Emotional Health and the Collective Shadow

Like many of you, I was deeply impacted by the death of Anthony Bourdain.

Such a death always creates an outpouring of memes, of support, of opinions one way or the other on how someone who seemingly had many of the things that we aspire to– a successful, inspiration career, a gregarious manner and friends who cared, an ability to connect and to voice his opinion, financial stability– and our questioning of how someone who seemingly has what we define in society as “success” could still be struggling.

As a society, the way that we treat our emotions, our lack of emotional intelligence and empathy is appalling. The thing about suffering is that we all experience it, we all experience the inevitable ups and downs of life, but that we all try to hide it. 

That trauma persists in isolation, that it creates the belief that we are the only one who is suffering.

Those of us who deeply feel are told by the world that such feeling is incorrect, wrong, pathological, and to be numbed, placated, or not felt so as not to be a disturbance to the whole.

We live in a world steeped in scientific materialism– it is considered the only valid reality– which means that spirit, as well as our emotions, are relegated to pathology.

Never is this more apparent than in the spiritual spheres. In the illusions and pretending of individuals who state that they are beyond feeling, much illusion serves to simply perpetuate the restrictive scientific materialist worldview through spiritual paradigm that feeling is not okay.

Such ideologies only perpetuate and exacerbate the collective shadow– the “othering” of emotions, the wearing of masks, and the deep fears of a sick society of anyone who is struggling or feels anything but numbness in this world.

If you notice this, you can begin to notice how societal conditioning wishes for us to lead lives of quiet desperation, and how even our spiritual ideologies perpetuate such conditioning.

Over the years I have watched as the students who have been drowning in their trauma and existences to the point of me losing sleep worrying about their basic safety, have displaced their issues onto the spiritual realms, considering themselves “shamans” or similar so as not to look within.

I have encountered so many who believe they are enlightened when they are psychotic, who place all of their suffering at the feet of whatever spiritual label or experience they believe themselves to be going through.

This is the difficulty of living in a world that disregards emotions, that tells us not to feel. We live in such fear of feeling, of the words mentally ill that we will do anything, and create anything, so as not to be defined and “othered” by a world that so deeply fears its emotions and has so much unprocessed trauma and pain.

We are in the collective shadow of so many who look to the light because the shadow of suffering both personally and collectively is too much to bear.

It is the rather enormous elephant in the room that those suffering the most emotionally-mentally, the most fractured and distant from grounding in collective reality, will take the framework of spiritual awakening, of labels like shaman and empath and kundalini, to create illusion and delusion about their lives so as not to contend with the contents of their psyches.

The recognition that whether it is the spiritual awakening process or a spiritual call involves deep connection and grounding to collective reality (as well as many other realities simultaneously) and to the self, is curiously missing from these perpetuated ideologies.

It is also a rather large issue that those who are drowning in their lives will also become practitioners or teachers and try to tend to others while still drowning– we cannot be of assistance to others if we are drowning in our own lives. We must be ashore in order to have the clarity to assist another.

I do not wish to be unkind in this sentiment– there are plenty of practitioners who have walked the path of the wounded healer. But with clarity and the ability to step ashore comes the realization that when drowning, that tending to others must stop, and tending to the self is of the most importance.

It is also a large issue that those whom I have worried the most about over the years have inevitably turned to practitioners and teachers who are more than willing to tell them that all of their difficulties are because they are filled with demons, possessed, have ET implants, or affix many of the labels of spirituality to them because they are either taking advantage of, confused themselves, or drowning themselves.

These issues have caused more than a few existential crises in me over the years, and it is difficult for me to not view much of the spiritual marketplace as either serving to give rigid ideologies to keep people where one is (while giving the mask of spirituality), or perpetuating the harmful ideologies that prevent people from attending to their inner states of being.

To do spiritual work, to do it well, to spiritually awaken, means looking straight at our humanity. To become human.

It is a slog, often a thankless one in many ways, as seemingly the suffering looked at simply becomes another brand of suffering. That despite the light that comes pouring in, the ecstatic states, the revelation and realization, that to awaken means to deeply feel. It means to see past yourself, and when one does so the type of suffering that people struggle through daily, hourly, just trying to get through the day, is a profound thing to witness.

It is a hard clarity to witness the suffering of the world, to deeply feel it. We wish to believe that the world begins and ends at ourselves, and the illusions of awakening always point to this ideology. The truth that awakening causes for one to see past the self, to see another, to see the world, means that such awareness is not always a gift, but at times a painful truth.

As we awaken, we accept the world for what it is, and people for who they are, letting go of the desire to change or control them. That does not mean that all people, and the world, become beams of light, but that as we reconcile our inner nature in terms of the external world (do shadow work) that merely the attachment and desire and judgment in regards to our external reality changes.

The first stage of any path– no matter if you are a “called” shaman, truly experiencing a kundalini awakening or spiritual awakening or not– is to look at that suffering, to look at those emotions that fill one within, to admit when something is not working in your life.

It is to become truly and vitally human, which includes experiencing and working with the emotions, gaining emotional intelligence, and meeting the world, and the people in it, for who they are (and not who we would like them to be).

To realize that others are suffering, have suffered, will suffer. We suffer in isolation, we suffer due to our paradigms pathologizing emotion, we suffer because the term mental illness is so stigmatized and so “othered” that we seek to brush those with that label to the side so as to not reckon with it in ourselves.

No matter how emotionally-mentally stable we are, the deep fear of the madman/madwoman, the realization that others do not recognize or submit to the rules of societal conduct and so are out of our control, is a shadow within ourselves that requires looking at.

Even if we are blessed with the type of mental-emotional health that allows for us to get through our days reasonably intact, we are so sick as a society that we revere quiet, we revere non-emotion, we create shadows of light that only make certain emotions and expressions of humanity okay.

No matter who we are, we have experienced trauma of some variety. We have suffered. Such suffering is not a contest, but shows us truly our humanity. It is part of being human, and such experiences should carry no stigma but be recognized as something that each one of us carry.

We are not static beings, and our definitions and pathologizing of mental-emotional imbalances means that we leech the humanity from those who have been defined as such. We lack recognition that beyond a very small contingent of society, who we are is in a state of flux, and those experiencing the depths of suffering, the depths of depression or anxiety or even psychosis can and do emerge out of the other side.

We have lost our reverence for feeling, for experiencing, and nowhere is this most exemplified than in many of the spiritual communities and in our outer, materialist society that teaches the deep feelers of this world to shut up, to wear a mask, and that silence is golden.

If we are able to recognize this societal sickness, to recognize the need for health on all levels– physically, mentally-emotionally, and spiritually– we can begin to work with what is out of balance in ourselves. We can recognize that one of those levels is not more important than the other– we need all to be healthy on all of those levels.

If something is out of balance, tending to it on the level that is creating the most difficulty (physical, emotional/mental, or spiritual) is necessary. 

While it sounds almost trite to say, if we are drowning in our lives it is an unfortunate factor that we must recognize that we are drowning. To recognize that such drowning will not be forever. That the rise in “rugged individualism” or belief that one must contend with things internally and alone is yet more societal sickness, and that those who are ashore, whether they be friends, family, or mind-body therapists of varying sorts, can help to pull us ashore, or at the very least hand us a life jacket.

That drowning is in no way shameful. No matter how grounded we are, no matter what labels we ascribe to ourselves, as humans we will occasionally be treading water, or drowning, and it is by realizing that as humans we all drown, or tread water at times, that we can begin to heal this collective shadow, to tend to our emotions, to recognize how societally sick we are in terms of anything beyond our physical/materialist health.

Krishnamurti once said that it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society and as we consider what societal conditioning wants from us,  what the paradigms of materialist health want of us, and the sort of illusions that many spiritual teachers and communities create, we can begin to have perspective of how direly our world, and the people in it, need to tend to their health on all levels.

It is by looking at the shadows created by such a system, by reconciling internally our othering of our emotions, ourselves, our inner madman/madwoman (and how we “other” those in our external reality) that we can begin to see one another as people, no matter what labels or masks we wear.

Such reconciliation of our inner humanity, such recognition of our suffering, truly seeing what is not working in our lives (as well as a healthy dose of understanding that our suffering at its depths is often fleeting, and realization of ourselves not as static creatures, but of ever evolving creatures, including emotionally) and by revering our emotions and what that little voice within us says when it speaks of hope, that we can move past our shame, move past our masks of being a warrior or being not in pain or not feeling, and realize that we are simply and definitively human.

Shared pain is lessened, trauma persists in isolation, one of my teachers said. Take care of yourselves, and realize that tending to your emotional health in such a sick society is an act of great courage, as is asking for support when needed.

Perfectionism, Control, and Paradoxes

I remember when I was starting my path (well, was consciously doing so) that I had this idea that if I only reached a certain state, that I would be perfected.

That this was the end goal– a state of continual health, happiness, joy, peace, bliss, or love. That if I only tried hard enough I would not need to struggle, or would find my way beyond it to some sort of arbitrary and static perfected state.

When this illusion was shown to me to be an illusion about a decade in, I felt deceived. I began realizing how illusory the notion of a fixed state of perfection was… which then began an existential crisis about what the point of it all was, and feeling a certain level of meaninglessness.

I began seeing how people (including myself) held onto these fixed ideas that if they only got far enough (or wore a mask hard enough) that they would be all love, all the time.

That this was a “loop” in which a teacher would wear a mask pretending to be all love, or perfected, and both imperfect teacher and student would play the game (or participate in the loop) of this illusion.

We love this illusion, as the idea of this sort of perfected love reminds the wounded soul of the love that they did not receive from their mother or father. It is so easy to externalize this onto another– onto a teacher or healer or another who is more than willing to pretend to be this.

Because it gives them power, because it gets them students, and because they are as wounded as their students, often in the same way, and both are playing out a loop of wounded parental relations with one another from simply different sides.

If you go beyond the surface, you will see that the people that we prize in our culture for reaching such an attained state never reveal any type of nuance. They realize that they are playing a game, or are so wounded that they are desperate to not reveal who they truly are.

Mother Teresa’s journals reveal how disconnected and depressed she felt, Ramana Maharshi especially near the end of his life was often fatigued and could not take visitors, Krishnamurti suffered from grief and migraines, Gurdjieff shouted at his students and had many angry rants.

I am in no way disparaging those individuals, but merely pointing out their humanity. If we only know little about people, it is easy to imagine that they have reached a static, perfected state.

One of my favorite teachers was Nisragadatta (I Am That is still essential reading in my book) because he never pretended. He was the first teacher that I came across (although I have come across a few more by this point) who was deeply human, who would point out to students when they were not ready, when they were steeped in illusion, when they were being stupid.

His work would not likely translate to many modern seekers today because if they are still caught in the loop of idealized perfection or seeking the love they never found through their mothers and fathers, he would have broken through that illusion.

It is a rare student nowadays that is willing to move beyond the ego enough to not only take on a teacher, but to truly be a student. To have their blind spots shown, and to move beyond what they already know.

He also smoked and enjoyed sex, which the modern seeker who dislikes any type of embodiment and feels at odds at this world will point out as not being “perfected” and then move on to someone willing to play the role of external guru for them.

A whole host of teachers and healers who have pretended enlightenment and perfected states eventually show their shadow sides because in such states of pretending, the atavistic instincts, the shadow self, what is untended to within, screams in pain and will find a way to reveal itself.

The modern seeker looks for this type of perfection in their teachers, and will break down, discard, or disregard anyone that does not fit into their personal ideals of perfection. They will idealize and create a narrative around their teachers and when their teachers show to be human (which, you know, humans will) or deviate from the romanticized notions that are divorced from the reality of who that teacher is they will move onto the next teacher who is willing to wear a mask and pretend a perfected state to enact the loop again.

This is an especially vicious loop with individuals who are enacting difficulties with authority/parental issues onto their teachers, as the teacher will inevitably fail to become their projected parent.

Or even worse, the teacher will take on that role, and use it to abuse, control, or take power from their students who are seeking a teacher who wears such a mask. Often they will do this without awareness, as  they are not willing to look within at their own wounding (and would rather teach, which is an interesting and common method of resistance to personal healing/attainment).

As long as we are human, we are imperfect. Beyond that, the experience of higher consciousness states not only has a lot of nuance, but is deeply paradoxical and it must be directly experienced to understand those paradoxes.

We become enlightened by digging deep within ourselves and realizing our humanity. It is by sitting with our humanity and really embodying that we can transcend.

We cannot become “lightworkers” unless we have created space for that light by digging in the dirt of ourselves– by examining and sitting with our darkness. By healing it, by realizing it, by accepting it.

We can become “love” by deeply accepting all aspects of ourselves, by loving all aspects of ourselves. This is not by forcing things to become love, but by loving every vicious, atavistic, ugly, dirty, ashamed, wounded, monster-y aspect of ourselves for exactly who they are.

That we can only learn if we are willing to contend with what we do not know.

That we can only progress if we see how much further we can go.

That we can only move beyond knowledge if we educate ourselves.

That we can only move beyond illusion if we contend with the suffering within ourselves that causes for us to create illusions of power, attainment, and achievement.

To liberate oneself requires a lot of discipline. It requires education/study, physical and mental practices to create balance over many years.

You can give anyone some LSD and stick them into a sensory deprivation tank and they will come out talking about “cosmic” something or other, but to truly attain and remain consistently at expanded states of awareness/consciousness requires meditation/mental discipline, physical discipline, and daily practices over many years.

People really do not like to hear this one, and if you look at all of the illusion out there you can really tell it is illusion because it will allow people to remain lazy, uneducated, and unhealed. I realize that this sounds unkind, but the spiritual path traversed with any type of seriousness requires a great deal of effort, and is one of the hardest things that one can do with ones’ life.

It is so easy to break down, to spend our time discrediting, gossiping, or creating illusions. We can create such spectacular illusions about ourselves, and create so many beliefs that allow for us to remain exactly who we are (even if that is not a happy “who we are”) and those at the beginning of their path will always believe that they are at the end.

It is much easier to play the game of perfection and enlightenment, because it requires no effort. You can be an internet troll and share all the right memes, you can be incredibly wounded and create an illusion that you are special and powerful, you can spend all of your days gossiping and attempting to destroy others….and the real question at the end of the day is what the person brings of benefit into the world.

It is through our thoughts and actions that we show who we are. Continually and constantly.

People often ask me how I can manage to get so much done in my day, and I am quite busy. But it is because I question how I spend my time, who I spend my time with, and consider that the spiritual path allows one to express their Will– what they are meant to do in this world.

What is not typically understood without direct experience is that “losing the ego” or “losing an I” is paradoxically also about gaining that “I”. It is not a state of common disassociation– it is an uprising and realization of connection to divinity, to the Earth, to all that is, and that rising also allows a descending– a discovery of the “cosmic I” or the realization (as well as the creative energy) to fulfill purpose in this world.

The more that one heals, the more that one embodies, the more that one grounds, the higher one can go, the greater expansion and perspective one can have.

Paradoxically what happens when we move into states of higher consciousness is that we realize that the illusion of a static or perfected state is just that. An illusion.

That higher states of consciousness are flowing, and dynamic. You are not just one static thing, but many things at once. That anger has a purpose and a beauty and a flow and is as divine as bliss or joy. That you can (and do) feel pain and joy, bliss and depression, and paradoxically it is at the juncture of those, or where those paradoxes meet, that magic, creation, awakening, takes place.

We are just filled with so much backlogged trauma and create such illusions out of our pain that our experience of anger is not one of flow, and is not nuanced, and we have never received the education to understand the message of anger and how to experience it as a flowing state… one that can bring a lot of energy and dynamism if worked with well.

That we are not, nor will we ever be, static beings. That even bliss has nuance, it has darkness, and will flow into something else. That the more that we try to grasp onto such states the less that we experience them.

That we have spent so much time judging ourselves and the outer world according to personal and societal standards that nobody can live up to, including the people that we latch our ideas of perfection onto.

That such perfection has created a cage. That is a method of control, resistance, the wounded aspects of ourselves never measuring up.

We feel that we can control ourselves, the world, and the people in it, if we have rules. If we have models that we can follow. We spend our time judging others for not meeting those rules without understanding that they are our rules, and often come from wounding. That not only that, that they are rules that come from society… rules that are intended to keep us contained, to keep us within the models of conformity that cause for so many of us to feel so unworthy, and in such states of quiet desperation.

It is paradoxically by letting go of our need of perfection, and by continually looking within at what is not working in our lives, what is creating pain, what is not in an adult state (such as using my book, The Body Deva, which is a method of self-inquiry as well as covers emotional intelligence and how to work with emotions), what is not allowing for us to feel alive and joyous and free that we can awaken. It is by grounding deeply in our humanity, in our imperfections, that we can be free… to be the imperfect humans that we are.

Fear, Resistance, and Doing the Thing

It was probably about five or six years ago that I had an irrevocable moment of clarity where I saw a “loop”, or repeated pattern (in this case, a behavioral one) having to do with fear and resistance.

If you have read my work (or my blog) I talk about loops quite a bit. If we notice the loops in our lives, or the external world, we can begin to see when something is created out of trauma, or is based on illusion, rather than clarity/truth

We can see how trauma creates belief and organizes our realities, and we enact these loops again and again until we are willing to look straight at them and to realize what is at the bottom of that loop.

At the time, I was procrastinating by reading through conversations in an online group. This group was focused on magic/occult practices, and in this case, it was someone attempting to find support for actually doing magic.

This is quite common– whether it is a meditation practice, shamanic work, occult/magical workings, or any type of spiritual work– taking the first step into actually doing something is for many people like leaping off of a cliff.

They require support, they require a teacher or others to get over the fear and to actually do the damn thing. Because by looking at that fear again and again, and doing something anyway, despite that fear, is how someone becomes a competent spiritual practitioner… or can traverse the spiritual path beyond surface realizations of it.

What I noticed was that part of this loop were several people who were telling the person to be afraid, that the work was dangerous, that bad things would happen.

What I noticed in this moment was that the people who were responding with such fear were inserting their own fear, their own resistance.

What is more, that they had little to no experience of actually doing anything. They had never leapt off of that cliff, so to speak. They had never done any spiritual work, although some of them were quite versed intellectually.

It is quite easy to spot who has done the work, by the way, and doesn’t require any large degree of clairvoyance. It perhaps is quite similar to my piano teacher when I was young knowing that I had not practiced that week.

You go through specific thresholds through direct experience. Viewing those thresholds from the rearview mirror becomes rather clear when one has some distance from said threshold. 

What you will find in a lot of spiritual, shamanic, and magical type forums is a lot of people who like to discuss things. This is not a bad thing, although misinformation and Dunning-Kruger syndrome is certainly a thing.

But what it can result in is a lot of resistance being perpetuated, a lot of illusion created from people not yet ready to directly experience. If we are not careful, such fear will cling to our own, and our own resistance will be heightened as a result of our interactions.

Because here is what experienced people will tell you, those who have traversed the path, done the magic, studied tirelessly combined with directly experiencing the thing (whatever said thing may be):

Yes, they will laugh. You will get burned fingers (inserts story about accidentally flooding garden or basement, blowing up microwave, getting massive headache or blown out for several days after a ritual, feeling of huge energy rising within causing them to shake or do automatic movements) and that is part of the education.

Because it is. Because if you actually experience the thing, if you are that rare person that both educates yourself and does the work, two things will happen.

The first is that you will screw up. Often out of stupidity. This has absolutely nothing to do with being a beginner, but of traversing new terrain for the first time and not quite understanding the terrain enough to navigate it.

Each time who you are and what you know expands, you will find yourself in new terrain. You then jump off of that cliff again and deepen your practice, often burning your fingers in the process.

You get to the point where you can enjoy this, and will look for new depths to traverse, new terrains to explore, even while knowing that the burning of fingers is part of the process.

You actually want to burn your fingers in the process, by the way. Not for the “war” stories (in fact, don’t get hung up on those, or you will stop learning new things or jumping off of that cliff) but because they actually mean that you have put in effort.

We can create a lot of spectacular illusion for ourselves, a lot of formed from psychological projection and mental creation with little significance in any other reality (spiritual or physical).

These illusions may be pleasant distractions, and there is a place for fantasy in our lives. This is if we realize it is a fantasy, however.

In doing shadow work, you can even look right at that fantasy and see what is lurking underneath– there is always a reason why we need to feel different, powerful, special, victorious, superior– if we are willing to look at the wound that created such a need (through something like The Body Deva, my latest book) so we no longer need to enact such daydreams.

We can free ourselves to simply be ourselves, without needing to put on a show, either in our minds or in the outer world. We can free ourselves from needing to be anything other than what we are, and who we are currently.

Which brings us to the second thing. Any type of spiritual or magical work expands who you are– it makes you more conscious. This of course means reasonably well-done workings, but even the smaller ones can have a ripple effect (as in, do something, even if it is small!)

What happens when your consciousness expands, or you truly do anything that approaches the Other (interaction with the spirit realms) that creates a shift in consciousness, is that who you are changes. Your daily reality changes.

Whatever type of spiritual exploration or experience it is, it creates a ripple effect that uproots and quite clearly shows you what in your life isn’t working– what relationships are not working, career, lifestyle…you get my point– while that can be listed as a “byproduct” of spiritual awakening, of magical ritual, of shamanic work (or any type of spiritual work) this can be quite painful and we are highly resistant to it.

Even if it is helping us to move from some factors of our lives that are not working. Even if it is moving us forward towards self-realization.

We get used to our ruts, we get used to the known elements of our lives. Even if we do not have a happy known, or an educated known, we know the limitations of our minds, we know what we consider reality, and our ego-minds work through resistance.

Understand that fear is a tactic. It is resistance. It is the parts of ourselves (and others) that are too fearful to act, that are causing us to stay who we are and what we are. Others are enacting their fear in the outer world, and if you listen to them, you are listening to resistance.

Because here is what I, as well as others who have “done the thing” and continue to realize that our resistance is speaking and continue to “do the thing” anyway:

Any spiritual path, any spiritual experience, any shamanic, spiritual, occult (etc.) doing will change your reality. It will change who you dynamically are. But it does this by releasing what is illusion, by forcing you to look exactly at what isn’t working in your life.

It is quite evident who has “done the thing”. They develop a sense of magic around them, you can see it in their eyes and in their presence. It is quite palpable when someone has done the work.

But guess what, those burned fingers lead to beauty. They lead to large elements of your life changing, sure, but that allows for a clearing to occur, for what is right to come in, for authenticity to be realized, for depth, for nuance, for the ability to traverse depths that others rarely recognize are there.

So see the fear for what it is: resistance. Do not let others speak to your fear. Listen to knowledge, learn from your elders. Everyone needs a physical teacher– it is a sign of resistance that is preventing you from your potential if you do not have someone to reach out to, to show you your blind spots. If you walk any of these paths, I guarantee that there is someone more educated, more conscious, more experienced, who has done that exact thing that you are considering doing and can assist you in some small or large way, even if it is saying “yeah, I’ve done that thing”.

Fear is a tactic. It is a loop enacted from others who are mired in their own resistance. Take care that you are not externalizing your own fears and lack of knowledge, or that they do not become a mirror for you.

Do the thing. Do the magic, do the shamanic journey, educate yourself with someone who can speak with nuance, who looks at spiritual experiences and the spiritual journey and any spiritual path with curiosity, openness, and wonder. Who realizes the burned fingers from actual experience, but also the beauty and possibility of immense change.

Most of us keep our ego-minds satiated by staying within the parameters of what is our known universe. Anything else creates fear, which creates retreat, which creates lack of change, which keeps us who and what you are. If you are entirely happy with your existence, if you are blind to your inherent possibility, if you didn’t already sense that there were unknown depths or something Other out there, you wouldn’t be on a spiritual path. As much as we hunger for change, or can feel the possibility of it, we have a sophisticated system that creates immense resistance (the ego-mind).

Recognize that system for what it is, what its purpose is, and decide to change anyway.

Listen to logic, listen to experience, listen to your own intuition… and even with that resistance, that fear both inwardly and outwardly… do the thing, whatever it is.

You can find The Body Deva, a method of self-inquiry that allows for someone to see clearly what lies unhealed within, as well as tools to resolve mind-body-spirit through the physical form, through creating a relationship with the inherent consciousness of the body, through Amazon and other major booksellers.

Sisyphus and the Spiritual Path

One of the more common illusions of the spiritual path is that it will get easier as one progresses on it.

The belief that the spiritual path is about transcendence means that people often create subsuquent beliefs that if only they tried hard enough, or were spiritual enough, that their lives would be perfect and they would never have to experience suffering ever again.

That if only they were spiritual enough they would not feel, would not think, or grieve, or deal with the invevitable cycle of ups and downs that the physical form and life has to offer.

This creates a life-long battle in which the person never is able to live up to notions of societal and personal goodness, can never be perfect enough (creating imposter syndrome), and must be doing something wrong or must not be “spiritual” enough if they have issues or are still struggling with mental fracturing or the effects of physical or mental-emotional trauma.

This also means that those who are struggling with life-long imbalances are told that they are not being spiritual enough, or that if they just work hard enough that whatever they are having struggling with will one day disappear or be healed.

This then creates a loop in which a person continually believes that one day they will be whole enough, good enough, or perfected enough… except that day never comes.

Except that investment in this belief perpetuates illusion and harm; it creates evolution towards an end goal that may never appear. It takes people out of the present moment, and romanticizes the spiritual path in a way that is inaccurate and unhelpful to those actually traversing it.

If we take on this belief, we live in the future, projecting and hoping to attain a degree of perfection that we can never attain. That idea of perfection is sold and marketed by those who have bought into it as well, creating a loop of teacher or guru and student, all acting out the falsehood of being beyond the human experience.

Illusion will always be more popular because it is formed from our psychological projections, our own private bubble, what is unhealed within us creating paradigms and scenarios that can never be met in reality. It is by questioning our reality, questioning ourselves and what we believe and what aspect of us wishes to believe this that we can move beyond such illusions, and the purveyors of such illusions.

There are many things that can be healed, many things that can be shifted on the spiritual path. There can be liberation from the things that create harm in you, that create strife, and this is not by coming to a state of perfection, but by attaining a state of acceptance… even with the parts of you that deeply suffer, that are in pain, that are imperfect.

Awakening means accepting who you are now, what you are now, and the parts of you that are in pain, that are definitely not perfected, that are not healed or whole. The parts of you that will never be okay by societal terms, the parts of you that are hidden and dark and outliers in this world.

This also means rectifying and working with the shadows of light: the joy, artistry, and enthusiasm for life that may have been stifled along the way.

That accepting who we are at the deepest levels means letting go of the illusory belief that one day all will be perfect.

That it is by our own evolution and participating consciously in our process over many years that we can awaken; but paradoxically this allows one to awaken to the understanding that we can always grow, we can always progress, we can always become more… but to free oneself of the belief of becoming.

In becoming more deeply authentic, in becoming more conscious, the blind emotive reactions cease. This is a big deal. We move beyond basic human self-obsession and are able to look beyond ourselves, and are no longer creating chaos in our worlds, and seeing through the eyes of traumatized inner children.

But in many ways it is a path of reconciling that while within the human form, that none of us are perfected. That truly becoming human: feeling, experiencing, allowing, and most of all accepting all aspects of ourselves, is how we become “awake” or “enlightened”.

Over the years I have also had a curious amount of clients who have been told by spiritual teachers that spiritual means that their lives should get easier; with a heavy amount of blame if the person is suffering, or has had a difficult life or path.

This really shows a great deal of ignorance about really any type of spiritual figure or realistic account of religious and spiritual paths, which outside of a bubble of popularized spirituality will always talk about how difficult the spiritual path is, and how the lives of people who feel called to spirit are filled with external as well as internal struggle.

Such struggle is not to be romanticized, either, but it takes great courage as well as personal responsibility to traverse a spiritual path of any depth, and those called to the spiritual path rarely have easy existences, and frequently find themselves, in more ways than one, “Others” in the world.

One of the popular modern terms Dark Night of the Soul was coined by St. John of the Cross, who found illumination while imprisoned for his beliefs. The specific term did not mean any feeling of existential depression, or trauma-based emotional depression, but a realization of what happens when one goes into states of the highest consciousness–ecstasy, bliss, pulsation, liberation– and then crashes out of them again.

Any path towards the light happens by examining and unearthing the dark. Those who go to the ocean floor are those who need to. Such efforts and unearthings are incredibly courageous. They are also incredibly difficult, and require personal fortitude as well as willingness to see what isn’t working, where one isn’t connected, and where one is not meeting the world or the people in it well.

Seeing where we lack clarity is always difficult. It is much easier on a superficial level to create illusion and projection out of pain. But looking at that pain directly means understanding it and healing it, while illusion never does. Illusion and trauma separates, it doesn’t heal.

Any awakening happens by deeply going within. By deeply feeling, by reconciling what is unhealed. It is only then that the mind clears, the emotions lessen, and a perspective occurs in which the person does not consider themselves as separate from the world emerges.

If we start with a bubble around us that only allows for us to consider ourselves, the awakening process would be that bubble widening and expanding. This allows for us to see other people, to see the world. To eventually meet the world and the people in it as they are, not how we wish them to be. To be in an adult state of consciousness, greater balance, with an improved ability to connect to everything around us.

This allows for an understanding of oneness: the ability to see the world and the people in it, and to recognize that an aspect of them reflects an aspect of you. This allows you to feel deep compassion for people, to feel connected to them, and to meet them where they are (not where you would like for them to be).

In others we can see our former selves, we can see the aspects of ourselves that are or were in pain, we can see the aspects of who we hope to be. By connecting deeply to the world, and to the people in it, we can do the type of true shadow work where we see what or who in the world is causing significant reaction, and know that that shows where something within lies unhealed or unresolved.

It is by looking at the world and the people in it this way that the most horrific experiences and chaotic unhealed individuals can be thanked, as they showed you something within yourself that was disconnected, that was unhealed.

The spiritual path is one of immense hardship, and for many, equating it to the path of Sisyphus– who was required to push a boulder up the hill only for it to roll back down, and for him to repeat the process for all eternity– is quite apt.

There is an immense sense of spiritual fatigue that happens somewhere around the 8-10 year mark for many people. They have worked with their inner children hundreds if not thousands of times, know what their ancestral patterns are, what their past lives are, and the basics of how societal forces have shaped them.

In many ways with this much effort causes our lives to become quite a bit easier. At the beginning of the path we are filled with noise: inner children, unhealed ancestors, past lives, and all of our personal history. This is like an orchestra with many discordant instruments, and when we begin to heal the instruments begin to quiet down.

One of the common mistakes that people at the beginning of their path make is to say that they are somehow done with their personal history. That they have healed their inner six year old, or their inner infant, through a healing session or two. Unless that six year old or inner infant had rather superficial needs or a minimal amount of trauma, healing is very much a spiral. We go back again and again to the parts of ourselves that are unhealed at different points in our personal history because we can look at them differently.

We are a different person. We have different consciousness, and it is by spiraling again and again that we can consider both the superficial considerations of what our inner six year old may need as well as what that six year old may need at the bottom of that ocean, and all of the layers of that ocean in between.

This means that you may return to that same six year old hundreds of times, if not thousands, if there is a large trauma that occurred, or if you become more conscious.

When we become more conscious we can consider things at a different level, and from a different vantage point. The spiritual path then first becomes about becoming distinctly more adult in consciousness; recognizing the parts of ourselves that are not adult and how they are creating our reality for us out of their traumas and subsuquent beliefs that have emerged out of those traumas.

This is why I suggest a method of personal healing and self-inquiry, such as The Body Deva, along with visiting healers. We have so much that is unhealed within us, and so much of that is defining and restricting our reality to such an immense degree that it requires our own participation to evolve into adult consciousness.

But what happens on the spiritual path is that you can work your way beyond personal healing. This is not truly beyond– there are still many things to work on– but it may be a group of five instruments, instead of a thousand. It is enough to have perspective, or to “witness”, rather than be immersed in the chaos one was once involved in. This means the capacity to step back from the fleeting chaos, projections, and woundings to a clearer, more consciously adult state. Being willing to recognize the personal work we need to do is part of the path. It is incredibly easy to come to a superficial place, or to do one piece of healing work, and to announce mastery.

Individuals who have moved beyond illusory mentalities often have a great deal of pain at taking personal responsibility for themselves when others seemingly do not need to, or anger at those who use spirituality as a way to distance themselves from their inner states… or because they are in deeper waters when the bell curve of society only acknowledges or popularizes the dipping your toes in the water, if such waters are entered into at all. Illusion is always more popular than reality for a reason, as is ignorance when it comes to spiritual matters.

Working through this phase allows for compassion as well as realization of the second phase of the spiritual path: working with social constructs and the grids.

At a certain point you can begin to work on grids, or the societal and cultural constructs and constraints that inform and create us. This is really the second phase of the spiritual path, and only happens if we are not immersed in personal history to the extent that we can navigate beyond it. Plenty of people wish to jump to this point, but unless we heal our personal history (including our past lives, familial line, and ancestry) we have too much noise, too many restricted beliefs, and lack clarity to such an extent that we are still seeing through the eyes of trauma.

When you work your way into this phase it is not like personal history no longer needs to be worked on, but that you have greater perspective and clarity to see the other forces that create us personally and societally.

What is resistant within us is what is unhealed, what is unclear in us is what is unhealed; we only really have the ability and willingness to truly evolve on our path once we can develop the ability to look straight at what isn’t working in our lives.

We dislike seeing the flaws in our logic, we hold on so tightly to what we believe because it is untrue. The path of Sisyphus is then someone who is willing to, again and again, look directly at what is creating difficulty, what has skewed their perspective to a large degree, and to reconcile it. This takes a lot of courage, and a lot of willingness to surrender the sort of egoic superiority complexes and illusions our minds have created to keep us exactly what and who we are right now.

What happens when you work so hard on yourself is that in many ways the path does get easier. Your mind gets quieter, you can direct the course of your life to a greater degree. You have healed and have perspective from personal history, you have gone through a process of deconditioning or reconciling how you interact with societal and other programming. This creates an immense amount of freedom, and there is a point in the path where it does not feel like a huge slog.

But it doesn’t make things easier, it just means that you are now dealing with the bottom of the ocean, instead of the waves or mid-ocean. In many ways, the spiritual path gets quite a bit harder, as you are staring directly at the parts of you that are atavistic, wild, that seek harm, the personal and ancestral karma of the perpetrator. The reptilian brain, the caveman, the parts of ourselves that seek destruction and harm.

When we clear away the clutter, the true darkness, the true ocean floor… the abyss and the many monsters that inhabit it, can clearly emerge. Seeing such things with clarity is difficult, as we are used to an incredibly obscured lens, or one that projects such shadows onto movies, onto villains in the outer world.

We start the spiritual path considering ourselves the victim, and working through the times we have been victimized, abused, and harmed. We do so for a reason. Many of us have been harmed so terribly, and it has us frozen in that consciousness; we are the infant or teenager or adolescent who has been harmed, and we look at the world through their eyes. Each time something reminds us of that pain, we revert back to being that consciousness… of being six, or an infant. This is how we relate to the world, this is the eyes we see the world through.

We blindly react to not look within– creating harm through our thoughts and actions, unable or simply not ready to realize our impact on others, we push our pain and ignorance onto anyone and everyone that we can find.

The spiritual path should be first and foremost about personal healing for a reason. Otherwise we lack perspective. Otherwise we cannot consider those around us. If we are drowning in our own lives, and with our own trauma, it is essential to get to a place of floating, or at least treading water, before we can even have the capacity to awaken.

Awakening involves the capacity to greater and greater degrees to move beyond personal selfishness, but we need to be a bit selfish to heal. It may, in fact, be the first time that we have regarded our own selfish needs to do so, instead of displacing our anxieties and issues onto family, friends, or others in an effort to not attend to our inner states.

It is typical for many people to feel the weight of Sisyphus– to heal, to heal, and to heal again. To feel spiritually exhausted from looking at that same spiral from different vantage points thousands of times. To feel as if the boulder has now become more massive that one is rolling up that hill.

Such people are doing work not only for themselves, not only for their families and ancestry, but for the good of humanity. While such things sound hyperbolic, it is those who are willing to traverse the depths who create change in their lives. Who can direct the course of their lives. Who can find their Will (their individual consciousness paired with divine consciousness) and understand their purpose in this world. Who can become of service to this world.

Who can move from blindly taking and reacting and basic human self-obsession to care for and consider others. This is a true blessing, and a gift, and it is typical for those who are on a spiritual path of depth to at a certain point have their path no longer be about themselves, but to do their small part to make this world a better place for their presence in it.

But eventually the path of Sisyphus must be examined. After rolling that boulder up the hill so many times it can become addictive to do so. We get very used to the circumstances of our lives. Even if the known is a difficult known, we still feel control, we still know the parameters of our known universe.

The real trick is how to put that boulder down and to sit next to that hill, resting and integrating all that one has done on the spiritual path. The real trick is to be okay with the unknown, and to be on a spiritual path in which all of the efforts digging in the mud, or at the bottom of the ocean, can allow for grace, and for the good stuff to come in. For states of flow, of blessing, of gratitude, and of realization of the ability to in many ways now direct the course of your lives.

There is no end to the abyss; there is no end to the bottom of the ocean. But such depths should allow for greater heights as well. On the spiritual path putting even Sisyphus aside to feel the liberating effects of such deep excavation, to integrate the immense work that has already been done, and to come into a new state of being require being able to see that the path of Sisyphus is one that can we can be liberated from, just like everything else.

Animism and Personhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On an Animist Way of Being

I had a student ask me for a working definition of animism the other day and I realized that we talk a lot about what being a “shaman” is, or what the definition of shamanism is (albeit in a confused, repetitive loop that never finds the healing or clarity that is necessary sort of way), but much of the talk regarding animism, or an animistic perspective, is sort of quartered in the Spiritual Ecology section of the bookstore, and doesn’t get the consideration and discussion that it deserves.

As I am teaching a course in June on Animism, I thought that I would offer my perspective, and hopefully describe animism with the type of nuance that can allow for people to move beyond surface level pretensions, or beliefs that if they live in the suburbs, or the city, that they cannot be animists. I do believe that what many people are looking for is this approach and/or perspective, and that approaching the world in a state of communion, as the animist does, offers a powerful connection that we hunger for and spend so much time and energy looking for.

As an animist, the world is vitally alive. As for how an animist thinks, I will share that on my walk the other day I said “hello” to a particularly friendly looking bush, apologized because I sat down on a patch of dirt too abruptly, and considered (and still am considering) why snow and I have a rather bad relationship.

I also have been thinking a lot about technology, specifically Facebook, as an energetic entity and how it is an energetic dampener (as in, notice your energy before you go on and after you have been on there for a period of time). I have acquiesced to being on Facebook (you can find my page here) against perhaps the more Luddite or introverted (or appreciative of peace) aspects of my nature, and so share a lot of cartoons and things I find to be interesting on my facebook page in order to hopefully lift and inform… but from my perspective it is hard to look at Facebook, and most of the internet, as anything more than a lot of unhelpful and entropic noise (despite its good points in facilitating communication in some regards and allowing me to find esoteric information a lot easier than the card catalogue at my library did) that highlights our wounding patterns personally and collectively.

Generally if you look at even something as seemingly “non-cuddly” as Facebook (we typically start an animist path with cuddly, and understandably so) you can see and sense that it too, has a life cycle (and has peaked a few years ago, actually) and what sort of energetic presence that it has… and that it is an energetic grid, or presence, that can be worked with and spoken to, just like in an animist world all things are alive and can be spoken to.

You can carry on a much easier conversation with a tree, that is vitally alive, than a chair, however. Not all things in an animist universe are equal, or have the same vitality… and just as in talking to humans, there is a lot of nuance in what information may be helpful, or helpful to you, and some things speak a much different language, or have a much different context or way of being than you, and those take some effort to commune with (and to not project on). You will also have a much more in depth relationship with a hammer you have used every day for fifty years than a tool that you have only utilized once. Bringing consciousness to this relationship deepens it even more.

To an animist, the human is part of a spiritual ecological system.

To non-animists, their spiritual ecological system would be a pyramid, with humans on top. Humans have dominion over pretty much anything and everything in that pyramid– from the natural world, to the cosmos, and over every archangel, spirit, being, and demon.

To the animist, spiritual experiences and direct communion is a thing of wonder. It is a feeling of being smaller and smaller in a larger and larger and more magnificent universe that is vitally alive. It is the silent and receptive state that one comes to before hearing an orchestra begin. It is being in a dynamic relationship with another being– be that being human, plant, rock, spirit, or being (and the wide variety of etc.) It is an engagement with respect and humility, as well as discernment, knowing that the Other is all around us (and is not separate from our daily lives, or elsewhere in Peru, or with someone who has a specific romanticized “other” background), and that much like our physical world and living humans, the animistic universe is highly nuanced– both dark and light, but often a mixture of the two.

To the non-animist, spiritual experiences are hungered after to make someone seem larger, more important, superior, and to prove themselves to the outer world to be at the very top of that pyramid. The non-animist is hungering for that connection that has been lost, but so often is led by wounds, by the mind that is attempting to solve that wounding by proving itself to be superior or even worthwhile. By a mind looking to control what is ultimately not able to be known beyond a certain point except through feeling, singular words, and knowing at such a deep level that a story, or even sense, of said communion will often not come right away, nor should it be completely fathomed by the rigid mind.

The way that spirit comes across is not mental, or psychological, but pure feeling and communion. Our lack of connection, the emptiness felt within, cannot be solved by the mind. It is solved by moving beyond the mind, and by connecting directly– to one another, to the Earth, to spirit/the divine.

To the animist there is wonder and recognition of the pure vastness of what spirit, the divine, the intelligent universe, or even what lies within us at our depths, truly is.

One does not need to be a priest, or “called”, or be told they are special to be an animist. They simply need to be willing to listen, to quiet their minds, and to be willing to engage with spirit through being a part of things. A small child, an elder, and someone just realizing that a feather on the ground may have meaning can all be animists.

A chef, a teacher, someone who works in retail, and an office worker can be animists, and can connect to nature, to the natural world, and carry on conversation and reverence for what surrounds them. Animism is not a religion, it is a way of being. It is a way of listening, and of knowing that the world goes far beyond the surface level physicality of it.

Our house, our land, even our morning coffee we can begin to know on a deeper level, to be in a relationship in a deeper way. Animism is about connection, and learning how to connect in such a disconnected world, a world that in fact numbs any sort of feeling and connection to its deeper levels, is always the challenge. But once such a barrier has been broached, there is no other way of being for the animist.

While there is a sense of humanness in the physical form (as in, I need to ensure my survival and a basic way of life that suits my purposes and get me to where I need or want to be, and yes, I can be an animist and live indoors, eat meat, and enjoy television), an animist perspective would perhaps simply be described as a circle.

This could be described as a “everything gets eaten” or an “I eat you, you eat me” perspective. We are born and eventually return to the earth.

This cycle is not the vain pretense of avoiding death, or disease, but of understanding that birth and death are a part of life, and are strikingly similar energetically and physically. We are born from the void, are infantile, grow and thrive and provide for others, enter into another infancy where we are rich in wisdom but lose our physical capacities, senses, and strength, and eventually move back to the void, becoming mulched and cycled by the earth. There is no fear in this, no avoidance, but a simple understanding and appreciation of the life cycle, and the cycle of being human.

In this circle, there is an understanding that the world around us, and what is contained in that world, has a voice. It has a perspective, a type of wisdom, and is something that can be communed with.

All things have consciousness.

Our bodies have consciousness. Each cell. Each organ. Each part of us has a voice. That is, if we are willing to listen. Our bodies contain what is unhealed, what has been sectioned off and fractured, and if we are able to inquire within, to really listen to what is being said within and what is being held within our tissues, we can heal and understand ourselves on an individual level (for more on this, my Body Deva book!)

All things are consciousness, if we want to get at the key perspective here. All things make up a part of the whole, and if we connect and communicate with one another, working together, things will go a lot easier.

To an animist, they can walk outside their door and have 10,000 things to chat with. An intelligent and pragmatic animist will pair their education (such as learning about herbs from more formal resources or apprenticeship) with what they learn from the herbal spirits themselves to utilize them.

This is not projected fantasy, or psychological archetypes, but a communion with the world to the extent that other voices can be heard. Non-animists will put what they want onto the world of spirit, onto nature. It is about what they need, what they want, what they feel should happen. To the animist, communion is a two-way street, with respect offered, connection created, and a willingness to listen.

To really hear what the world, what the tree in your front yard, or even what the spirits and beings that inhabit your home have to say to you.

To hear what the ancestors whose strength comes through you have to say.

An animist can sense a wind coming in and realize that it is going to bring sickness, such as a flu or other outbreak.

An animist is often sensitive and connected enough to realize when a large earthquake, or other natural disaster is going to hit. Knowing where, or what exactly, is typically not known in such circumstances other than perhaps a vague sense of knowing and a general dis– ease at such events.

I do not wish to romanticize with those last sentiments, but as an animist I wish to describe such sensations as a thing of beauty, and with the appropriate nuance to recognize what such a connection, if never experienced, or only experienced a few times, can bring.

Many of you reading this may be well aware of these sentiments, of course, and know how vitally sustaining a connection to the earth, and to nature, can be.

How we cycle our energies with the earth throughout life, and when we experience life, we are nourished by the earth and are intended to nourish the earth (a two way street), and how when we die we nourish the earth yet again. How really animism, or even shamanism, is really about death.

We have such fear of death, that the idea that animism or the shamanic path is a process of katabasis– a descent into the underworld, a continual letting go, an interaction with what is “dark” (subconscious, wild, free, sexual, animalistic) has been lost in favor of rigid and dogmatic christianized notions of the “light”. The notion that our power, our dynamism, our creativity, and our roots lie in earth and so-called “dark” energies is not able to be understood by a culture that is so separated and fearful of anything other than an illusory and puritanically derived “light”.

To those called to be of service to their communities (I no longer use the word “shaman” so I will say “spiritual worker”), the process of katabasis must be understood and deeply felt to connect with the earth, before any type of “rising” up the world tree. We heal, we connect, we deeply know who we are and what lies within not by rigid constructs that are societally deemed appropriate, but through examining and becoming conscious of our most atavistic instincts.

This is how we heal, how we integrate what has been lost to us through trauma. It is by integrating, by listening, by hearing with compassion and regard even the darkest parts of ourselves so that they are no longer separated and fractured from us. It is not by forcing things into a perfected, judgmental state of light but by accepting ourselves, and the animist universe as it is, and seeing how we are relational beings that are meant to connect, that we can commune clearly, and deeply, and finally receive the nurturing that we so long for.

To the animist, such communion is personal. It is freeing. It is a direct relationship based on a foundation (yes, a foundation is helpful/necessary, otherwise things like discernment or logic tend to be thrown out the window this day and age without an appropriate teacher or guidance. I have seen many people struggling for years who have refused to get a teacher, or who claim to be spirit-led, who do not even have the basic understandings to begin to move beyond the confused hodge-podge of material they have managed to gather from books, from the “spirits” and from other resources, many of which in this modern world are simply more noise, rather than anything helpful).

But I have my way of praying, as do you. What the tree in my front yard says to me might be different than what it says to you. What the tree in my front yard shares with me after communing with it for six months, and bringing it offerings and sharing my gratitude for its teachings will be different than what it shared with me the first day.

What we can learn in silence in the woods, through personal gnosis, and through the teachers of all different energies, beings, and types, if we learn to move beyond the noisy mind and our personal wounding in order to directly engage, to enter a state of receptivity beyond dogma and psychological projection, creates the connections and fills the type of emptiness that allows for a “seeker” to become “found”.

It allows for one to approach all things through connection, through communion, through listening.

Resolutions (or How to Become who you are Meant to Be)

It is the time of year when everyone begins sharing how wonderful they believe that the New Year will be. We hope for new beginnings, and plan how we will be different, and better, in the future.

We continually look for outer signs of possible inner change. Each moon cycle, astrological shift, menstrual cycle, divorce, marriage, death, birth, new jobs, move, political happening, and outer cultural shift we notice allows for us to believe in the capacity to change. At times we do use these cycles and events to authentically change and become more of who we are intended to be in this world.

But most of the time we are simply creating a “loop”, a belief and a pattern of behaving and experiencing reality that will quickly cycle through the rest of the loop– the trying of new behaviors, or a new way of being, and falling back into the same patterns (our ingrained “loops” or habitual patterns created out of personal and collective trauma).

So the real question is how to subvert this, how to break this loop to the extent that we actually change our reality, and our way of being in this world.

There are several answers to this.

The first is that we can use collective momentum for our own individual purposes. This is like riding a wave; if you are well aware that you are riding a wave, and that there will be an inevitable crashing of that wave on the shore, you can ride it for as long as it is of use to you.

When large amounts of people do something, such as New Year’s Resolutions, that creates momentum. It creates energy. It creates a massive wave. You as a small drop within that wave can use this momentum by being well aware of it as well as knowing that on January 5th (rough estimate), and then likely a few weeks later, large aspects of that wave will dissipate.

So when the bottom of this wave drops out, you can tell yourself what it is doing. You can also be aware of this loop and what is on the other side of it: typically beating oneself up for participating in this pattern of behaving (not sticking with resolutions and/or not changing to a better version of yourself that you know full well you are capable of) and then perhaps considering that in February, or come spring, you will try again.

If you have this perspective, and understand that there will be a fallout of energy because of this collective wave crashing (as in, many people will be giving up their resolutions and moving back to their old habits and ways of being again) you can also recognize that such a situation is temporary (the lulling of energy or crash on the shore and subsequent depression when people move back to old habits collectively).

When you realize in a few days that there will be a smaller wave of energy– the collective energies of people who will stick with their resolutions for a few weeks– you can ride that smaller wave as well. This will be a smaller crash to shore (less people creating this wave) but still the same “loop” of promising to be a better self––– planning to be a better self––– being a better self and changing habits for a small period of time––– not sustaining the habit and falling into depressive or old unhealed trauma patterns regarding self worth––– pinning hopes yet again on a future self breaking out of habits and living up to her (his/our) full potential.

Realizing all of this offers the perspective and distance to ride the waves and use their momentum for change, while realizing that there will be temporary lulls between the two waves.

Even beyond New Years’ our world is continually cycling through similar loops (patterns of behaving based off of beliefs created out of trauma) and if you can notice these, you can more clearly see how you take on that trauma individually (as someone who is in relationship with the world and perceiving how you individually take on or relate to collective loops), and to heal that.

So let’s talk a bit more pragmatically for a moment:

  • Habits take about three weeks to get sort of ingrained and to really begin to see the results of whatever you are planning for yourself.
  • It is typically better to do something every day if you are attempting to change something, even if it is for a short duration of time, to create a habit.
  • Don’t plan for drastic change. If you have been sitting on the couch for the last ten years, you are not going to jog 10 miles tomorrow, especially if you live where I do and it is -2 degrees Fahrenheit right now.
  • Discipline and creating new habits is always hard. Know that if you fall of the proverbial horse, you just need to get back on. Everyone falls off– it is just a question of who decides to get back on or not.

Let’s talk a bit more esoterically now:

  • Our mind believes that any change is associated with death. Our mind does not really understand the difference between physical and metaphorical death. This creates a lot of fear. If you understand this, you can soothe yourself by basically stating that you are not, in fact, going to physically die, but that you are going through a metaphorical death.
  • The more momentum we create for ourselves, the more likely that we are to receive blowback. This is sort of like a pendulum swinging– if we make these huge plans about how we are suddenly going to be this different person and it all changes tomorrow, we are likely going to get an equal and opposing force in the other direction.
  • How you can move beyond this pendulum swinging is to understand it (that your resistance is going to come up and it will be harder to accomplish your resolutions with a large pendulum swing) and just tell yourself what is happening… but ideally you would create a plan/resolutions for yourself that are gradual, small, or give you the “felt sense” of being freer… not something that will create more restriction or pain for you.
  • We often feel so overloaded and restricted that another thing that will cause for us to feel “not free”– such as a resolution– causes for us subconsciously to rebel. We do not want more restrictions, we want to be freer. So thinking of ways that your resolutions can offer freedom, instead of more weight, is important. Consider adding things to your life instead of depriving yourself.

It is funny (or sometimes curious may be the correct word) what people say to me about spiritual awakenings some days. We have created a lot of confusion around the process, and as someone who has done considerable research (including reading any accounts of awakening I can find by yogis, mystics, and my favorite, heretics), has worked with hundreds of people experiencing various awakenings, and who has been going through the awakening process for some time, I am hoping to point people to some clarity here.

The purpose of a spiritual awakening is to be in the present moment.

It is to release and heal your past so that you are no longer reacting to trauma on multiple levels. It is moving from traumatized, frozen selves, locked in time because they never received something vital, into our adult, present, capacities.

It is a healing of the mind and a quieting of the mind to the extent that you are no longer immersed in creating possible futures for yourself. This has to do with being willing to look at the fear of physical death, as well as healing past issues regarding self-worth (and the need to prove oneself to the outer world). There are also some tools needed here– which is why meditation is pretty much required if you are on a spiritual path.

It is a moving beyond our basic, instinctive selfishness to clearly interact with ourselves, with other people, and with the world. It is an expansion process, where we move beyond the “I” to see that there are, in fact, other people in the world, and how our interactions with one another, our connections to one another, are what our souls are craving.

It is moving beyond feeling as if we are separate and alone to notice that we are a part of greater and greater things, and being able to commune in a greater capacity with our environment, other people, and the world/cosmos.

It is a process of becoming more and more authentically and vitally who we are. Our possibilities, what we can bring to the world. The awakening process can be described as moving beyond our selfishness, our taking what we can from the world and one another because of our deep, primal biological fear of never having enough, into actually bringing who we are, and our vital essence and potential clearly into the world.

None of us live up to our true potentials, we are too bogged down in trauma and the outer conditioning and “loops” of the world, to be. Awakening to your true potential is authentically terrifying, and is a process of acknowledging the masks that we wear and being willing to move beyond them.

If we are not being authentic with ourselves, even if we wear the mask of a spiritual person, the world and the people in it will on some level know. The world will reflect back what we feel about ourselves, what we know to be true. But even more important than that, you will know. Even if it is stuffed deep down in the furthest caves of our subconscious, our lives and our psyches will know that on some level it is a mask.

It is always a choice to look at what is illusory, what has been created out of trauma, what energies have been given to us that we have, as of yet, never questioned. Such a path of healing and authenticity often means wandering through a patch of thorns instead of a clear, sunny path.

But if we are willing to look at what is not working in our lives, where we feel small or disconnected, and how clearly we are interfacing with ourselves and reality, we can wander through that patch of thorns and have some small or large weight lift from us as we move closer to authentically realizing who we are, and who we always were, beneath all of the loops.

Spiritual awakening is not a process of disassociation. It is not spiritual competition or a way to feel superior due to inner emptiness and unresolved pain. It is a process of deeply facing the self, being willing to consider that there is always something to work on, to heal, to know, and to be.

It is a process that allows for someone to become larger, not smaller. To move beyond rules, not engage in restrictive dogmas and beliefs created because the universe cannot be contained or fathomed by our minds, and we are scrambling to feel safe and in control by enacting restrictive beliefs.

It is not a process about what is right or not to eat or what music to listen to. It is not a process that makes one smaller– that limits who you can talk to, or what you can be– or a process that disconnects you or separates you from the world, or the people in it. If you are truly expanding, you can talk to anyone, because you notice the part of them that resonates with an aspect of you. If you are becoming more conscious, you begin to understand people enough to feel compassion for them, even if you feel that they are misguided, wrong, or stupid.

You also become increasingly more compassionate towards the parts of you that are misguided, wrong, and stupid.

That does not mean that you need to accept the views of anyone, or abuse, forgive or absolve someone who has caused you pain, or think that people are filled with and aware of their light or even that they know something about a subject. What it means is that you move beyond your own trauma enough to simply accept people as they are– which are a series of loops creating out of unhealed trauma causing specific patterns of being and relating– just as you are. You stop reacting to the world, and the people in it, out of blind, emotive pain and quit recreating your loops (and placing people as actors in those loops).

It is a process of contending with societal and cultural restrictions, and being conscious of them so that you are an actor in a play… perfectly capable of interfacing well with reality as need be… but able to discard them (well, most of them) beyond surface level pretensions.

Far from the romanticized version of awakening, becoming clearer with ourselves and moving beyond our minds means that rigid, severe truths, conspiracy theories, being “better than”, separate from, or even having to go “deeper than” all fade away. It is much easier to play the role of awakening than to be willing to contend with what lies within, and beyond. Illusion, romanticization, and imbalanced, rigid, and surface level understandings will always be more popular in this world, as our pain makes us actors. It has us put on masks. It makes us believe in a fairy-tale future or a self as king or god to divorce us from this world, and to create meaning from our pain.

It is typically for a very good reason that people step onto and actually walk a spiritual path. Far from my favorite teacher, but I was re-reading one of Trungpa’s books the other day, and he told an audience of seekers that if they were considering a spiritual path, that they should reconsider. Because the spiritual path is hard. Awakening is hard. It is much easier to create illusion than to truly contend with ourselves. At a certain point what happens is that it does get easier, you are no longer resistant and are more in a state of “flow”, and can see that each mask you remove, each restrictive belief you move away from, the more at peace you feel.

As you heal your “loops” you can more greatly connect to your body, to the world, to the people in it. Spiritual awakening is greatly revered for its “ascension” aspects, but the end result of a spiritual awakening is the descending of grace– the opening of the heart– and an anchoring into the world. It is an awakening of compassion, and a “seeing” through the heart.

When I mention the end, I will also dispel another illusion that one is ever complete. If we are unable to see that we are able to continually unfold– continually be more and feel more and know more– we prevent ourselves from doing so. We always have more to be conscious of, and there will always be someone out there who is smarter, faster, more conscious, and has shinier hair.

If we are able to see that person as motivation, rather than competition, we can move away from the spiritual competition “loop” and the tired cliches of gurus saying they are on the eighth level while everyone in history is on the seventh, or of announcing themselves as the prophet of the new aeon. Once you heal what is creating this loop, you no longer need to participate as either seeker or guru in it.

I mention all of this in a blog post on resolutions because ideally if we are going to shift something about ourselves, we would simply do it. A hard ideal to live up to, but an ever greater thought would be healing enough trauma and working with your mind enough that you can be in the present moment, and not need to or want to participate in the “loop” of resolutions, or not need to project a future reality in which somehow things will get better, or we will be better, or different than we are today. Accepting this means realizing that our imperfections are okay, and becoming increasingly compassionate towards ourselves, and yet being willing to clearly see what is not working, what is divided or not compassionate within us… and offering it connection and compassion.

That generally means in practice being willing to work with things as they come up, continually seeking clarity (including outer resources such as teachers and friends whose clarity you trust), and continually being willing to unmask ourselves so we can be more authentic, more conscious, more able to bring who we are to this world.

Our loops are created out of past trauma as well as imposed cultural and societal systems. Examining them, contending with them, and healing whatever we are able to in regards to them within the context of our fleeting, physical lives is a difficult thing to ask of anyone. By being willing to heal, to acknowledge, to awaken, in an authentic matter, bringing ourselves to the present moment, we can continually, and in the present moment, become more and more of who we are meant to be moment by moment.

Developing Positive Relationships in the Spiritual Realms Part Two

In the previous blog, I talked about what may be creating blockages for us in regards to connecting to the spirit world.

Specifically, I used the term “the Other”, which takes the focus away from the term “spirits”. When people commonly talk about the spirit world, what they are talking about is an idea of former humans (humans who have passed away) inhabiting a type of astral space. If trained or versed in “shamanic” thought, the typical thought would be a world, either “upper” or “lower” where one can venture to to find answers to questions (divination), heal on a spiritual level, or interact with a variety of beings.

In many forms of occult/magical/folk magic practice, such as “traditional” witchcraft (for whatever that term is still worth these days) as well as animist-thought there is an understanding that the Other is our nightside, associated with the moon, with magic or spiritual work, as well as the darker, primal aspects of our own nature. That it is right next to us, within us, a part of our daily lives.

The term “Other” in its usage then not only implies the huge link between ourselves and what we can access spiritually, the power of the “Other” or Outlier– the idea that the aspects of ourselves that think and are different from what is culturally construed as “normal” are a source of power, insight, and in fact… magic… rather than something to be locked or hidden away– and more generally, the idea that there is little divide between our daily, human selves and the Other.

It is a huge difficulty that the commoditization of spirituality and animist-type paths has led people to believe that the Other is truly separate from them. It is somewhere else– it is in Peru, or at a weekend workshop. I do not wish to disregard the power of some of those experiences, they certainly can be life changing; but they also offer the capacity for people to push the Other away from them, to go somewhere else other than their bodies and their lives to contact it.

Arguably, some people are simply at that point in their lives. What they are ready for is a spiritual vacation that in some ways is life-changing and consciousness expanding, but not too far, and still with the understanding that daily life can be gone back to without much having changed.

The first step for developing positive relationships with the spirit world is to realize that you are already in spiritual relationship(s).

You just may not be aware of them yet. Picture this– you have been living in the same house or apartment for five years. In your front yard is a tree. You pass by it every day on the way to and from work. It has seen you get in arguments with your partner, shaded you when you decided to have lunch outside, and has felt your back against its trunk.

Saying “hello” to that tree to and from work, thanking it, bringing it offerings (gratitude if not something tasty to drink– ideally you would ask first), and journeying or doing simple grounding exercises with that tree can bring you not only a vital connection (in a world starved for and separated from connection) but bring you a solid spiritual education, strength, depth, and understanding that what is right out your window, what you run across in your daily lives, is spiritual and can be connected to.

While you can go to Peru and connect with an “apu” there and I am sure it will be a magical, life-changing event… you can begin to talk with the trees, greet the birds, plant your feet firmly in the dirt and state that you are here, and that you are willing to notice. Willing to realize that spirit surrounds you.

Then, examine your personal psychology and needs for the spirit world.

It is funny, I was talking to a colleague the other day and sometimes there is a thought that if we are animist, spiritual workers, ritual magicians, or whatever we may be where we have the belief that there is more beyond “archetypes” or psychological constructs to the spirit world (as in, there are actual spirits there. And beings. And stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with us and isn’t centered on us or our needs) that we wish to throw psychology out the window.

It is easy to think in such simple polarities, but if you ask any seer, spiritual worker, etc. worth their salt if there is a need for psychology and psychological understandings, the answer would be a resounding “yes”.

This is because we have so separated from the sacred, from spirit, from the “Other” that we can no longer discern (or are not willing to discern) personal psychology, projections of unmet needs, perpetuated trauma, and mental imbalances from authentic spirit contact or contact with the Other.

This should really be the first question: “Is this coming from personal psychology?”

It should also be perhaps the second, third, fourth and fifth questions. Because not only do we create and project, we can use spirit and the spirit realms to further disassociate and perpetuate illusions (and delusions).

Unless we are willing to examine our personal psychology first, we are likely to not only to project but in some cases to be deceived. If in the physical world, someone comes up to you in a bar and says that they are a big movie producer who is going to make you famous because you are beautiful and special many of us would have no problem recognizing that person as a con man… who likely is not a big movie producer.

But if the same thing happens with a spirit, we either do not have the tools or the willingness to question what is coming across. Don’t be this person.

We may be so confused that we are entirely self-creating as well. More common is that we have an unmet psychological need that is creating this. For example, if all of your spiritual encounters are an older male and you are always in situations where they “save” you, the first question you should ask yourself is if there is anything to heal psychologically around your father.

In other cases, we may be interfacing with something spiritual, but we have filters. We are projecting what we expect to see, or the spirit is appearing in a form that would be palatable for us. Navigating the spirit realms with respect means that we are willing to move beyond simplicity and to question our clarity and wounding patterns, healing what is necessary to move forward with greater clarity.

Realize that what you pick up spiritually may not have a lot of meaning.

This is another hard one for people. At the beginning of our spiritual path, we think that every feather we run across is specifically for us and has some deep, significant meaning. This is part of the excitement of realizing that there is more around us than we have been aware of previously… and sometimes that feather does, in fact, have meaning.

Part of my early meditation practice was in Zen, where one of the foundational principles I learned was that spiritual visions, encounters with beings, and sensations were distractions to be disregarded. Even siddhis (“powers”/capacities developed through awakening) were seen as distractions.

Obviously as an animist I do not follow this instruction, but it was actually a wonderful foundation because it taught me that we hang on to so much. We puzzle over it, create stories around it, and can get really, really stuck because we grasp so tightly onto anything we feel has some sort of meaning (or is strange or unusual or magnificent).

We may have a spiritual experience but by the time we open our eyes or come back to “ordinary” reality we find ourselves mentally creating, adding on, thinking.

While sometimes this is helpful, if not necessary, a sense of curiosity and “flow” approach is really helpful. This means that you can regard something as important, but recognize that if you really need to know something, that if something really needs to make its way to you, it will. And it likely will faster and easier if you don’t add eight pounds of mental imaginings and creations on top of it.

Be a Psychonaut.

If I have one piece of advice, this is it. If you approach the “Other” as a respectful explorer, that is a much different experience than approaching wanting to take, consume, or even to get answers.

We are so used to consuming, and are so hungry and deprived for anything sacred that many of us are walking around with the equivalent of a black hole within us. We look for anything with the faintest hint of magic or spirit to consume.

As a teacher I have come across many people like this. They are looking to consume me, and my work, as quickly (and typically as cheaply) as possible so they can move on to the next spiritual thing they find to consume it as cheaply and quickly as possible.

People are where they are, and I understand how hungry these people are. While I have compassion for it, such voracious appetites have caused schisms between us and the Other. They have caused for us to be less able to navigate it, less able to approach it in communion and respect, rather than just looking to take.

A psychonaut is an explorer. They explore seeking other worlds, other dimensions, the corners and dark places of things. They seek truth, knowledge, purity, to evolve personally (what they know to be true will change), or to be of service, either to the Other or some facet of it, or for others who are not able, or willing, to traverse the Other.

If interaction with the Other does not drastically change you, evolve you as a person, make you into a better, clearer, truer version of yourself, it would be an indication that navigating in a different way, with different intentions, and more openness (willingness to move beyond your version of current “Truth” and dogmas/cosmologies and thoughts you have been given), should be considered.

Approaching things as a psychonaut, looking to be in right relationship, to learn with humility, will get anyone far.

Understand that knowledge, and spiritual experiences, have layers.

By being a psychonaut, what will happen is that the more that you explore, the more you realize how much you have left to learn, as well as the vast expanse of what is out there will exponentially increase. Instead of achieving some sort of illusory “mastery” or “knowing everything” there will be a softening, a realization that no matter how conscious, how much of a psychonaut, how in contact with your inner Other you are, or how much power you have cultivated, that what you know is nothing.

Well, it is something, but one of the ironies of doing this work for so long is that it is easy for people truly in contact with the Other to have a bit of imposter syndrome. To realize that despite decades of study and experiences, that it is a small drop in the bucket.

This is opposed, of course, to Dunning-Kruger syndrome, where people have a tiny bit of information and feel they know everything and can answer anything about the spirit realms.

One of the places that people really stop themselves is actually not at point “A”. It is not at the beginning of their path. We certainly can stop ourselves there, but often there is motivation and enthusiasm that will carry the person forward. Many people do not move on from point “A” not because they are stuck, but because point “A” works perfectly well for them.

Where people get really, really stuck is point “B”. They have a bit of information, have maybe done a ritual or two, or have some books on their shelves they have somewhat read, and so they see where they were “point A” (these are just for crass descriptive purposes, by the way) and how many people are at that point, and start to enact wounding around inferiority/superiority and feeling separate. I cannot tell you how many people I have interacted with who have told me, at point “B”, that they feel isolated because they know so much.

I do not wish to make light of this situation, as feeling isolated is not a good feeling, but it is rare that such individuals contend with the fact that there is the rest of the alphabet. There is a Trungpa quote about how common it is to mistake the first step on the spiritual path for the last, and it is incredibly true.

Commonly such people will find others at point B and get themselves quite stuck, sometimes for decades. Arguably such individuals are at the perfect place. At this point you can still engage with a lot of wounding patterns and not have to examine them, can still find a lot of people at the same stage, and have a lot of people in group “A” to look down on. You can still engage in group think, and never really have to contend with the sort of small drop in an ever-increasing abyss sensation that moving further creates.

But each layer, each step of the spiritual path, is a test. It is an initiation.

I am not sure when I realized this, but with each layer of knowledge I went through, the more I could see the patterning of the prior layers of knowledge (things are easier to see through the rearview mirror and with some time).

But I also realized that we all, at every stage, will fall victim to ego-inflation and believing we are further than we are.

Realizing that this is a continual factor, you can call yourself out on it at every stage of the game. And you can begin to see the “Other” not as something tightly confined, to be controlled, or that you can even fully know, but of a vast, wild expanse that it is your honor to traverse.

Developing Positive Relationships in the Spiritual Realms Part One

Lately I have been sitting with the concept of how to maintain a positive relationship with spirit, and with the spirit realms. This is because my personal experience of the spirit realms has always been one of curiosity, of wanting to learn from experiences and people and things different than me, and to basically figure things out on a pattern level. I have always loved hearing about experiences and insights that vary wildly from mine, including a childhood (and adult) fascination with figuring out what I interface with, as well as how to approach things in an open enough manner so I can learn.

I mention my personal experience because when I began formally educating myself, became a spiritual worker, and eventually began teaching, I found that many people had deep fears regarding the spiritual realms. They would often believe that they were under attack, and had a series of rules concerning the spirit world that never made any sense to me based on my prior experiences. Spirits were either “compassionate” or “non-compassionate”, for example. Spirits would listen to human commands was another. Spirits are focalized around the human, just waiting to harm or help was the third.

In this model of the spirit world, the idea was of humans as the center of things, considered basically on top of the food chain but also the spiritual realms themselves. Spirits were paper-thin, archangels or deities or guides who had the wisdom of the ages and somehow were happy to entertain the whims of individual humans, or horrific demons emerging out of a Ouija board or evil spirits conjured up by Satanists.

This has been something I have been sitting with for a long time, as the larger reality– the ability to interact and interface with the Other– is so much greater than any of our limited realities. So much greater than our fears. The question for me is always how I can get my students as well as the people who come across my work into a state of healthy curiosity rather than a closed or blocked state regarding the spirit realms.

The first step (as always) is maintaining awareness of how we may block or prevent ourselves from experiencing the spirit world in a balanced, life-affirming way.

1. Current Spirit Models
While I do understand that people come to things in their own time, our limited cultural brand of psychotherapeutic shamanism and psychological magic, many modern spiritual paths, and modern spiritual teachers often take any type of spirit contact out of their work, or have constructed their teachings in such a way that students never contact anything that could be deemed unsafe.

There are reasons for this, as many are at different points in their spiritual evolution, and the safety of such constructs allows for feelings of safety and placation of fear by feeling as if one can be in control of what is out there, especially that which cannot necessarily be seen or sensed. Often in our first step(s) away from our known reality it is helpful to still carry forward the framework and beliefs of our previous reality, otherwise it would be like spelunking into the wild yonder without a safety net… too jarring and far from the known for any but a few rare individuals.

Many of the cultures and histories that we emerged from were closer to the spirit world. We were closer to death (it was less sanitized, more seen) and lived closer to and more concert with nature. Over time our technologies, move away from nature and focus on the mind (and splitting it from the body) caused there to be a split between mind, body, and spirit.

Over time this split has become exacerbated, to the point that many people don’t know or haven’t consciously experienced what the difference between “mental” and “spiritual” is. There is, of course, crossover, but we no longer look to the skies for omens, we no longer have the capacity or interest in discerning if the spirits (including guides) we contact are illusory, are no longer willing to question if our spiritual experiences have validity, or are willing to move away from ideologies regarding dominion.

2. Religion/Christianity
In this split that formed between mind, body,  and spirit, our bodies now went to the doctor, our minds went to the psychiatrist, and our spirit went to church. It is rare for me to meet someone who has fully contended with the amount of programming that we have received from christianized sources. The idea that spirits are unclean and demonic, the losing of direct contact with the spirit world, and even new-age ideas about “ascension” and many of the rules and methods of contact for relating to spirits are things that we have taken on from Christianity.

We may call it “shamanic”, or “spiritual” or even be eschewing religion altogether, but an animist perspective is one generally of respect, of reverence, and of understanding that all creatures, great and small, form an ecology and are integral to one another (rather than a pyramid with us on top).

3. Technology
Technology has certainly exacerbated the mind-body split. It is now a part of our collective shadow, a thrall we are all under. Our shadows get out and dance, fight, and pretend on social media, creating a storm of intense and often difficult energies. It is also, of course, an incredible asset in our lives.

But the interference of technology, both on an energetic level (taking us further away from connecting to the physical world, with one another, or with nature) as well as a spiritual level (creating a mind that is always occupied and little opportunity to connect; as well as the energy field of technology itself) is something that has created further schisms in our mind, and less connection both on a physical and spiritual level.

We can notice this if we go out deep into the woods without our phones. After several hours (or perhaps a few days for those of us fully entrenched) we will notice more relationship with darkness and light, of what is around us, and our ability to contact the spirit realms will drastically increase.

4. Fear of the “Other”
We deeply fear death, what we cannot see and touch and know. We fear ourselves– the dark and neglected aspects of ourselves, the parts of ourselves that are unhealed, emotional, or primal. The parts of ourselves that are animalistic, that don’t neatly fit into the confines of collective society, that have been admonished and punished so that they will be what we culturally define as “good”.

When we feel fear we create rules. We create illusory senses of control. From our minds we create kingdoms and hells from our wounds for us to live in and project onto others. Out of our wounds we create grandiose notions of ourselves– the parts of ourselves not seen and heard properly, that are crying out in pain– create realities in which we are the center of an ever-waging battle between good and evil. That we are at the center, that we are special, that we are in control.

We take on the notions, the beliefs, the understandings of the limited minds of others, seeking control of their own fears. We speak in bumper stickers, chiding one another for rules that we have no understanding of where they come from, where what we are thinking has come from. We heap illusion upon illusion from varying sources and our own life experiences onto one another to come up with our personal brand of illusion.

But that illusion can never last, as we will be shown events in our lives that belie our notions of control, our placations of fear, and the rules and admonishments offered and taken on to the core of our being without much thought, if any. Somewhere something within us shows us that what we think, what we know to be true, is illusory, because deep truth is felt and goes beyond words. It is directly experienced. Contact with the “Other” is that same way, deeply felt and known and unable to be confined by our minds. That is why we try to contain it so.

5. The Spirit World as “Other”
It is one of those impossible notions to describe to anyone who has not had the realization yet that the spirit world is the “other”. It not only surrounds us– realities press upon us and we see only a mere fraction of things as we go about our daily lives– but it is us.

I do not say this on a “we are the world or the universe” sort of level, because in a way that I am not talking about here we are all one and so forth. What I am speaking of is that the power of the spiritual worker, the connection that we have to the spirit world, is that “other”.

It is the dirt, the trees, our ancestors. It is the primal, sexual, and darkest aspects of ourselves. It is the night, and what lies beyond all of the rules and beliefs we have created that paint us at the center of the Universe, or in control of anything at all.

In certain cultures, such as Korean shamanism, those born with disabilities were considered as possible shamans. They would still have to be properly assessed to see if they had the capacity, but the link between the “other”, our ability to be in contact with it (without apologies, by the way), our emotional intelligence or ability to tap into our emotions with skill, and anything you could really put in the “shadow” box all have to do with how readily we have the capacity to interact with more than just our mundane, collectively agreed upon reality.

But the parts of us that are “other” have the capacity to connect us to the spirit world, to spirit. They are our strengths– the parts of us that vary from common thought, from the bell curve of common human experiences and minds.

We can deeply anchor in collective reality as well as deeply interface with the proverbial other. Those who do not know this relationship, or do not maintain grounding in our collective reality, easily either get off balance, lost to the Other… or more commonly, get lost in the kingdom or hell that their mind has created for them, blocking them from any spiritual contact at all.

6. Letting go of the Madman (or Woman)
In my line of work, I encounter many people who would be deemed psychotic or extremely mentally imbalanced. While in a few rare cases they may be “secret shamans” or more often, require some spiritual skills that are not taught or understood by our collective reality (see my book, Managing Psychic Abilities, for some of these skills), many of these individuals are lost in the fragmented projections and unhealed wounds of their personal and ancestral past, require physical assistance/biological medicine, and use spiritual frameworks to perpetuate unhealed, imbalanced states.

But most people will believe that they are “mad” simply because they can sense something other than what collectively we have deemed as “reality”, our crassest, densest physical reality. One of the greater ironies of doing this work is that (with a few exclusions) those who question their inner madman (or woman) or who worry about being “mad” are often quite psychologically healthy. They are willing to reach out for support, to question their beliefs, and realize when there is a lack of clarity or a state of imbalance that they could work on. It is the people who won’t even consider that their reality may be skewed who are typically the most off balance. A familiar trope, but very true.

There is immense difficulty in that our personal wounding as well as mental fracturing and moving away from nature has left us deeply ungrounded, and that as an effect our spirituality has also become ungrounded and illusory. Tools like discernment are rarely taught as the effect of conflating spirituality with self-help and psychology renders the spirit world as mental projections and illusions rather than the vivid and expansive landscape that drastically changes the sensibilities of a person to make contact with it.

The separation of mind, body, and spirit has deemed neat divides; such divides render anything non-physical to be a state of madness. We have then made the spiritual mental, so it is now simply a mind-body split, in which our spiritual insights and personal gnosis not only cannot be differentiated between the projections of our unhealed selves, but are disregarded both personally and collectively (for the most part. While there is a move to include “shamanic” and “magic” or “occult” frameworks into psychology, it is still a limited framework, based on the mind– a mental container rather than spiritual, which has no container).

7. Moving Beyond Pop Culture
This is a pretty obvious sentiment, but we are surrounded by people fleeing from ghosts or interacting with evil Ouija boards. Learning to question what and how you have been taught is essential. If we carry a belief, it comes from somewhere. Most of us believe it without questioning, because it was something that is an implicit family, social, or personal contract. Questioning our beliefs also allows us to navigate something beyond the bumper sticker surface-level forms of knowledge that are perpetuated repeatedly. Notice what questions come up continually in spiritual and shamanic forums, what patterns of relating emerge, and see past them– they will show their wounds if you look at this level. Look at the underlying beliefs, the reasonings for things, and question whether what you carry is something that is a static truth. Because it isn’t.

8. Moving Beyond the Known… etc.
Another one I talk about quite a bit. I could also add becoming a voyager or psychonaut, rather than have a fixed ideology that one is the center of things. Be respectful. Be compassionate and interested. Actually learn skills to properly navigate, ground, develop a clear mind, and discern. Question what comes up and what you are interacting with. Realize that the expanded version of you, the one who has experienced more and seen more, will also know more and be more. That connection to something like the spirit worlds can be vitally affirming, can deeply change who you are as a person. Look out for spiritual teachings that do not talk about spirits.

9. Timing 
Sometimes it just isn’t the right time, or there is personal healing to do, skills that need to be learned.

10. Learn a Foundation and Find a Teacher
While I have certainly met quite a number of people who have studied in depth solo, the amount of people in the modern world that do this successfully are far and few between. I meet a lot of people who lack any sort of solid foundation, and have adapted beliefs that prevent them from healthy connection to really anything. If you are ready to, you will meet the right teacher. Another old trope, but we find what we are ready for.

Consider what you really want. We are so often led by our wounds and our fears. We are led to our projections or our “loops” so we can cycle the same thing again and again and be in the same place again and again. There are wonderful teachers out there, ones that will challenge you and assist you to become who you are meant to be. There are wonderful healers and spiritual workers and so forth that can do the same. We continually have a choice if we are going to stay with the known; if we are going to be led by our fears and beliefs and constraints we have been taught… or if we are going to open up, expand, challenge ourselves (or be challenged) and develop into who we could be.

Doing so can certainly take the wind out of ones’ sails, as it is easy to engage with our wounds as well as our projections. To see clearly, to be willing to look within, to look outward, is not an easy task. But if we question ourselves, ask others where our blind spots are (or have a teacher willing to pull us down to earth as we all believe we are much further than we are on our spiritual path than we actually are) and have the humility to be a psychonaut– an explorer in the vast Other, rather than its center and commander, our lives can change, we can change, and we can connect to what lies beyond the scientific materialistic reality we have made the only reality.

It should be noted that there of course teachers (and healers) that will perpetuate your wounds, teachers who have no idea what they are doing or have little experience, teachers who don’t believe in spirits, teachers that will accept your projected issues with authority, or be a projection of the unhealed relationship with your mother or father. There are teachers that lack clarity, who are incredibly wounded/lack wholeness, and who are simply not doing their personal work. Such teachers are gatekeepers– they are there for a reason. If you want to go deeper, find a teacher or healer to really assist you, be clear in your intention, and realize that you will find what you are looking for if you are ready and willing to find such individuals.

11. Natural Aptitude
Yes, there is natural aptitude and openness that can be quite helpful to someone, especially if they learn the appropriate skills and work on personal healing as well. I suggest my book, Managing Psychic Abilities, as it is for sensitives and psychics who have natural spiritual capacities but have not learned the basic tools for those capacities (tools which are not taught in our modern world, and are direly needed).

In the next blog, I will go over how we can approach the spirit worlds with respect (as well as some further definitions and understandings).