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 in concert with nature. Over time our technologies, move away from nature and focus on the mind (and splitting it from the body) causing 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.
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 loss 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).
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 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, 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 a side-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 reasoning 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.
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 do 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 are, 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).
MaryMueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author of several books aimed at helping humans navigate the spiritual realms in a healthy, respectful manner. You can learn more about these and other topics, such as Kundalini awakening, in the books mentioned above or The Spiritual Awakening Guide: Kundalini, Psychic Abilities and the Conditioned Layers of Reality.