The concept of high and low energy is an expression of our addictive society projected into twisted dogma. It encourages us to go for the adrenaline rush, the dopamine, when truly, happiness and peace is marked more often by the cooling of any drama at all. The highs and lows process through, always moving. Everything is moving, noticeably or not. There is a fluctuation between clarity and complexity, purity and mixture and mud. It is all part of nature and we humble humans are a part of it.
Even when we realize that lower frequencies have divinity, and we try to honor the divine of above and the divine of below at the same time, the dichotomy can make it difficult to fathom both at once. Instead, think of a giant of a tree, its branches fluttering in the sweet wind, while its roots hold firmly underground. And in-between, there is so much more. There is the long trunk, protruding feet upon the earth, and there is reaching everywhere, expressing various stages of growth. This is all the same being, and in its purest state, its vibration is a multi-faceted melody, rich with overtones, lifting off the floor of a gorgeous, deep bass tone.
We, unlike other creatures, are natural mediums, meant to carry a wide spectrum. If the energy of a human is consistently one thing, like the songs of the angels or the deep pulsing with heartbeat of the planet, octaves below our range of perception, it is out of balance. Just as lack of flow can create sickness, so too can imbalance.
Rather than thinking of highs and lows, think of clarity, like a sound engineer does as she sits behind the sound board, drawing the saxophone into its own pocket of the frequency scale and shaping the sound of the drums. She is adds just the right amount of snare and lets the highest notes roll over the top. Then she mixes in few choice effects and all those voices come together to create an amazing musical experience, because there is enough space between each of the instruments to hear them all perfectly.
The energy in an environment or in a person can be perceived as prickly. It can be diffuse. It can be stretched thin or it can be a cry for help. Energies can be jovial, even raucous. They can make you feel like prowling or howling. They can be many things. Because of the breadth of our life experiences, energy that is toxic to one person may not be to another. It may be amusing, or make us feel lonely and sad. It may instill one to hold space with compassion. It may be refreshing. It’s more accurate to talk about our perceptions and reactions than to try to put a label on someone else’s state of being.
Instead of calling something or someone toxic or low vibration, let’s instead be more accurate. Let’s instead say things like, ‘This environment feels heavy and makes me think of a memory I wish I could forget,’ or ‘That person seems angry and depressed’, or ‘The whole situation is pushing my buttons and I need some space to unravel my feelings’. We do not need to be open to all the energies around us. We can choose to close so we can figure out what we need. We can choose to bloom into a state of giving and receiving. We can take care of ourselves. And we can give grace to those around us to be themselves, allowing them to find their way on their own special journey.
We are free. We can see things as they are and still be ok. We do not need to leave our earthly bodies to experience the divine. We are all fine, right here where we are, tumbling, unraveling, flowing, dancing and falling back down once more. This is where we are. The magic is here.
The first draft of this article was originally rejected by the Society for Shamanic Studies in 2011. After working with an encouraging editor to tone down the intensity, their committee eventually decided that it still wouldn’t work for them.
I went on to work with Peter Clark at “All Things Healing” to break it into a three-part series and make it more palatable for an online audience. Their publishing site has gone down, so here is another draft, updated for our times.
Blessing on your path.
I stand beneath the sacred redwood trees
and the power of the ancients nourish me.
I am touched by the precious kiss of mother earth,
I hear the raspy caw of the raven and I know,
I do not need to search for heaven.
I stand before an ocean, rising and falling with plastic with her swells.
Oil slicks drift into the wild.
I look at this and I am sure
that I do not create my own reality,
Rather, we co-create it.
It is no secret that the world is out of balance. There are dams that kill the salmon, clear-cuts that muddy the rivers, over-spending on military that leaves naught for our disadvantaged. There is anorexia, drug addiction, domestic violence, xenophobia and the lack of working class job. The list goes on as you know.
This situation is so commonly known that it has become easy to accept as normal. It tempting to block out these realities and focus only on the good and healing, the ‘love and light’, even though we know in our hearts that we cannot get away. We know it. We know that we cannot get away because everything is interconnected.
As Shamanic practitioners, our foremost responsibilities are to restore harmony and to serve our communities. We specialize in accessing the other-realms in order to find healing for the sick. We have devoted ourselves to our relationships with our spirit friends so that we may bring our clients’ lives back into balance. But what is our part in helping the global effort to restore harmony on the broader scale? How do we open ourselves to do the work without becoming overwhelmed or thrown into despair?
“It is too overwhelming”, I have heard some say. “It is depressing.”
“My empathic nature cannot handle the truths out there.”
In a discipline where we specialize in spiritual solutions, we can get grounded enough to protect ourselves and hold presence for what is going on. Granted, we can’t watch the news every day without some impact on our well-being buy we must find balance there too. Just enough and we may find that our emotional reactions are a great source of inspiration.
In order to help out, we must understand that we are not alone in the mission to bring the planet back into balance. Hand our despair the truth card, which us that there are millions of people who are working towards this end. They know that the only way things change on a global level is when we dig in, reach out for each other and keep moving. As shamanic people, we have a place in that, and it has to do with a lot more than prayer or individual healing. We need an agenda to spiritually address these global monstrosities. And I’ll betchya, knowing our place in the collective is going to be more fun than we might think.
There are organic food farmers, fair trade merchants, tireless community organizers and patient, patient teachers. There are prolific advocates and strong activists, innovative scientists who work on renewable energy projects and brave whistleblowers. Look at this wonderful list! There are progressive songwriters to encourage us and soothe our sorrows. There are documentary filmmakers, independent journalists, impassioned writers and dedicated fathers, in touch with their feelings. There are powerful, brilliant, creative people, inspired and gorgeously diverse.
This vast web of people who hone their passions and abilities create an interlocking pattern of energetic change across the planet. Each role is as crucial as the other, and when we step back to look at the whole, a song emanates from all the activity.
As Shamanic practitioners, our work is a reflection of these movers, changers and growers but on the spiritual plane. What we do there affects what happens here. What happens here affects all other realities. So, should we be down in the protest plaza or in the sacred circle? Or both? For each of us, the answer lies where our individual passions are kindled.
We already know from our inner work that we can’t remain idle on a path towards passion, even if it seems that we must pass impenetrable boundaries. Our initiations have taught us that. It is really a matter of life or death. So what do we do? The answer is found in the songs and the patterns. Follow me here. I want to show you something. We are going to use our shamanic gifts to look together, to listen and watch, to learn and then finally to vision together.
Let’s go back to the web of changers and widen our visual scope to encompass all aspects of society. Now we can see many more patterns, hear more songs as well. There are healing songs and there are songs of sorrow. There are entrancing, manipulative songs and there are songs of hunger. There are symphonies and clashing chords, the music of brooks and pebbles falling off a mountain. Here we can sense the shape of things. We can glean the nature of the forces that want to turn all of Mother Nature’s gifts into money. We begin to understand the mechanism of how these forces take our own individual talents, passions and desires and turn them into tools for their gain.
Looking is not easy. It can be overwhelming, but it is a crucial step to applying our skills to these big world problems. To open ourselves and be present with such powerful energy systems at work, all we have to do is use the same technique we use with our clients: shields up, open heart, keen senses and compassion. At first, our intention is only to gather information. The following stage is to use that information to figure out what to do. Knowledge becomes power so that we can shift from a practice of seeing to one of envisioning, or ‘using our vision’.
Vision is not a passive thing to a shamanic practitioner. Vision is a powerful tool which we use for healing. With these tools, we can project a vision of a new future. We hold in our heart-gaze, with unconditional love, people from all walks of life and all situations. Our ability to track energy and see how energetic things function allows us to discover what remedies may offset some of the destructive forces around us.
In order to be part of the stunning web of changers, we need to hold our vision wide. We need to open ourselves and practice the power of witnessing the calamities and genocides so that the suffering do not suffer even more from spiritual isolation. We cannot turn our presence away from them. We also need to learn from what is happening around us.
Let’s turn our shamanic gaze to peer into several interactive systems that are hindering our collective health as a planet. From this we may glean some solutions together. We will start by observing the difference between culture created by people and culture manufactured by corporations. Their patterns are different, as well as their manifestations and goals.
Corporate Culture, Organic Culture
Culture is the unseen stuff that happens when we people spend a lot of time together: our art, our ways of being and our customs. It is the intangibility of a people. It reflects shared values. Culture is powerful and alive, even more powerful than we think because much of it is silent and unseen. Culture can bring joy and close relationships, or silently support oppression. Culture also comes from the shape and natural aspects of the land a people lives upon. The sounds, colors, rhythms and sweetness all express the creatures and plants that we are in relationship with every day.
What happens when we lose our relationship with the land? What happens when many of us don’t stay in one city long enough for it to feel like home? When people value the monetary value that they can get from the land more than the land itself? When we look around, organic culture has been greatly lost in commercialized areas. Much of what we see that is called culture is actually manufactured by corporations.
Corporate advertising creates and perpetuates harmful stereotypes by telling us how we need to look and behave in order to be perceived as attractive or successful. The songs of marketing are all around us. Everywhere we look, someone in some way is trying to convince us to give them our money. We yearn for and wonder how to find our way back to it.
It used to be that the moment some new talent brought his music or art forth for us to share, the corporations would come in and commoditize it, so quickly that it lost its medicine. Now we live in a time where young people, instead of creating new, regurgitate music and art of the past, mixed in with the values of corporations.
“It is what it is,” we say.
We live in a driven, name brand, obsessive, addictive society and as shamanic people we can never, never forget this. We must stay awake. There is only one root value to every expression of corporate culture: financial gain. The myriad ways that corporations try to get money are a myriad of spells that we have to become callous about, but certainly not immune to. We must be acutely aware of how these spells work.
Let’s track it and see it. There is a predictable pattern which has its own song. In our shamanic terminology, we would call it an enchantment spell that has been used over and over, and this is how it works:
- Put someone into a trance with enticing images. (Our guard comes down.)
- Invoke a strong emotion of desire or self-deprecation which creates a need and then,
- Associate that emotion with a product. A logo.
- The logo becomes deeply seated in our psyche and can be used in the future to invoke the spell again and again.
It’s a curse, really. A simple one, greatly overused but very effective through sheer repetition. It doesn’t matter to the corporate marketing machine if we are convinced to buy out of desire or spiritual hunger or shame of one’s own body. It doesn’t matter to the corporations if we are buying products that are created in a way that supports war or if we are buying things we don’t need. All that matters, is that we open our wallets. The methods that are used to persuade us are clear misuses of spiritual power. There are energy patterns in every aspect of corporate culture that insert thought-forms of helplessness, fear, low self-esteem and desire for things that are not healthy. These, we know, are intrusions and enchantments.
As shamanic people, we can help our communities disentangle from these curses. Firstly, we call on our shamanic allies to help us unwind these messages in ourselves and then we find methods that will help our students do the same. Things like, journeying for techniques and ceremonies to help us to maintain our self-esteem and find a positive body image.
We can give workshops exploring our use of media, its value vs. tricks, allowing people to discover their own relationship to the TV shows they are hooked on. We can join with the current movement of storytellers in bringing back its ancient human past-time instead.
We can journey together to see more clearly the different ways that corporate culture encourages addiction. We can look at the energetic nature of social media and how to use it as a tool rather than let it use and rob us of our free time. We can also assist our students in gaining tools to find clear separation from energies they do not want to align with. Together, we can create a movement a movement to unravel these curses, find harmony and weave new songs together.
This is the work that the marvelous web of changers is doing on the physical plane. We can take our intentions and consciousness to do the same work with our shamanic ways.
Bringing Shamanism to Work
In keeping with the participation as global spiritual citizens, who keep our awareness open to encompass both the heartbreaks and marvels of our society, we need to allow our students to process what their work cultures are doing to them.
Many people work in toxic or dysfunctional environments where it can feel next to impossible to maintain a sense of groundedness and connection. Instead of allowing our students to hold an escapist framework toward spiritual activities, we can allow a place in our circles for honest talk about on-the-job issues. We can talk and journey to identify the energy signature of our work environments and then find practical ways to create separation from it. Or perhaps find a subtle song that can begin to shift it in some positive way.
Corporate work culture can be so overwhelming that it is important to teach and discover forms of protection in environments where we do not have very much power. There are many different kinds of ‘hidden altars’ and protective fields that can be put up, without interfering with our colleagues’ personal space. Talismans that bring our beloved world view with us throughout the day can soften the blows enough to make the day manageable.
I hope I am inspiring you to find some new ways of serving the community. In shamanic journeys, we tap into our personal medicine. We let out our power songs. We witness each other. We ‘see’ each other with our strong vision and we are able to stay aligned when we go back to work.
Shamanic Teaching Structures and their Effect on Diversity and Community
It is important, in any community, to be able to have discourse about the ways we have collectively chosen to do what we do. Industrialized society has near killed organic community. There are few public squares or gathering spots that do not cost money. More people live alone than ever. The family system has greatly fallen apart. Spiritual students crave community so much that they are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to fly to another city and take a class they have already taken and don’t really need, because they are lonely for human contact with others that share the same values.
In order to maintain integrity and care for our communities, we need to keep our eyes on how people come together and why they go away. Do people feel welcome? Is this community or class, really? Do we know what healthy community is? What patterns do we notice happening again and again? Are they working – not just for the health of the teaching organizations but for our students once they leave us and go on with their lives?
Let’s use our special vision to look at the structures we create for our spiritual classes. The most prevalent structure being used in many spiritual offerings for advanced training is based on week-long workshops and 2-3 year apprenticeships. Though the intensity of these classes is important, their format creates an economic barrier to receiving shamanic initiation. Realistically, most people either cannot afford to go or can afford it but don’t have enough vacation time to spare. Not only does this structure limit the student pool to the upper-middle class and rich, it limits the diversity of expression and experiences that are shared in the classroom.
When students come from around the world to meet, vital connections are made and still there is not enough time to truly birth community. Deep community is what happens when people live and love and grow together. When they stay together long enough to run into conflict and then pass through it. It requires locality and stick-to-it-ness. Alongside with our craving for community there is a fear of it, as well as over-idealized notions of what community might be. So, we can see there is a lot of sticking around we need to do in order to feed our hunger, get through these issues, and find each other.
Spirit does not discriminate when it chooses a shaman. The call will strike anyone from any country, race, economic class, gender or sexual preference. Therefore, knowing that teachers are scarce, we need to find ways to allow low-income apprentices to work with us. When we look at what happens when someone gifted misuses their power, we must admit that to not teach a power-filled apprentice poses a danger to that person and everyone around them.
These are some problems we have seen. It will be fun to dream up new structures and try them out. If the shamanic role is to serve and tend community, then it becomes important to find ways to offer gatherings for free. Or at least next to free. I’ve seen one model in which there is no charge for classes. They are considered ‘priceless’. Each student decides what form they wish to return the energy of teaching back to the world. They can give time, service, money or gifts. They can give to anyone they please.
In Seattle, I ran Spirit Jams for almost ten years. They were open to everyone: African drummers, ecstatic dancers, spiritual seekers and practitioners of many different modalities. People came with their djembes, frame drums, rattles, didgeridoos, Native American flutes, and we all had a great time. There was singing allowed with no words so no one person’s spiritual orientation would impress upon another’s. In the summers, I organized open public ceremonies in the parks. These were free, and like the Spirit Jams, structured to be simple enough that anyone can participate at the level they need to. At these events, there were always flyers for Shamanic Journey workshops, which were short and cheap, to allow anyone to meet the basic prerequisite for local journey circles. The deeper journey courses met once a week for 8 weeks. In such an experience, there was time for the opening of an intimate space where people could practice and share more profoundly.
The free events were regular enough that people came to expect them. A core group evolved, and friendships were being made just because an arena had been created for people to commune. Making them open to everyone engaged the broader alternative spiritual community. We joined hands with light workers, shamanic practitioners, pagans, yoga teachers, environmentalists, Buddhists, midwives and sexual healers, therapists and activists and sound healers. We shared our gifts and held each other in light.
I am not offering a single solution but rather an experience and social experiment to share with you. This sacred circle eventually did run its course, partially because all things come to an end but there also because I gave too much and became out of balance with myself. There were ceremonies filled with many volunteers and a lot of beautiful power and joy and there were other times when I just gave and gave and went home tired. It was not ok for me to continue when I was tired. I hope that you can learn from my lessons about the necessity of energy exchange. The work of bringing balance must fore-mostly happen at home before it works on a broader scale.
I do find great joy in the knowledge that many lasting friendships were forged through the space that we created together. Community is not being in the same room together for a short amount of time and never seeing one another again. Community is all about relationships, with the thrills and the difficulties, the frustrations and discoveries. It is memories shared and stories told.
Part-time and Full-time Spiritual Practice Structures
Another structure, which is comes right from our over-culture, is the notion that one must make a living from what one is passionate about in order to be taken seriously. However, anthropologists have taught us that traditionally, most shamans do not work full-time. They work the everyday tasks of surviving with everyone else and do their healing in their off time. Modern experiences of being a part-time or a full-time practitioner hold separate challenges that we can observe.
On one hand, it is difficult to carve out the time to maintain consistent deep sacred space when holding a full-time job. It is also a challenge to keep one’s own system clear when spending our days in a work environment that may not be healthy. What is nice though, is avoiding the potential stress of being an entrepreneur. It’s also nice to have health benefits and paid time off in order to relax. Relaxing enhances our spiritual path.
On the other hand, depending solely upon shamanic services to pay the bills can create a dangerous equation, where primal needs for food, shelter and clothing are dependent on client and student numbers. This can create subtle compromises that might not even be a consideration if basic needs were already taken care of. Working full-time as a practitioner can be nice because allows us to have more control over the environments we live in. We are shielded from the realities that the many people who come to us live with every day. This is a blessing and at the same time it can create a gap of misunderstanding – even an unrealistic expectation from the shamanic healer that people should be able to navigate dysfunctional environments with more ease than is realistically possible.
We need to be realistic about what we are up against, create honest dialogues about these elements and support each other in our journeys to strengthen our healing structures.
Commoditization of Our Sacred Spaces
Continuing our envisioning work, what is the shape and song of consumerism when it enters our sacred spaces? This is a useful thing to journey on. Here are some affectations that I have noticed when the consumerist mindset seeps into our work.
People start taking classes faster than they can digest the material. It can be tempting for someone to pay for classes out of an underlying sense of loneliness or need for personal healing that is not being dealt with. It also can be tempting to rack up a resume of training with known teachers in order to earn some sort of respect. But taking many classes in succession is counter-productive, as no one can push the river when accessing wisdom. Growing takes time. There’s no way around it. When we look at the broader pattern of consumerism, these activities are understandable: there is an awful lot of outside pressure to fill empty holes in our lives with purchasing. Sadly, when this happens, shamanism becomes a commodity and it has lost its power.
As teachers, how can we encourage our students to stick with the inner path and not jump too far ahead? How does a full-time teacher’s need for sustenance compromise their ability to be discerning about who may or may not be ready for an advanced class? What is ‘advanced’; how is it defined? These are difficult questions which have many diverse answers depending upon the teacher and the class, but nonetheless they are important questions to ask.
Genuine Relationships and Marketing
Then there is marketing. In traditional cultures, people knew who the good healers were based upon reputation. Word naturally got out through local relationships. This still can happen, but in urban areas, strong networks might not be there. In response, some practitioners use the mainstream model of heavy marketing, using the same tactics described earlier in this article and resume posting. What does an emphasis on resume building do to the practice itself? Where is the line between getting the word out, giving our background and boasting, which diminishes the integrity of our work? Putting too high a value on who one studied with and from which country can overlook the power and truth of one’s relationships with the spirit teachers. At the same time, it can be risky looking for a good healer. How can potential clients find out about who we are?
People come together based on relationships, trust. If we can create spaces that nurture these things, then students will naturally come our way. There is a place for journey circles and public ceremonies and there is a place for formal training. Ideally, all these activities feed each other.
Shamanism means that we walk the sacred Wheel of Life. We have learned to love and respect every part of it, rather than only the highs and lows that modern media wants us to thrive upon. Our presence in people’s lives brings attention and honor to the ‘almost’ places, the juicy in-between places, the trudging-up-the-hill times, the relieving fall into the process of death when death is due, the wonder of the unknown. This is true journey. We who are seasoned in the ways of journey offer this as our gift to the world. When we place our knowledge of the Wheel besides the mental construct of corporate culture, our work in the broader network of changers is clear to see.
Our lives are dedicated to sharing, tending and building rather than consuming, glamorizing or competing. Our power is in self-love and nourishing pride, not in participating in a system built upon greed or the preying on the shame and weaknesses of others. We hear the cries and dreams our activist friends put forth: from alternative energy sources to banishing corporate campaign contributions, from labeling genetically modified food to universal health care.
We know the power of dreaming too. We can help hold up the collective dreams of all of us. The time of the charismatic leader is over. We connect, we pray and we sing the global healing song.
I stand in shamanic circle
aware that people here come from the same land as me
where isolation is more common than communion.
I honor the courage it took
for them to show up.
As we drum, we sing.
We open and the dance begins.
I hear a chorus under the drums
coming from the great, compassionate spirits.
And I told her, “You have to make a choice. You can’t go around looking for something or someone to tell you what to do. Where to go. Especially in your spiritual life. That’s why you left the church. You didn’t want anyone telling you what to do.“
“See, some deities and forces of nature will always be the same thing. Like how a cat will always be a cat, until it dies and become something else. A corn stalk will only be the various stages of corn stalk. But us humans, we can be anything. We can shift our consciousness and explore. We can create with our minds. We can meld as we yearn. This intelligence is what makes us special. But, because of this, we are also vulnerable. This is what I am talking about. Our openness makes us easy to entrance, to seduce, to be tempted away from the path we have been treading on when we are not sure if we really want to leave it. So we have be careful.“
“Don’t be fooled, my friend.”, I said. “That there are many deities that are like the corn stalk. If you go to an applesauce maker and you start asking him about peanuts, eventually, you are going to find yourself talking about apples. If you go to the Mother-mother Goddess, she will bring out the mother goddess in you, no matter what the topic. The Mother Goddess force will make you want to stretch your love for anyone, whether it is good for you or not. And then if you go see someone else about the same matter, say Aphrodite, she will show you something entirely different, but very Aphrodite-like.
“It’s prisms upon prisms. It is hard to know which is what. That is why we keep in close contact with our teacher guides. They have been and still are, shamans. They know this special skill of blending and yearning and twisting and turning around the rivers of energetic influences in the cosmic and real life scenarios. They know how to come back home for respite and leave those influences outside the door. The teachers, they stay outside the drama and they give really good advice. They tell us how and whether to deal with new spirits. They don’t ever get up on the throne or give commands. They rather inspire and speak sweetly. And if they yell, it is out of concern for us. It is never an admonishment. We still have to make our choices.
“We are taught the craft of discernment. Of gratitude to the various beings and forces around us, of the ways of merging, detachment, respect and incorporation. If we can keep our heads, we really can have it all. It’s fun and it only works as we learn to stay in our center. Yes, it’s important to have great respect and honor for our Spirit helpers, but the relationship is reciprocal, not hierarchical. Yes, they are vastly more powerful than we are, but they are not interested in bossing us around, and don’t have life plan for us either. Their agenda is to help us come closer to our own center. How that is manifested on our physical plane is up to us.
“If you are actively looking for spirit to tell you what to do, you are looking for another prison. You are lying down when there is work to do. You are letting your fears take over you. The final answers to what we are looking for are not going to come from the lips of a spirit guide. They are going to come from the realizations we have when encountering the pressure, the currents of life. Well, the spirit guides might tell us those things, but we won’t understand them until life teaches them to us in spades.
“All of the helping spirits are talking about love. While some are committed to supporting our discovery process, others have their specific way to get to it. Kind of like a relative keen on ‘helping’ or a friend obsessed with a hobby. No one can tell you your way. Only you know your way. Maybe your way is through another prison, I don’t know. Maybe I was giving you this big speech because I was just hoping for some company along my own path.”
She had stopped listening and was receding, I could tell. This frightened me and I became angry.
I shouted, “As Above, So Below. It’s not a celebration every day in the spirit world. There’s a lot of work to do, beginning with ‘Why am I so afraid?’. Can you have a relationship with spirit without giving your power away? Can you accept the love that these great beings have to share with us without feeling unworthy or tremendously better-than-anyone-else worthy?”
I told her that there wasn’t enough room in the boat for everyone when we are all off on our own, looking for the perfect boat, which only seats one, or maybe two, or maybe enough room for a handful of friends. We didn’t even have to go anywhere. We could stay right here and focus on the shadows in the room. And our friendship.
“Let’s do this together”, I said. “Let’s do the great adventure. The one where you fall down and then you wander around wondering why that happened, and then you meet someone new, and then you lose yourself, and then you find yourself again except that you are different. Then you relax into yourself as much as you can with having been changed, and then you get used to it, until it becomes too much and you have to hit the road again. Another growth spurt. See who’s still around from the last round.”
But she wasn’t around anymore. She had gone back to her search and I was left alone, with my shame and anger. The raven was hop, hop, hopping outside my window and the glass of water next to the sink was once again, my only friend. My truth burned at me through the vanity mirror and my eyes looked away.
“Dammit”, I said, “Why can’t you just be nice?”
There is an insidious black magic woven into the customs of our current ‘civilized’ societies. Its source is greed and its result is loss – loss of self, of values and in every interpretation of the phrase, loss of life. It has a specific mechanism of which we are all familiar with. It is in plain sight, the best place for something lethal to hide; our acclimation and apathy fuels its seat as it digs in deeper the longer it remains a function of our everyday lives.
It started with the road-side hucksters, the common jesters (not the bards) and the politicians. As the tools to proliferate communication developed over history, this very simple technique of manipulation became the staple of every marketing campaign across the world. People go to school to learn how to form these spells. They do school projects and take exams in how to manipulate your emotions, so it’s important to know what’s being targeted at you.
This is how it works:
Phase One. In order to make someone vulnerable, one must make that person lower their guard, so the best way to do that is to entrance them. To get them ungrounded and a bit drifted away from their center so that they are more impressionable. More open to suggestion. More open to believing something that just isn’t true. Here comes the glamor spell. It is a sexy body. It is a cooing baby. It is a cool glass of water, a day in the mountains. All of these things are meant to invoke emotion and open our field. We might even feel emotions like disgust, shame, self-hatred or sorrow. Maybe it is the adrenaline rush of extreme violence. We all know that the more acclimated to violence we are, the more severe it has to be in order to affect us. We understand this, and think that this understanding protects us.
In any case, once we are in that state, feeling that emotion, phase Two is put into play.
Phase Two is creating a link or an anchor between your strong emotion and whatever it is that the creator of this spell – this curse – wants to lodge deep into your psyche. If you are feeling a positive emotion, then their product or idea will be presented as a path for you to get to that emotion in the future. If you are feeling a difficult emotion, then their idea or product is presented as a way to escape that feeling, – that was just invoked in you, an emotion based on a situation that usually was not even based in real life.
Often, all that is inserted, deep into your psyche is a logo. This is called branding. Once the anchor is made, all the company has to do is to present the logo in order for that emotion to be re-invoked.
Think about it. iPhone or Android? Mac or PC? How do those two words feel inside of you? Are your reasons based in any truth? Aren’t both companies engaged in destroying the planet?
Whatever the image, it becomes a handle that can be pulled at a future time. It can be as simple as that, or it can be the building block of a more complicated language that is all rooted and hooked deep in different parts of your psyche.
The machine of incessant images has been able to create value systems that even if we know that we do not subscribe to, we are pulled into and shamed by. Only skinny can be beautiful. The only kind of wealth that has any value is of money. Young is people. Only white people really exist. By refraining from showing images of normal lives and only showing images of imaginary life, everyone starts to lean towards trying to live imaginary lives. We have become puppets.
At this point, Phase Three, all that is needed in order to portray a whole lot of messages without even having to say them, is to present a recycled archetype that was created by this system long ago.
Phase Three. The internalization and eventual regurgitation of the entire process. This is where, without prompting or further brain-washing, people take it upon themselves to continue the patterns of entrancing in order to fill their own personal and small business needs. It’s a dog eat dog world. Everyone else is doing it, so I must too.
The destructive virus of thought-form creation is even in our alternative, progressive subcultures. Subcultures that aren’t run by corporations, that don’t have to be that way, that are supposed to run on a different set of values. Unfortunately, until people are able to root out their internalized mechanisms, they will still be trying to fit in, to be ‘someone’, to climb a ladder when we don’t believe in ladders, to give preference to those with shallow, sparkly qualities that are not nourishing to anyone, to glamor others in order to ‘survive’. Who gets most of the attention? Who is collecting the money? Who is given promotion into the ‘cool’ positions? It’s exactly the same game as in mainstream culture. The images are not the same; they are a little bit different. But they are the same.
We have all seen spiritual teachers, yoga teachers, public speakers trying to enamor people to want to take their classes, who use their sexual energy to draw people in. We have seen dogma manufactured that is designed to make us wonder, to make us look outside ourselves for happiness and fundamentally doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But it still gets repeated over and over, because it serves those who want you to think of them as your source of wisdom and revelation.
There is a big difference between commercial advertising and someone beaming in their authentic, unique light, sharing their medicine so others can find theirs. We have all had enough of people casting glossy projections of themselves in order to hook people into wanting to be like them, but we allow it to continue. We allow it by giving these people our energy. Many of us actually want to be taken on a ride because it’s much more like eating a chocolate chip sundae than doing the work within. This is the where the loss comes in. We give our precious, divine energy, time, money to forces, companies and people who do not have our best interest in mind and actually are willing to go to psychological warfare to get what they want. It pulls us more and more outside of ourselves. It can pull and pull until we don’t know what happened or who we are anymore.
This, my friends, is addiction.
Phase Four, the most lethal phase, is when both the source and the receiver of the black spell becomes ourselves. We mentally impose pictures over our own experiences, comparing them to illusory images we have seen in the outside world and then we give our experience a grade. Am I having fun? I am attractive? Did I do that like the guy on the show I liked? Would they think I was crazy? Does this mean that I am getting closer to the life that I have been shown? Am I doing this right?
We think that we should be happy – all the time. Not just content or at peace with the wide spectrum of life, but blissful. If we are not the kind of happy we think we should be, we impose images on ourselves in order to invoke the emotion we want. Then we run to a product or we put music on to drown out our true feelings. Or we create flowery dogmatic language to describe our reality in a way that makes it more epic-like. But nobody lives an epic, not like in the movies. Actually, the epics which are our true lives are far more interesting and fruitful, it’s too bad Hollywood wouldn’t just get a clue on that. How about a show around the inner workings of a blue collar town where all the characters are at work or running to get their kids or at the grocery store?
We all know this stuff but do we really think about it enough? As children, we naturally modeled ourselves to those around us. We had no scope of the world and human behavior. We were trying out ways of being. Many of us had very mixed up big people around us to show us what love was supposed to be. But we were trusting of those big people. We didn’t know any better. The thing is, if we never got a chance or a challenge to figure out for ourselves what is right for us, what our values are, we are still susceptible to outside forces to tell us how to think.
Because the media has become our parents and the strong comfort of reliable friendships is not presented to us anymore, we meet someone we like and wonder if they are going to be the one to take us away from our lives to an permanent castle of love bliss. We look around the world and we see the downcast, the millions of people who are not rich or skinny and we blot them out in our minds. This goes for people of color as well. If they don’t exist in fantasy land, we don’t want to engage with them in the real world.
[art by Aeryn Davies]
This is called marginalization.
The revolutionary battleground in countries like ours is not out in the streets. Oh no, we are a “free country”. We would see no need for that. Besides, we have become so apathetic that we would not know where to begin or who to target, since the incessant mental attacks comes from every corner in current times. Every corner.
We owe this to ourselves. We have to stop thinking that the world of adults is full of grownups and strive to be one. If we don’t extricate ourselves from this twisted, sticky web, no one will do it for us. We can’t withdraw from this black magic without withdrawing from its loudest sources. We have to stop looking around the corner hoping something better is coming around. We have to commit, to ourselves and the life of authenticity, which is the only life that can bring true satisfaction.
Even so, we could invest great amounts of time and money in therapy finding ourselves, but the moment we are strong and ready to rejoin the world, we will find that the world has not changed. Yet. The barrage of mis-messages will still be there, challenging our true values without cease. No one can withstand that without significant spiritual support and clear boundaries around what goes in their cauldron. So we need each other. We can’t do it alone, even for ourselves. We can’t shut down entirely. We are social creatures and we are part of this world. Metaphysically, isolation leads to death, but in this world, overexposure is another kind of death? Managing this, navigating this is our puzzle.
First step, is to clean house and get to know our values.
Our Sacred Cauldron is our inner vessel. It is our bodies, our minds, our very souls. What we choose to expose ourselves to, is how we take care of this vessel, this tabernacle. This means media, food, people, music, communities. We choose what is good for us. We have to stop trying to live other people’s lives or fantasy lives and live our own.
We need to get away from the swarm of messages, get off the high speed train, the Ferris wheel, the pheromone ride, the puppet dance – and stop running around, slow the fuck down and be more present with the people that we call our friends. We need remember to listen within and without and let arise that which is singing underneath the debris of catastrophic psychological and spiritual warfare. This song is a pure song, we know, because it arises by itself with no prompting. We need to trust that life is inherently resilient and that the fresh inspiration that comes from a real sunrise or the gait of a heron -not the photoshopped pictures of them that we place in front of them – will always be real. These are the types of things that cannot be changed or marketed.
Life is something to behold, not to manufacture. The images between ourselves and our lives can be eradicated, first by disassociating from their sources, then by nourishing that which is nourishing and real to us. If you don’t know what is nourishing to you, be excited, be still. Your body will tell you when you find yourself trying something new and relaxing into joy. Maybe some of you will find joy.
There is so much to learn about nourishing the good in life, about holding space for all parts of the cycles of life, death, sorrow, the delicious mundane and joy in our lives. For now, hopefully there has been enough said here for you to be able to understand and take apart a powerful mechanism which binds so many of us.
Knowledge and discernment is power. Real power.
What is it about Power?
Power. Power. Lots of people seem to be seeking power in their spiritual, self-evolutionary.. path of power.
Personal power, spiritual power, the power to, to… what?
The power to impress? Who? Oneself?
Ironically, power is all around us. It is in the air. It is in our bones. It runs through our emotional body. Most of us are knocked over, overwhelmed day in and day out by power coming from sources around us. So, there is nothing to look for. As for our personal power, it too is enormous, but often smattered across a myriad of interests, concerns and emotional investments which we may or may not have consciously chosen to engage in. How are we able to truly experience the magnitude of our personal power when it is rarely centered in one place?
The focus we need is not in finding power. It is in removing our precious energy from the activities, people, habits and media that do not serve us. We need to bring it all back to the core. Then we can redirect the power both around us and within us to align with our true values. This way we may become effective channels for powerful change and healing in a good way.
We can lose personal power through trauma, through soul loss, in power-animal disconnection as well as through entanglement with other beings or spiritual systems. When we commit ourselves to the healing journey, over time, personal power returns to us. It returns sometimes in big satchels all at once, through rejuvenating lifestyle changes. It can come in a POW through a major spiritual healing to be wondered at and re-embodied over time. Personal power can also come back to us like the tide, sure and steady, gradual and reawakening, as we grow and learn to root our passions from the center instead of always reaching out.
So, our quest is not in finding power but in reclaiming the power connected to our bodies so we can focus it towards the areas where we do our life work. Then we will naturally experience deep healing, have courage to face up to our fears and then with all our extra energy, lavish the world with our unkempt, beautiful passion. Our raw, wild power has been too long held down by twisted, mangled ideas. It’s time to clean them out.
May our values be our true beacon. Those values which guide us to right action, which the power-filled spirits can get behind and support. May our spiritual training be in learning the secrets of Power-With, as we learn to open ourselves to the vast resources of wisdom and dedication from these spirits willing to be our partners in bringing discordant energies back into balance.
For, we do not do anything alone. We do not create without resources. We do not affect without connection and we do not bridge without other parties. The way to move power is Together. This is more healing, individually and collectively than anything we could attempt to do alone. “Working with” requires that we work through our fear of other to learn discernment and then trust. Trust, fundamentally, in ourselves. Trust, always, in the allies we have met in the other planes. Trust, gradually in the people who we have forged our bonds with, based on the values that we hold in common.
Power is in aligning ourselves to our values so that we may be a clear channel and in learning how to redirect power to align with our clear selves.
So, I ask you, why do you want magical power? What will you do with it? What will you do? What is it for? Are you clear?
If our goal was to gain personal power and we hadn’t sorted out what are values were, what a convoluted message that would be to the spirits!
Would you really want power if you weren’t clear?
And Spiritual Awareness?
What is spiritual awareness? To be aware of stuff that our physical senses do not pick up, right? Some people find themselves infinitely frustrated in this area, a-liking themselves to a board or a little pea when it comes to spiritual awareness. Before striving to leap into the realm of the ‘claire’s’ (clairvoyant, clairsentient, etc.), it may be helpful to ask oneself how much of the physical senses are really being paid attention to, to begin with. When you listen to your loved ones are you really listening? Are you aware of their posture, the subtleties in their voice, the strain on their face perhaps? Are you using your mind to understand the context and history of the conversation? Can you listen to all of that in addition to the words that are coming through? How is it that you know what someone else is thinking?
When you have revelations or ideas, do you allow them to fill you and flesh out or do you take the information and keep flying? When you have ‘gut feelings’, what part of your body do you feel them in? Do you “see”, do you “feel”, do you just “know” in your heart?
Asking oneself these questions can really help get a scope of what is already there. Spiritual awareness is just an extension of physical senses. The lines can get blurry, so it is easy to discredit something that feels so..natural.
Why do you want to be spiritually aware? Are you not getting the information you need already? Are you following your heart’s desire and your true values or do you need something supernatural to tell you something you already know?
One wonderful thing about developing spiritual senses is that it allows us to know deeply that we are not alone. We can communicate with our spirit guides with lucidity. We can understand the connections between events in our lives more fully (through more senses). We can actively partake in the vast web of energy that we are part of. We can merge and make love with aspects of nature that make us feel passionate.
Just as there are many people who are trying to become spiritually aware, there are many others who are trying to find a way to shut down those senses because they have become overwhelmed.
This ties into the previous section about choosing where to engage our personal power, where we choose what to pay attention to and what not to. This can be very easy or it can seem ever elusive. Spiritual training can help one gain sovereignty over one’s psychic boundaries and be free to choose when and where to be open to the broader energies of the world.
Bless the Boundaries, Preserve the Power.
Healing to Get Us Started.
Because, really, there is a time and a place. In our culture of sensory barrage, our constant exposure to the oppression of choice, we forget that little dark quiet places can be nourishing and that in being open forever, we will inevitably drain out, fade, become less potent, lose power.
Nurturing personal power being the number one priority in life. Sound awful? Sounds healthy. We really, really cannot be of service to anyone when we are depleted and broken. How silly. In order to contribute to this gem of a world we need to be in touch with the gem of ourselves. Too many of us in the developed worlds have become like ghosts of ourselves, passing from day to day, unable to track or get traction or trace the real story of how we got here.
This power stuff. It’s so important. It’s like money; we decide how to spend it. But if our bank has been robbed or the treasure hidden elsewhere than in the chest, then it sure would be the right thing to seek the help of an experienced shamanic healer. Power loss is considered an illness and major power or soul loss is something that we need the big stuff – meaning LOVE – to bring back. Love is two or more people doing for each other or another. So, that is why healers are healers. They become a hollow bone from a place of utter service and love to allow the ultra-super-loving spirits to come in and take care of you.
Let them take care of you. When’s the last time someone took care of you? We are not looking to be bigger or better or special. We are looking to join the Indras web of infinite jewels as the jewel that we are.
Some folks cannot reach their power or awareness because they have such loss. Or because they are blocked by intrusions or a fellow soul taking a ride in their body. Helping these souls release to their heaven, removing the intrusions can get the whole system moving again.
It’s getting complicated, right? That’s what makes it so much fun! We all have our Tolkien maps etched into our bones as we pass from one entry to the next, scratching down our notes and picking up what sustenance and skills we find along the way. Oh, friends! Don’t forget to make friends on this journey. We all might look like freaks to each other but that’s why we love it. Each gem, so unique; each person, doing their very best. Earning due respect just for that – doing our best stuff.
The Trick in the Searching is in Being Present.
If we are seeking power, maybe we are not being aware of where our personal power has been spread out to or how we are letting external powers affect us. If we have no sense of power, then we may need a healer.
If we are seeking spiritual awareness, maybe we have not been still enough to understand the plethora of information that is around us, for the messages of spirit are manifest in every aspect of our experience: in our relationships with people, with the world, in the patterns of the mud splattered on the metro bus ad, in the way that woman walked in front of our car and how we reacted to it, in our own frustrations, in how we treat our bodies…
If we have become completely blocked to any messages but dullness or same-flavor pain or anxiety, perhaps we need to see a healer.
In general, if we are seeking at all, maybe we are trying to make our present match a picture of the past, or of how we think the future is .. “right around the corner”. There is no “right around the corner”. It will never exist here. It is all happening here.
When we are in our power and utilizing all of our senses, physical and metaphysical, the patterns of our world make sense. We understand that there is nothing to do. Nothing to plan for, only to be in the dance, in the present, on the wheel. Trusting in ourselves to do what we feel will align with our true values. For that is all we care about. Staying true, to our values and our word. Staying in integrity and watching the world fall into place.
Knowing that we are not alone.
The most powerful thing we have in our lives is our own Will. Our Will gets us out of bed in the morning, causes us to create and destroy. Without a Will we flounder. We can Will ourselves into doing something we don’t want to do or we think we don’t have the ability to do. What directs our Will, what lies beneath is two things, our need for survival and our values.
We have lots of values, like chocolate, Starbucks, fast cars or football games but underneath that, we also have values like a stable job, a house with access to nature… and then there are values like kindness, compassion, sharing and honesty.
How these values settle in our being determines the product of our actions. Our Will is deep within our core. The deeper a value falls, the more powerfully our Will will engage with it. It is for this reason that many people do not want to spend extensive time looking at their values. If they do, there is no going back; life will inevitably change. Are we ready to let go?
If we don’t know what we value, how could we possibly know what we truly want? When we make conscious choices about our values, we have more control over our lives. We are happier with ourselves. If we do not, then a myriad of forces around us like the corporate media, social peer pressure and relationships with others may have too much influence about what our values are and where they lie. If we are wounded, have soul loss, lonliness, those forces around us tempt us to align our Will with cheap answers rather than real solutions.
The long haul. This is the core of our spiritual practice.
Alignment of Will and Values harmonizes to create Integrity. A state of consistency throughout. With intentional practice, we also can align our Will and our Wants. Wanting is pulling towards us. Will comes from our core and moves outwards, creates. The stronger our Will, the more our Wants will serve our Will.
Now..Desire is something that is deliciously messy. Out of control. It can come from the deepest passion, borne out of our values, a hunger to fill an empty void or from some mysterious intoxicating place. But at the end of desire, whether momentary or permanent, there is always Pleasure. 🙂
I’ll leave the rest up to you.
There is something wonderful going on in the Neo-Shamanic subcultures that I have noticed. It is a repeating medicine story that goes something like this:
Somebody falls into a pocket of beauty. It changes their life in profound healing ways-so profound that they feel compelled to share the beauty they found. They start up a class. The medicine is transmitted and many benefits come out of this. People from all over the world get to meet each other and exchange ideas. Powerful containers are created for deep, transformative experiences. Most importantly, love is modeled in a larger theater, where the imprint of it can affect people’s lives and the lives that they touch in a good way forever.
However, in terms of community, there is an aspect to this story that rarely gets talked about. It goes something like this:
People go to workshops, get intensive downloads of spiritual information. When they go home, it is often to some sort of isolation, as they are not connected to other people in their area who are doing the work. There is a reintegration period to the everyday life, which can be difficult and then a process of distilling the lessons that were learned at the workshop.
After a while a longing grows, for more information and also community. So, it becomes time to sign up for another workshop. Sometimes people go to workshops soley because they are yearning community. There they find connection again-not sustained but well needed. The struggle with isolation goes on. Some people stay committed to their path, follow their calling and then start up a personal practice. They start to teach workshops filled with the wonderful medicine they have found. People from all over the world come to receive this medicine…and the paradigm continues.
My Dad’s view on community is this, “No one has to build community. If you have the right people together with the right circumstances, it happens all by itself.” He grew up in the farmlands of Southern Minnesota in the 50’s and to me, his logic still makes a whole lot of sense.
Community is relationships. Relationships are organic. They grow over time. However in today’s modern society, we do not stay still long enough to be in the same place with the same people long enough to get to know who they are. Plus, as we know, shamanism is not something everyone does. The time of the town square, where everybody comes to hang out, is over. Heck, in Seattle the time of the sidewalk bench is over, since the businesses got all concerned about not giving homeless people a place to sit.
You can hold a class but a class is not a community. You can set up a Yahoo group and even recruit 200 members but if nobody talks to each other, that’s not community either. In order to have community we have to create the circumstances that allow people to have sustained face time with each other so that relationships can build naturally. Fertile soil. The spinning sound of Spiderwoman’s web.
This is what I believe. People need each other. Students need fellow students to be scholarly with. Students need teachers. Teachers need students to follow their calling and to grow with. Teachers need teachers to help each other become better at what they do. The same goes for Practitioners. The community needs all of them, in good balance with each other in order to be healthy and well.
Filling the need for community should be free. I see different kinds of open circles for folks to journey together, to drum, to make sacred music and to play. There are public ceremonies to benefit individuals and community needs. There are potlucks, storytelling sessions and sharing of shamanic poetry and art. Deep relationships that grow around these frequent gatherings support us through life’s challenges and spiritual awakenings.
There is supervision and support for teachers and practitioners. Psychologist and therapists have built in requirements in their profession for both supervision and continuing training. We don’t have that, so knowledge about key areas can be hard to get: boundary issues, projection and transference between clients and caregivers, power and ego issues, money issues. Because of confidentiality, classes and community gatherings are not the place for these people to get what they need. Being isolated as a teacher or practitioner is not only difficult but dangerous for everyone involved if they only have themselves to rely on when the going gets complicated. It is too easy for shame and blame to enter the picture when things go wrong and without a network, someone in trouble is liable to try to work it out on their own. So, we need peer circles and peer emergency healing networks for the times when we get whomped in session. We need open dialog between teachers comparing class structures and typical workshop issues.
The benefits of this vision of community are vast. There is support in the fiber of our everyday lives as shamanic people. There is more opportunity for learning, growing and applying what we learn from our teachers. There is an arena where people who are not trained can participate, have powerful experiences and find their way to teachers and healers.
Barriers to Coming into True Community
Knowing what the barriers are to true community will help us work around them. Here are some that I see.
Scarcity perspectives around money: What would happen if I was living paycheck to paycheck as a teacher? I may be afraid to encourage community activity because I think that it may steer ‘business’ away from me. I might not be willing to refer someone to a teacher that is more appropriate for that student than I am. The truth is that rich communities will create a nurturing flow to and from the teachers. There is enough for everyone. The more practitioners and teachers support each other rather than compete, the better exposure the whole network gets to the public. It is also an option for practitioners to hold part time or full time job.
Ingrained Hierarchy in our dominant culture. Unfortunately, as much as we may believe hierarchy is not the best model, it is still ingrained in us. We still look to authority figures to do what needs to be done and sometimes do not support non-authority people in their efforts to bring us together! Unfortunately, teachers and practitioners are busy holding space for people so they are not the ones to rely on to build our webs and till the soil in the P-patch!
Unless a teacher is consciously creating circles in order to encourage them to co-create or fly the nest, using words like community in class can create power and boundary confusions. For example: If this is a community can I disagree with my teacher in circle? Can I make contributions and/or suggestions? Communities do arise around teachers, though and there is nothing wrong with that but they are not independent. The teacher becomes the lynch pin of the community. Whether they want the power or not, they steer and shape the container just by being who they are. And if the teacher leaves, community falls apart.
Fear around empowerment
Lots of people prefer to follow than to lead. We want things to be set up for us so we can walk in and participate when we have the time but not be expected to be anywhere consistently. This can happen for a few different reasons. Consumerism has certainly crept into our attitudes about most things that happen outside the house. But also, a lot of people just do not know what to do. Often we do not feel capable or empowered to contribute to community. We become afraid that contributing to community will become an all-consuming activity. Lots of fears come up. I believe that in our society, choosing to be part of community is as challenging as going on a vision quest is to someone who comes from a culture where one’s identity is tied to place in community.
A solution to these things could be to verbally encourage students to create shamanic activities outside of paid events. Even allow a brainstorming session about it during class. I’ve seen this work. Sometimes people think of starting a study group or circle but don’t because they are shy and need a little boost. There might also be unfounded fear of walking on a teacher’s turf. Openly speaking to these things can bring down barriers to community.
What we need to do is teach others how to be leaders, to empower and then slowly step away. This is a process which includes instruction on how to hold a circle, group facilitation, and the skills we used to put on a public event. It is as crucial as teaching healers to do soul retreival. Granted, it is not easy to find willing students but stubborness around expecting people to shine really pays off.
Community-building needs to be a shared value.
A few motivated people cannot do this work alone. That is why unions pay their organizers. Because of this, I try to instill the big difference that small things make. Cooking for events warms the whole dynamic. Offering one’s living room for a circle can be a goddess-send to the organizer who lives in a studio apartment. Once a structure is set up, people can come and go but the container will still be there for people to flow through. The trick, I tell people, is to only do as much as you can. Small things make a big difference.
Here is a list of suggestions that might help you jump in. You can post it on your website, send to your email list or put on your refrigerator.
- Offer something for free. A healing drum event, a public ceremony in a public park…give a reason for people to come together.
- Be brave, have a potluck for a bunch of shamanic people you don’t know.
- Start a website like Spiderlinks.net so local subcultures and teachers can get connected and find circles to practice in.
- Start a circle.
- Go to a circle, just to explore, even if you don’t know if you will go again. You are sure to run into those people again.
- Sample a local teacher you don’t know much about.
- Be generous.
- Give people in your community compliments on their work. Tell them how much you appreciate what they do.
- Gift someone something without them expecting it.
- Let someone know that you are here for them, to do journeys or healing if they ever need you.
- Take around flyers for the teachers that you love.
- Send referrals to healers that you really trust.
- Honor everyone no matter how bumpy we all may get on this wild path of introspection and healing.
- Be brave. Reach out and make a new friend with someone you met at a circle or class.
- Ask for help. Sharing and love is as much about receiving as it is about giving.
- Get some training/Give some training in community organizing.
- If you are a teacher, give your students assignments that engage them in community
- To try out local circles
- To practice your teachings with colleagues outside of class
- To partner up and do something together for the broader community
- Be clear in our classes where people can help
- Holding and creating space
- Seeing each other in light
- Go out for tea with all the other practitioners in your area
- You don’t have to be friends, you are in community. Think of the village square. You don’t pick who lives in your village – but you know them.
- Encourage your students to hold practice circles. Give them some pointers on how to structure a circle.
Speaking of circles, there’s a lot to know about starting one so here is a little guide to help you out. It should also help members of existing circles be more present to circle dynamics.
Well, have fun and don’t forget that the land, sky, water and moon are part of your community, too. They long for us as much as we long for them.
I try to teach good boundaries. I try to hold good boundaries as well. I expect students to be aware that they are coming to participate in an event which is interdependant. Even if you go through an entire course without getting to know your colleagues, your actions and presence have great effect on everyone else. Please consider the following before attending a Littlelight Ceremony or course.
Shamanism is about relationship. A spiritual class is an offering of time, space and love, crafted by someone with a deep well of life and spiritual experience they are eager to share with you. Your payment is an exchange of effort and commitment back to this person who is thinking of you in every step of their workshop preparation. If you commit, you are commiting to being in relationship with everyone who attends in some way.
How you approach the class makes an impact on everyone else. Please be aware of how your approach towards your spiritual training affects your teacher and your fellow students. Please do not treat the class like a commodity that you can take or leave.
Sign Up On Time
Please make your decision about a class as timely as you can, so you can sign up. When you wait to sign up until last minute, you are putting stress on the teacher and other students who may be turned down if the class does not fill. Spaces that are rented have cancellation policies which require 2 weeks to a month notice.
Informally telling the teacher you are coming is not signing up. By paying a nonrefundable deposit you are putting an investment in that shows strong intention of your attendance and some compensation towards running the class for other people if you drop out.
Show Up On Time
Spiritual classes are pockets of sacred energy built up for transformational work. They are spaces out of time and place where people hold trust together so that they can do personal work in a public venue. Every person contributes vital energy to the nature of this container when sacred space is created together. Missing this opening alters this energetic pocket. Habitual lateness is disrespectful to everyone, including yourself. It is not being aware of your own value and how you are important to the medicine of the circle.
Teachers will treat those who are late with love and understanding, but no matter what the reason, your lateness has affected the circle.
Show up Prepared
Shamanic classes and circles are strong when we are all focused. You are expected to complete any homework so that we can progress as a circle to the next material. Please bring something to contribute to the altar. This can represent a power animal, a prayer or an offering. When we all add to the altar, the circle is strong. Consider your commute to class as the beginning of circle for you. Perhaps, play music that contributes to a grounded state of mind and consider what your intentions are for the coming session.
Be Present to Sacred Space
Apply your full heart and effort into the calling of the spirits as if you were home doing it alone. Shamanic teachers always create a container for you but you want to be strong with your own spirits when you do your practice. We also want to earnestly call to the spirits for assistance in supporting the work of our colleagues.
Try to notice the things that contain or deplete the potency of the container and support the container. Your awareness will grow, as well as your skill. Keep mundane conversation to a minimum when in the altar room.
Honoring Other’s Boundaries
Spirit speaks to people in their own language, so there is no way any one person can interpret another person’s shamanic journey. We hold space for each other and encourage our colleagues to hear their own wisdom, celebrate with them when the road becomes clear.
Journeying for others without prior and explicit permission is not acceptable in our circles. On rare occasions, we are given information in our journeys that we did not ask for about someone else, but we do not seek it out. Even in this case, we can ask our helping spirits, “Why am I being shown this?” or “What does this have to do with my journey question?”. To deliver messages about others without permission can make people feel violated and unsafe in our circle.
If you are learning great lessons from our journey, please be mindful and speak in the first person, rather than hiding behind “you” language, which feels and sounds preachy to the listeners. Telling others ‘how it is’ creates barriers, whereas sharing our own path creates intimacy, the basic ingredient for deep work, deep love, deep transformation.
We try not to ‘take care’ of each other, but rather support each other in finding our own divine widsom and light. If someone in circle is going through difficulty, we may ask that person what we can do to help. We perhaps may offer ideas but with always with respect for the boundaries of that person, the circle and ourselves.
Do Your Homework
When we are given big messages or blessings in shamanic time, a crucial part of the practice is to bring the medicine home. This means carrying out the message of the journey in our lives. How this manifests depends upon the circumstance and journey. When this work is done between circle meeting times, our spiritual lives become a constant flow. We become practitioners rather than students. When we return to circle after having done this work, we come bearing new wisdom and stronger presence to the circle. In this way by giving to ourselves, we inherently give to our spiritual support network as well.
These are staples of being a spiritual adult.
Being accountable, being prepared, being present, serving our community with care and doing our homework. Honoring ourselves in our path with commitment and in turn, honoring our teachers and community. Thank you for being awake. Thank you for being alive. Thank you for being part of this powerful, powerful web of healing and light.
Shamanism is a Path of Love and as all in paths of love, it requires the kind of courage that our leader Martin Luther King had. Shamanism is not about how far you can get out there to meet the spirits but what you bring back for your community, how skillfully you can bring it back and how effectively you can deliver the medicine with love. It is a path with concern for the health of community.
This is why I encourage you, even in the rooms where spiritual people go to seek peace, especially there, to speak your truth.
In the alternative spiritual subcultures, spiritual people can sometimes be so afraid of conflict that silence opens the door for the old illnesses of the dominant paradigm to take root in our sacred settings. But believe it or not, conflict is a sign of healthy community. Conflict allows deep passionate differences to be clearly seen. Without it, there is no true growth. In political and spiritual circles alike, it is extra important for people to be aware of the value of conflict because in political and spiritual circles, conflict is inevitable. Why? Because in both politics and spirituality, if we are true to our path we are being motivated by our deepest values. When our deepest values are crossed, it causes strong emotional response. It’s kind of like math.
If you have tried to speak your truth and experienced being shut down with words like “you are being negative” or “you create your own reality”, don’t let this push you into a place of self doubt. Even if you were not entirely correct in your words, that sort of response only means that you are pushing up against people’s fear.
Every movement, whether spiritual or political comes with its rhetoric. When the rhetoric is used without context or insight, it becomes dogma. Dogma is often used to control others. The rhetoric of positive thinking and positive speaking has become dogma in many corners of our subculture and our nation. It is sounding a lot like the old “don’t rock the boat” of other oppressive cultural ribbons of the past.
Conflict is a place where people are outside their comfort zone, in a place of vulnerability and risk. It is when social interactions are not all tied up in a bow over a neat package. It can be scary, a place with high stakes, where bridges are easily burned…or deeper understandings made or where trust and growth can be forged. Without this risk we cannot learn about each other.
This is the practice of love. Love for the self requires speaking one’s truth. The cantankerous process of speaking one’s truth is more healing than the silence of covered wounds. Don’t let anyone pacify you with that “everyone has their own truth” dogma (remember that dogma is good rhetoric used in ungrounded and out of context circumstances, often as a way to wield power). We have a common truth, too. We CO-create our experiences together and in order for us to live together we have to negotiate. Truth is “what is” and if “what is” is not working for all, rather than shut each other down, why not break the box open? What’s the worst that can happen? Burned bridges and the old familiar isolation? Isolation is the prison of the developed countries. It is long due that we break out of that prison.
Have faith. Courage was explained to me as not a circumstantial thing like bravery but a way of living. Take heart. Truth is inevitably more healing than the silence of covered wounds. The courage to be oneself will allow others to do the same.
None of us has this stuff down all perfect. This essay is not perfect. It’s just a draft. Perfection is the enemy of love anyways-we all, so beautifully imperfect. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to wish we were able to say things differently. I do. But better to say something imperfectly than to not say it at all. There is not enough time to worry about being liked. If we are silent we will drown.. as gay activists around the world know too well, silence is death. Death of the soul and for many death all around.
Thank goodness we live in a country where speaking does not mean death. This gives us extra responsibility to speak when so many others cannot.
Let’s co-create our realities for common cause to bring more love and healing in the world for everyone, not just our friends and people like us. Let’s tune in today to the massive power behind the speeches of Martin Luther King and allow ourselves to be infected with that fire, to be inspired to do whatever it is that we are called to do.