomplish that.
The world is full of people, and many of them are unhealed. Some of them are toxic. And it is likely you will need to interact with them by establishing boundaries and saying “no”. I do suggest cutting toxic people out of your life, if you are able to, though.
For people that I need to interact with for whatever reason, I will outwardly establish my boundaries. I will tell them exactly what my boundaries are, and combined with my not responding to their drama, this often works. This works by the person either choosing to interact in a more healthy way with me, or often will result in the sort of baiting and upping of the ante on their part until they recognize that I won’t interact with them in that way.
In my line of work, I encounter a lot of people who are quite unhealed to the point of being toxic, and it is generally my job to be healed enough to not perpetuate or fuel their illusions or unhealed patterns. If we take full and complete responsibility for ourselves, we can recognize that we do not need to take responsibility for the issues of others, that we do not need to be “cast” in a role that others are seeking you for in their illusion and pain, and we can establish boundaries to ensure our safety and well-being.
This all starts with doing your own work, with understanding the interplay between your own wounds and illusions… and the wounds and illusions of another, and choosing to look at your own “stuff” first and foremost. By healing ourselves, we find the boundaries and the self-worth so that even with the most toxic and unhealed of individuals, we can simply establish boundaries and move on with our lives.
One of my largest critiques of the “modern” shamanic movement is that it has stripped away any form of actual spirit interaction. It has, in its own way, stripped away the “spirits” from spiritual work.
If you read modern shamanic books, you will come away with the thought that spiritual work is about the law of attraction, changing your thoughts, ascending to another dimension, or ecospirituality, such as the trend towards permaculture.
If the subject of “spirits” is broached, it is done in an antagonistic or polarizing way. Spirits are “bad”; they are to be cleared, they are to be feared. The idea of purity or cleansing is often used, as if any one of us could be “clear”. I do find cleansing practices quite important (I teach a course in this, as it is the first step anyone should immerse themselves in if they intend to authentically work with spirit) but we live in a world immersed in spirit, in spirits. They are all around us, a part of our lives, a part of our bodies, a part of our world.
The spiritual is not separate from us. Spirits are not separate from us. They are a part of the house we moved into, the history of the land we are on. Spirits and beings are in our yard, our woods, the park. There is a spirit in the lake near you, spirits on your nearest train or on the bus you ride each day.
The idea that all these spirits need to be “cleared”, or even that they could be… that we are intended to be in a world without spirits, signifies our deep disconnect and fear of the spiritual. It is an unhealed ideology, based on a false illusion of separation from the spiritual, and from spirit itself.
We come from a lineage of spirits. Our ancestors are a part of our blood, they are a part of our spiritual power (which is why I suggest working with ancestors as your first spirit contact. I also have a course in this) Elementals and beings of all varieties, including “former humans” are all around us, populating a world that overlays and integrates with our own.
It is a question of if we notice more than the crass physicality of our world or not. If we notice and have ventured beyond the safety of human conditioning to do so.
There are many reasons why the “spirits” have been stripped away from modern shamanism.
The first reason is fear.
We deeply fear what we cannot see, that which we cannot firmly touch and claim as our own. That which is beyond our rules, beyond our human constructs and mind that grasps to know and rule.
The thought that we are a part of a world in which even the most highly psychic of us can only see a certain percentage of is truly terrifying to those who fear such things, who try to contain such things to a specific thought.
When we fear something, we create rules. This allows us to feel as if spirit follows the rules that we have concocted to ensure our personal needs for feeling safe and in control. The biggest “rule” that modern shamanism has created is the belief that spirits are singularly “compassionate” or not. Generally if someone says to me that spirits can only be compassionate or non-compassionate I know that they do not have the sight to know that the world is literally teeming with spirits and beings of all types, and that they have never authentically interacted with a spirit.
It is no longer shocking or in any way surprising to me that modern shamanism doesn’t believe in spirits, that there are even many practitioners that have no faith or belief in the spiritual who call themselves spiritual practitioners.
People generally find what they are looking for, and I realized at a certain point that what I was offering was the equivalent of broccoli to people who have been fed a steady diet of cotton candy. I am not the only one to offer said broccoli stalk (of course), but the “cotton candy” ideas allow for one to remain in a zone of safety. They do not require any kind of sight or spiritual capacity and focus on psychological self-help.
This is what most people want, as most people do not have spiritual sight or capacity, and simply wish to feel a bit less shitty about themselves. The difficulty, of course, is when someone who has no sight or capacity for spiritual work becomes a spiritual worker. Sight is a part of the job requirements, and it is hard to untangle some of the messes that are created by folks who lack it. I generally do my best to be compassionate these days, but as this is a field that has no outward, technical requirements for entry, and there is a trend away from actually having an authentic, physical teacher that might gently (or not so gently, if you are ready to hear it) tell someone that they should work on themselves first, or that they might want to consider if their spirit guides are mental creations or not… or that they should perhaps pick another career, or that maybe they shouldn’t be teaching shamanism with six months of “shamanic” experience, or that perhaps their creation of a “new paradigm” of shamanism and recreation of a wheel without capacity or study/understanding of the wheel before it isn’t needed, and moreover, may be quite silly…I see a lot that makes me shake my head, upsets me, or occasionally makes me want to go take one of those fake Facebook post jobs where you can move to Italy and be a caretaker for a random place somewhere.
In some forms of witchcraft, there is the idea of the “hedge”– it really best illustrates this fear, and what is problematic about modern shamanism.
In this concept, the “hedge” separates the contained world. What is contained (between the hedges) is the world of rules, of appropriate societal conduct, of the mind creating illusion and separation. It is our community, what we have constructed as community, and what we consider as “reality”.
To switch up systems, I operate from a quasi-theosophy based system in which I consider there to be our physical body, our emotional body, our mental body, and then our spiritual body. Each of these are “containers” (no, I didn’t put the “etheric” body in there, as it correlates with the physical body in this simplistic example).
Each of these “bodies” has a specific container. This means that if we are at the “densest” or most constrictive container, we only focus on our physical body. If we move outward, we are operating from a place solely based on our emotions– our unhealed ones, at that. Much of modern shamanism is in a firm, mental container.
This is still part of the “hedge”, within the boundaries of polite and disciplined society. This is the level that we create rules out, it is the level that allows for a “top-down” or more expanded look at our emotions (as each container contains the previous ones).
What it does not do is allow for a moving beyond the containers, a moving beyond the hedge, and into actual spiritual experience.
We deeply fear the spiritual because we recognize its wildness, its otherness. We deeply fear these aspects of ourselves– we prefer to contain them, to push them aside, to stay in the “light” of not only what we deem acceptable about ourselves, but what society has taught us is acceptable.
Without traversing our own depths, we cannot traverse the hedge– we cannot make it out of the maze of our own mental creations, our own projected unmet psychological needs, and the rules we have created to ensure our safety and feelings of being in control.
Shamanic work was brought to the West by people who lacked sight. To psychologists, the work was psychological. To anthropologists, the shaman represented the proverbial “other”.
The combination of these two is devastating to real spirit contact, and to having authentic spiritual experiences. This is because the word “shaman” has turned into something that provides a tidy explanation for “othering” in our culture. What this means is that we now have a culture in which people who have experienced severe fracturing as a form of early childhood abuse now believe that they are “shamans”. When we experience trauma, we formulate beliefs from those traumas… and the belief of a child that has experienced severe abuse will always be that they are that proverbial “other”: that they dislike or hate people, that the world is out to get them, and that they are separate and disconnected from anyone and everything in this world.
The modern shamanic movement feeds into this dissociative and trauma-based fracturing by providing an outlet for people to feed the unmet needs and daydreams of a child that is frozen in time and locked within. This means that people do not receive the care that they need… and their delusions and dissociative tendencies are perpetuated, instead of healed.
If we have created our spiritual reality out of wounds, out of pain, we not only are not immersing in greater spiritual reality but our experiences of the spiritual realm will mimic the abuse– at the far end of this people will believe that they are being constantly attacked. This belief or understanding that one is a “shaman” then allows the person to hang on to their pain, to their beliefs, and to create a spiritual reality out of that unhealed pain and feelings of separation and disconnection. I have seen this for so long and on a daily basis, and as it is rare that people who have created realities like this for themselves are open to questioning it, even if it means that their lives would vastly improve if they healed whatever is causing them to feel “other”, or whatever that pain is that caused them to fracture or separate from feeling human, loved, or appropriately nurtured by the world and the people in it.
Having shamanic capacity is fairly rare. I have met perhaps a dozen or so people who have it. There is something that happens when you hop over that hedge, when you truly are in concert with spirit, with that “other”– with the wild, vast terrain that is beyond human thought. It marks you, and is easily spotted. The path of the shaman, mystic, root worker, witch, magician, occultist, and other spiritual paths can allow one to come into contact with it. There are many more in the other categories, and I won’t go over definitions here, but if you have traversed that hedge you will notice others who have done so as well, no matter what their spiritual path or label to get there has been.
Trauma of varying types cracks us open. It allows us to examine our deeper parts, to know more than just the crassly physical.If we do not have a reason to look beyond the superficial, the physical container, we tend to remain on the surface of reality. We all know people like this, and those of us on a significant spiritual path may have been jealous at one point of those who can live on the surface, who can play-act the spiritual, and who have not had to be immersed in it. This requires healing, as those who have authentically leaped over the “hedge” can receive the deep connection and nurturing, as well as alliances, to come into a source of flow with what lies beyond that hedge.
So what is beyond the hedge?
It is much easier in a lot of ways to describe what shamanism is “not”– it is not simplistic dualities. It is not a bunch of rules intended to keep the fears of the spirit world, and spirits, at bay. It is not a way to disappear or disassociate due to unhealed trauma. It is not an idea that anything spiritual has nothing to do with this world, and that we should all be clear or free from any sort of spirit contact.
In many ways what is beyond that hedge is what we truly fear. Unknowable, vast, and in many ways uncaring. It is easy to tell when someone has a degree of spirit contact, because not only do they go beyond the “compassionate/non-compassionate” thing, but they realize that there is an entire spirit world out there that not only has little to do with them, that not only is not centered around them, but is just fine without them.
One of the funnier things that I find about the “fear and clear” mentality is that this idea perpetuates a myth not only that spirits are not intended to be a part of our world, but that if we notice them we must declare “sovereignty” and clear them out of our space. The fact that you may be clearing out a kindly grandmother or grandfather who built the house that you are living in from his own two hands and simply might want a bit of peace in his/her favorite place after eighty years of human form based suffering never enters into the equation for those who have this deep fear of the spiritual.
I have worked so many times with spirits who were showed the door or people in their “shamanic wisdom” tried to shove away who were protectors of a land or place, who were fulfilling duties after death that they agreed to, who were protecting occupants from more dangerous spirits and beings (and then those come out after the “clearing”), or who simply wanted a bit of rest before moving on.
When spirit contact is established, the concept of “right relationship” develops.
This is not a “humans are on top of the food chain and must dominate and everything they say, goes” sort of mentality. This mentality is incredibly destructive, and quite frankly, obnoxious to many spirits and beings who often rightly believe that humans are little more than kindergarteners running around with scissors.
In right relationship with the spirit world, there is a realization that develops that is notable in pretty much anyone who develops an authentic connection to the spirit world, and who interacts with the many being there.
This realization is that archangels and angels can be complete assholes. They can be fierce, don’t care about human thought, and often think that humans are incredibly stupid. Deities can be jealous and don’t really care about you making your car payment on time. Elementals don’t think like humans do and don’t share our ethics or even speech patterns. “Dark spirits” can be direct and straightforward as well as simple to work with (much simpler than living humans, for example). Former humans can be “elevated”, as in healed and willing to be of assistance, but most of them are typically similar to the way they were when they were alive… which is why they are in need of healing and still populating our world.
The realization of complexity of spirits and the spirit world develops, to be simple.
If you go beyond the physical and emotional and mental layers and constructs of this world, you find yourself in the Void. The empty, freefall space… the place that leads to the vast terrains of the spiritual, to the truly seeing and experiencing beyond the capacity of human thought.
What is beyond that place is our own primal nature, our wild, everything we have tried so hard to contain. Everything we tell ourselves is wrong about ourselves. It is beyond our own needs, our own puritanical constructs (even if we do not believe that we are immersed in christianized religion, this is where much of the modern-day ideology of “spirits are evil and must be cleared” comes from). It is freeing, and beautiful. It is endlessly fascinating, and endlessly interesting.
It will change the life and the mentality of someone to realizing how one can traverse immeasurable depths, and once down the proverbial rabbit hole that immenseness just keeps on expanding and expanding to experiences and depths that are simply not talked about, and in many cases are rightly not talked about, or lack words to express.
It moves someone beyond “their” need for rituals and spirit contact. It moves someone from placing pretty flowers on a cloth to bring to the ocean because that is what someone thinks the ocean would like… to actually speaking to the spirit of the ocean, to the elementals who populate in and around the ocean, the beings who inhabit the depths of that ocean, and asking not only if they would like a ritual, but what that ritual should be and what offerings they would like. This is a big difference, and I cannot stress how important this difference in approaches is.
It is like a beautiful, messy freefall to be in a place to explore this “other”. It means continually and constantly learning, constantly expanding, constantly spelunking and discovering what is beyond what you currently know to be true. This world is full of magic, full of spirit, and people, even people on a spiritual path, rarely notice it. They rarely honor it.
To see, and to be willing to see, that our physical world is but a mere glimpse of what lies beneath and beyond it, is beyond the scope of our minds to process, to control, and to allow ourselves to experience.
It is sad to me how watered down and lacking of spirit much of modern day spiritual work is. Many of the spirits and beings that I connect with would love to be interacted with appropriately. Greater spirit would love to be honored. How to honor it is not controlling, not by fearing, and not by thinking that you are commander. It is by truly honoring, listening, and understanding that you are in a vast network, a vastly infinite universe in which you are not the center but simply a participant, that spirit contact can be made.
It is by breaking outside of your mind, the mind that creates so much of your world, and by questioning what lies beyond your own needs for the Universe, that such contact can be created.
This contact is life-changing. It is healing. It allows one to not only realize that they are not separate, but that they are truly and deeply connected, that the world is full with wonder, and that with an understanding and belief that the world is filled with magic, beauty, and spirit (and spirits) that the world changes from just a materialist self-centered existence to being unique, dangerous, blissful, safe, and everything else all at once.
In many ways, it is a conscious choice to open our eyes. To move beyond what we have been taught. To let go of the control and the fear. To realize that if we go from noticing one percent of the universe to two percent, that not only will we be okay, but we may discover some things about ourselves and the universe that will directly impact our lives and allow for us to expand beyond our conceptions of ourselves.
The difficulty is that this either requires natural sight, something like the physical evocation and manifestation of a being (which forms of magic do, to get people out of the materialist mentality), or something else to “crack’ the person open enough to be willing to move beyond the physically based universe and into the seeing of what is around them.
While this capacity does not require a huge amount of personal stability, it also requires discernment as to what is self-created vs. what is not, and people rarely like to do this as the first “spirits” we meet are typically our own sub-personalities and what we have shoved aside, especially if we are of the “love and light” variety, or the mental creation of a “guide” who will tell someone how wonderful they are and who will perpetuate the psychological wounds and illusory material created by those wounds of the spiritual seeker.
Moving away from this sort of stuff takes time, and willingness. If we have created an entire universe for ourselves based off of an inner wounded child, it is unlikely that we will destroy it, even if it is creating pain for us.
Even if our rules, our pain, and our needs for the spirit world to be a certain way are separating us from spirit, from the spirit world, it is a question of whether we are able and willing to move beyond that. Those that are can move from feeling disconnected, fragmented and isolated in a physically based world in which they don’t really believe in spirit (despite secretly hungering for it) and on to healing the parts of themselves that seek such separation, that believe themselves to be “other”, and into truly being connected to something, for perhaps the first time.
It sometimes saddens me that people are so far removed from spirit, especially when they consider themselves “shamans” or “spiritual workers” (or any other form of title). Our world desperately needs a return to honoring spirit, to working on our inner shadow so we can move beyond the fear and dissociative trauma-based projections of spirit and needs for control of spirit.
Greeting the spirits of your home, of your yard, and of your neighborhood is a good way to start. Do this without expectation that they will be your “helper” or that they will tell you wonderful things focused on your needs. Do so without asking in return for anything. Although this is simple, it will begin to not only take someone beyond the idea that the spirit world is there just for the taking, and centered around the needs and illusions of the Self, but it will begin to allow the spirit world to see that humans are not just looking to take, and that they are actually listening.
Spirit, and spirits, are always there. It is a two-way street, in which we develop a relationship. What we give, how much we are willing to connect, how far we are willing to move beyond our own fear, to traverse our own depths, is always reflected in how much we can expand, what universes we can traverse, and if and when we can move beyond the confines of the hedge and into spirit, and spiritual, contact.
There is a continual search for the “true”, “authentic” or “pure” self in spiritual and neo-shamanic traditions; the idea that if we just move away the clutter and the pain that we would be one personality, one self, one integrated whole.
This is an important quest, by the way. Finding out who we are, the sort of quest of individuation and realization of who we are in relation to the world… what unique essence or capabilities we have that could be of benefit to the world… this is all important, and this quest is understandable and necessary.
In neo-shamanic and modern spiritual circles, this quest can perpetuate the sort of selfishness and entitlement that comes from not having an outer purpose. If we do not desire anything beyond our own egoic aims, such as the thought of “finding ourselves” really is (or can be), we tend to lack the capacity to see beyond ourselves and our own experiences of this world.
We may, in fact, move into a spiritual path with eyes willfully closed, creating our relationship with spirit, and the spiritual path, as one of righteous indignation and wounding, rather than greater expansion beyond who we currently are and what our wounds and restrictions are. In worst case scenarios, we can use a spiritual path to completely close ourselves off to anything beyond our own basic ideas of ourselves.
Awakening allows for the capacity to move and see beyond yourself (as a simplistic notion). It allows for the realization that what we think is important is often illusory and fleeting. It is a path of being able and willing to look at what restrictions we have, what beliefs that we have constructed and been given, and what sort of blind reactions that we have in this world. We can move through this world in a state of willful blindness and ignorance or one of being really willing to see… despite that seeing causing our concepts of ourselves that we have constructed with such care and out of such pain to release and dissolve.
It is a path that leads to gradually more and more realization of how selfish we are, and how in that selfishness we rarely consider one another, empathize with one another, or have the capacity or willingness to understand and see how we impact others and what we are bringing to this world.
Reconciling that innate selfishness that binds us to only consider ourselves is a part of the spiritual path. Being willing to see our own selfishness is a tall order, but being willing to see this allows for us to move beyond it and into oneness and further freedom (release of restrictions and that which creates pain in us).
We do not awaken by surrounding ourselves with people who all are the same as ourselves. We tend to put ourselves in a bubble, only interacting with people who are exactly the same as us, and with the same ideas. It takes a fair amount of willingness and effort to move beyond this bubble… and many choose not to.
I was having a talk with someone the other week about how some spiritual aspirants use their spiritual path to consolidate their own ideas and wounds; that instead of this expansion quality, the sort of lessening and easing of personally held beliefs and ideas, and the interaction with new ideas and movement beyond the Self, that people can become quite righteous, closing off themselves to anything that is outside of their own experience, and into a sort of bubble or cocoon of their own creation.
I sat with the realization for a long time that there were some folks who I chatted with who had been on a spiritual path for ten, twenty, or thirty years who totally and completely lacked any sort of consciousness. There had been no expansion, no movement beyond the self.
Many of these sorts were of a duller consciousness than those who were taking their first steps on the spiritual path– they had no capacity to understand their intuition, no openness to hearing about anything other than they had already thought of, and often with a stockpile of emotions and quite chaotic lives… which tends to happen to people who pursue spiritual activities and workshops without personally processing and integrating them.
Moving towards some greater purpose: looking for “truth”, or expansion beyond the self allows for one to not get caught in this egoic nature– of having the wounds and needs of the mind create a spiritual path for the person– this path (or tendency to bubble in a sort of solopsistic universe) is mentioned here because in order to move beyond the “true” self, we must first understand the true self, and where many may create diversions for themselves on the spiritual path.
And our true selves are way beyond the capacity of our own mental creations, which typically seek control, order, and are based off of what we already know (and need to be) “truth”. If our minds create our spiritual reality, we lose our tether towards any sort of expansion or truth, and despite authentically seeking– going to workshops, immersing ourselves in teachings, and so forth– we can restrict ourselves from ever really experiencing anything.
The question would be then how would we know? How would we know that we are on a correct spiritual path, and that we are, in fact expanding?
The simple answer to this is that if we are creating and following more rules, have more restrictions, and our spiritual path is only about ourselves, that we may be moving towards a selfish spiritual path.
But the real testament is that if life is chaotic, painful, and the spiritual path is not leading to wholeness and peace, there is something there to heal. Our lives are notoriously messy, and human, and the purpose would not be to have a life completely free from those elements, but there is great stillness and peace that emanates from those who have had spiritual attainment that they have properly integrated… despite what may be going on in their existence… and what they have attained is not only palpable but noticeable by even those who are not what we would refer to as “sensitive” in any capacity.
What this means is that even if there is chaos, difficulty, and all that life can throw at someone on the spiritual path… overall there should be more freedom and a basic movement away from the drama and chaos that we tend to perpetuate in an unhealed state. If our spiritual path is creating more and more imbalance, that may be a temporary necessity, but overall there should be more maturity, peace, and ability to understand and feel compassion for those different than you… as well as the ability to move beyond the sort of chains of basic self-interest that bind so many.
What a lot of people seemingly misunderstand is the sort of idea of thresholds or spiritual bases of knowledge; that we must pass through a specific initiation to move beyond it.
The true self is one of those gateways.
When we move closer and closer to this true self– releasing the wounds and baggage we carry, healing, understanding who we are at the deepest levels– we realize that the true self is one of those thresholds. It is not a final destination.
When we reach this destination we discover that the idea of a “true self” is just a stopping point, a doorway into understanding a greater truth.
This is like much knowledge– what we know and what we have embodied (processed and directly experienced… as in intellectualism on a spiritual path will only lead someone so far without direct experience) takes us until we reach a specific doorway/wall or initiation.
We then realize that our search is over in the sense that we move beyond that quest, as we realize such a quest is an illusion.
In this case, there is a discovery that we are not one, centralized Self, not one “true” self, but a variety of energies making us up. We may have a part of ourselves that wishes to go out on a ten mile run, and another that wants to watch Netflix in our sweatpants.
Those forces within us are not in opposition, they need not battle. They are simply different aspects of ourselves. We can be both shy and violent, both masculine and feminine, and have differing aspects of ourselves that have a different voice, different aims, and different thoughts on what we should be doing with ourselves.
We tend to believe that these parts of ourselves are in opposition; they are at war. They are not, and we need not castigate the parts of ourselves that are not socially appropriate for our conceptualization of ourselves.
If we are shy, that does not mean that we need not be also loud and defiant. If we are known as being an extrovert, that does not mean that we constantly need to be “on” because we are known for our extroversion.
By understanding our multiplicity, and that we have different forces within us, different personalities and sub-personalities, we can realize that we are, in fact, many things.
We do like the idea of ourselves as being one concrete whole, as if we look hard enough and for long enough we will come to believe ourselves to be this shiny, white, perfected light.
What happens when we find and peer into that light is that moving beyond the initiation of the “true self” will lead one to their complexity, their messiness, and working with the forces within.
Ideally these forces would be treated equally, and with compassion. There is a neglected voice within us that wants us to relax and eat chocolate. We often brutally shove down that voice because we are a culture of “doers”… or we engage in that activity constantly without really satiating it because we are thinking about how bad we are for relaxing, or doing something non-productive.
Obviously for this sentiment to be understood we need to be past the point of understanding logically that if a voice within us seeks to cause us harm, that we should not create harm to ourselves and others. So if anyone is not past that point yet, this realization is not yet something that should be considered, and other healing is necessary.
But if we consider that energetically we are many things– we are many forces coming together– from the personal to the archetypal, from the elemental to past lives to ancestors, from world and local energies coming together as you were being formed at a specific point in history– we can understand the forces that create us, the different aims within us, and move beyond the threshold of the “true self” to understand ourselves in multiplicity… and cease the battle.
We can be okay and truly offer ourselves what differing aspects of ourselves need, without feeling the regret and admonishing of other forces within us. We may wish to be a masculine warrior type one day, and a shy bookworm the next… you can be both a warrior and a bookworm simultaneously in fact… and they are both “you”, they are not in battle with one another, and you can feel compassion and allow for them to simply be a part of you, without seeking or centralizing a simplistic idea of Self, or of True Self, as a quest or guiding force in ones’ life.
So seek the True Self (I teach this in my Discernment course), but realize that it is but a threshold, as much knowledge is… and if you are ready to move beyond that doorway, the “True Self” that has been learned and quested after will disappear… which is as it should be… to attain even deeper knowledge and understanding of Self.
I get asked this question occasionally in several different ways (most recently the other week), and so I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter.
The basic question here is: can we take others (meaning students/patients/clients) further than we have gone ourselves? There are also several related questions, such as: if we have not had a particular experience, can we work with that? as well as the different ways we can look at the first question (and if we are talking about experience, education, or consciousness overall)… such as can we bring someone past the point of our own consciousness level?
When I first started doing work with clients (beyond my experiences doing basic massage therapy at a spa-type setting) I took this question fairly literally. My response would have been “sure”, meaning that I saw that I got clients from many different walks of life and was able to provide what I felt was adequate care for them.
Most notably in this phase I worked with a lot of firefighters (my business was across the street from a fire station) and generally I get along with these sorts, likely because we both have a tendency towards dark or sarcastic humor (yes, I am generalizing, but it is a valid point). I have zero experience as a firefighter (and watched a house burn down last week and still can’t believe that there are people that willingly run into burning/smoking buildings for a living) but found that although I had not had the same direct experience, I could still listen, empathize, and care for others appropriately.
Although the question of If we have not had a similar experience, can we work with that? is somewhat clumsy, I found that the basic capacity to listen, to truly hear, and to be neutral (as in, open enough to not judge experiences and personally willing to hear about experiences dissimilar to my own without it creating inner chaos in myself that would pull me away from focusing on my patients/clients) is something fairly rare in our modern day culture… as is safe, neutral (non-sexual) touch. Just the act of having someone listen to you with compassion and non-judgment is incredibly healing.
We also feel unsafe sharing our experiences, or may simply feel unsafe as individuals due to our individual or collective history. Creating safety and a container for the sessions (a complicated topic that I won’t fully go into) so the person can realize your boundaries can allow for safety to be built. Clients (just using this as a general word) will continually test my boundaries… sometimes this is simply because they are entitled, or irritating, but mostly it is because they are attempting to find some semblance of safety… to know that I have boundaries and what definitively they are. We often balk at the creation of boundaries as healers, but those boundaries being consistently maintained are what creates good healing work and general safety in a session.
HOWEVER… What I will say about the whole “experience” thing is that those firefighters would have likely interacted much differently if there were scheduling an appointment with someone who was or used to be a firefighter, or had more knowledge of that world. This gets complicated, as what many of them may have been looking for was a reprieve from that, or safe touch from a female (even if they were not conscious of those needs). But there is an extremely high likelihood that they would have not only interacted differently but worked on different topics if I had experienced anything similar to what they did in their daily lives and work.
Being heard in community of peers is incredibly important. Having someone deeply know and understand your experience from the inside-out and having the above capacity to listen, hear, and create safety, boundaries, and neutrality, results in an automatic sense of deeper connection and safety. In shamanic work, the purpose of shamanic sickness and the wounded healer concept in general is that the individual will pass through their own healing crisis and come out the other side. This is one of the reasons why those truly called to spiritual work often come down with rather odd and sudden illnesses that they pass through (whether that takes hours or decades is the question, of course).
But even in a more “mundane” capacity, finding friends, support groups, and so forth of people who have had the same experiences that you have had, no matter what they are, allows for the person to move beyond the “I am the only person who has ever experienced this” type of mentality and harmful separation ideology into a profound space.
This is about an embodiment and energetic attuning process. What this means is that a system (and you know, the person attached) that has struggled with Lyme disease (for example) will not only have the intellectual understanding of what to look for in patients, will also have a history of what has worked for them and what hasn’t on their journey towards personal healing, and not only can deeply listen to others that are a “past mirror” or “former aspect of self” (all tendencies in client work), but that their system can show the client currently struggling what a healed (or more healed than the client is currently, hopefully) system is like.
This is typically on a rather subconscious level, by the way. There is a deep knowing on the part of the client (also very subconscious) about what they can share with their healer/clinician as well as this attuning process in which the energetic system of the healer shows the client a state of greater health or harmony than the client currently has.
So we get to the issue of consciousness here.
So I will basically say this: the openness and relative consciousness of the healer creates the container for the session.
This sounds complicated, but I will illustrate through a story. I was friends with a fellow Acupuncturist that ran a clinic nearby. She got fertility and pain patients primarily, while I got trauma, emotional and spiritual chief complaints (as well as headache/migraine people, but that is a different story). Clinicians of varying sorts often have specialities, so this wasn’t a terrific surprise.
What I realized after referring patients back and forth was that the same patient would come to me and start talking about wanting to heal their grief, or spiritual patterns and they would go to her and talk about infertility. I realized on a basic level that not only did I have no interest in fertility work, but that my mind was closed to people who wanted to spend a hundred thousand dollars on IVF (this is my issue, not theirs of course) and my thoughts as to overpopulation and effect on the world. So they wouldn’t bring it up.
When I got more comfortable with my own sensitivities and “shamanic/spiritual” path, I also started having clients show up who wanted this work. At this time I was an Acupuncturist, Craniosacral Therapist (etc. lets just say a lot of bodywork and mind-body-energy work type studies) and in no way on my website or in person did I talk about having sensitivities/perceptual/psychic abilities or that I did spiritual work. They just knew, and as I healed my own inner “stuff” surrounding the topic, the more that I healed the more that people came to me… and the greater service I could be to them.
I have had people say things to me occasionally like: “I never get clients like that” or “clients never bring things like this up” or even “nobody wants to work on that level” and what it is always an indicator of is the healer not having “healed” that within themselves to the point that they can create this container– this sacred space wherein the client feels safe and ready to tackle such healing work.
Additionally, being a healer is a constant evolution. It involves not only the embodied experience of having many different clients over the years, and what you learn from that, but it should be an internal process of healing to offer more of yourself to your clients (as well as further education and practices to do so in the elusive “spare time” healers have)
We have complicating variables with this, as sometimes a modality has incredibly high “consciousness” but the individuals who practice the modality may not. I am a passionate advocate of CranioSacral therapy. To me it resets the nervous system and allows for a physical-energetic-mental-emotional-spiritual continuum of healing that is one of the most profound things that I have found out there (and I have done a lot of healing work/exploration of different modalities). It has truly effected incredible healing personally for me.
This modality has a wonderful and expanded “consciousness” that focuses on things like neutrality and creating a safe place for people to explore, whatever that exploration may need to be. However, individual therapists do not have such consciousness (and I am not picking on CST practitioners, this happens with every single healing modality out there. Try finding an Acupuncturist these days who is spiritually minded. It is difficult).
Partially this is experience. Ida Rolf used to say something like that she wished people (post her 2-4 year training in the matter) wouldn’t call themselves “Rolfers” (a bodywork modality focusing on the fascia or how the structure organizes around gravity) before they had five years of experience (full time, one would assume, singularly focused on Rolfing) because what they are doing is not Rolfing yet. This consideration has a lot of ramifications for healing modalities that may have a beginner course that is a single weekend, or someone who has not yet seen enough clients to move past barriers that clients will inevitably bring up in them (if they are willing to look/grow in reaction to that, that is)
A lot of people get stuck in this. If we are uncomfortable in ourselves, or have not healed a specific topic within ourselves, we will either shut up the client (redirecting or ignoring what we cannot handle), or more likely, they will simply not bring it up. In the CST community, there is a similar and unfortunate “new-age” capacity to deal with emotions… which is not at all… and the belief that anger needs to turn into hugs, or that the end stage of healing must include forgiveness, a hug, and love all around.
While some of this mentality drops away after solid experience (and hearing about what clients have gone through the idea of suggesting that they imagine hugging whomever to heal seems ludicrous), our own consciousness and comfort level with a particular topic creates this level of restraint in a session, often to the detriment of the client.
I had a client who I suggested work on his inner violence. He was someone who felt a surge of power when being violent, and was having trouble navigating the fact that a part of him really enjoyed this primal, instinctual energy and the power and “masculine/machismo” that it created when it came out. He got noticed, he got seen, and he got more respect in certain ways. He had incredible difficulty in finding anyone that not only he felt comfortable talking about such a thing with, but who was able to move away from their own fear and ideologies enough to help him to understand that this primal instinct did not need to become love and light, or anything other than what it was. It simply needed to have an appropriate outlet. He eventually found this through martial arts (specifically Aikido) but not through Craniosacral therapy, which was the perfect modality for him…. except he couldn’t find a therapist who had worked through enough of their stuff to take him where he needed to go.
When we talk about this in regards to spiritual teaching and work I will say that the answer here is typically also that we can only teach or take others as far as we have gone. Where the limits are of a spiritual teacher in terms of their consciousness and experience level (including embodied experience as well as, quite frankly, education, as anti-intellectualism in spiritual circles is a huge constraining factor) always restricts their students.
However… (yes, this is another however) in spiritual work I often people show people doorways, or they go through initiations, that take them into what I either have experienced and cannot describe (or will not, so they just don’t take on my cosmology/belief system/experiences verbatim… another huge difficulty in the “spiritual teacher” arena) or they will actually utilize that experience to fuel them to go beyond where I have been with that particular topic.
So the answer is a sort of “yes” here… meaning that on the spiritual path what the individual student does with the information that I offer, whatever that may be, can take them far beyond where/what I have experienced and “expand their consciousness” beyond my current thoughts or realizations about that situation, or in general.
I will say that I am the sort of teacher that loves when a student comes into their own, when I see them move beyond their own barriers, and especially those willing to move beyond the sort of surface layer type b.s. that is so readily perpetuated by so many in the “spiritual” realm. Some teachers are not like that, however many are.
I always warn people to look out for teachers that are static in their understandings. It is a difficulty that once in “teacher” mode that someone may close down any of their personal expansion. This means that students will often outgrow that teacher. These static understandings also may come from an organization or teacher further up who is creating a rather rigid container for them to teach under, however (and unfortunately). This turns into a bad game of “Telephone” and lacks the embodied experience and essence that a truly fantastic teacher will relate.
I will say, as a last aside, that the difficulty with spiritual teaching is that you always hope that students will move beyond your consciousness level– that they will grow and contribute to the world in amazing ways. Ideally the path of “awakening” is to bring as many others with you along the way as are willing or able. I once didn’t understand how teachers could not teach the totality of what they knew. But when you get into things like how to curse (and you teach that to students… which I do not) and so forth, there is a reason for that holding back, and it is because inevitably a student will erupt in some sort of chaos, and despite all the seeing and divination and barriers you put up to ensure that such things don’t occur, they will. And you will have to deal with it. So it is a difficult thought process that guides many teachers who may be holding back information.
So the basic thought here is that in general… no, you cannot take students, clients, and so forth beyond your current consciousness level or your current and basic internal capacity to deal with a subject. But you can, in some cases, show people the door, and they may walk through in an entirely different way than you did, moving far beyond what you taught them. And that is a wonderful sight to behold.