Are you asking, why me?!
If you have suddenly found yourself on a spiritual pilgrimage this is for you.
Welcome to the road. Shamanism is a journey without a destination. The same could be said about all of life but nowhere is it so evident. Whether you arrived on this road because of a trauma (which is very typical) or because you have finally admitted you have always been seeking some kind of spiritual understanding (also very typical) or an extraordinary combination of things has brought you to the road, you are now learning a new way of seeing and contextualizing your life.
The traditional methods through which a shaman was selected seldom apply in our society. We aren’t likely to be abducted by forest spirits or taught by our father. Somehow you have been bonked on the head by your life and need answers.
A shamanic practitioner of my acquaintance recently said he had retired from his shamanic practice. Another friend was disturbed by this and asked how could he retire? Since he didn’t chose to share more, I will give my own answer. I believe you can retire from your healing work but not from the spiritual practice. You can stop doing ceremony but you cannot stop endeavoring to live an authentic life. The practice of shamanism calls each participant to live impeccably. To live impeccably requires you to scrutinize all your actions to be sure you are doing no harm. This subject is worth further discussion, which I will hold for another blog entry. For now, I want to address the implications of this for a person embarking on the journey.
Living impeccably means you don’t get to whine about a difficult situation you find yourself in. For example, if you stay in a job that you hate you have to take responsibility for your choice. Yes, so your boss is cranky and demanding. You have the choice to stay there or look for another job. If you stay in that job you don’t complain about him. Those negative words you put out in the air about him have consequents and are a form of sorcery. If you thank those negative thoughts, that is a form of self-sorcery. This is a waste of energy and isn’t going to help at all in creating the authentic life you strive for.
I spoke with a young woman yesterday who has taken a big step toward living an authentic life. She left a satisfying job to concentrate of her goal of bringing balance to her life while juggling; a home-based job, the needs of an active family, and nurturing her spiritual growth.
Nurturing spiritual growth can seem selfish, indulgent, unrealistic, narcissistic and self-absorbed. Yet, for many women ignoring this imperative results in depression, weight gain, apathy and a host of symptoms that leave her walking through life unable to appreciate it. There is usually little or no support as she attempts to satisfy this desire to grow. The nagging awareness that something is wrong remains as she struggles to meet her and her family’s basic needs.
Driven by her sense of unhappiness she fluctuates between the need for independence (personal growth) and societal dictates of being a responsible adult. This push-pull leaves her wondering why she thought this was so important. She may long for the busyness and camaraderie of her past and face her quest for spiritual fulfillment alone. The forces working against her are formidable and, make no mistake, there are evil forces working against her.
An energy war is taking place. The ego, in an effort to keep her safe, is leading the charge to continue in the “usual” way. Ego is supported in this energy war by a society which places very little value on a spiritual life. From her early school days there was an emphasis on math and science in schools. Art, music, physical education where cut. She finds herself alone watching television in her home rather than spending time in nature or with others. She goes to a church to celebrate the spiritual experience of a long-dead leader rather than have a spiritual experience of her own. She meets the needs of her family and friends. She has only an odd hour here or there for her personal spiritual quest.
While all these forces are at work outside of her, her sacred inner healer is locked away in a closet most of the time. It is no wonder the inner healer doesn’t respond instantly to support the woman in this energy battle. The woman’s efforts to coax her inner healer out are feeble and infrequent. If she does coax a burst of creative energy out of her inner healer, the woman feels a bright glimpse of the joy and peace. But, any energy released is soon devoured in this energy war. The woman is left to retreat to staring out the window wondering where she will gather the energy to make supper. She watches as other women scamper breezily through life while. She sits on the sidelines wondering what is wrong with her. Perhaps, like the character in The Matrix, she wishes she made the other choice and could return to a time when life was simpler.
She needs to be reminded that she isn’t crazy, selfish, or foolish. She was called. Many people’s hearts are filled with compassion for the suffering of others. These people are called to take the treasure of their time and dedicate some of it to personal growth. By restoring the sacred to the center of their lives they become able to provide service to others.
I vaguely recall reading a story of a mining tragedy. A group of women, unknown to each other, were called to walk through the streets of their town praying for the community though-out the night before a mountain collapsed on the town, killing many. Today many people in the United States are being called to heal their spirits and help balance our society.
Last year, returning from six weeks in South America, I arrived in Los Angeles and was herded into a long, meandering security line. As I scanned the people in line, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I thought they were concentration camp survivors because their energy fields were so depleted. I saw versions of “the Ugly American.” There was a man proclaiming loudly, “I’m an American citizen. You can’t make me stand in this line.” There was a family of refrigerator people (in “as big as”). This couple and their two huge teenage children carried mammoth McDonald’s Bags and literally stuffed French fries into their mouths by the handfuls. There were people with such large carry-ons that they appear to be moving houses. Yet, my overwhelming impression was of pity. I admit contemplating jumping on the next plane out of the country. But, I felt compassion for these people, my countrymen. Nowhere is the need greater for a grass roots movement to integrating personal spiritual growth and compassion for the suffering of others.
If you identify with this struggle, take a moment to celebrate an important victory. You have stepped back far enough from the front-line of this battle to realize this war is bigger than you. You are now in a position to create a battle plan. Regardless of what it took to get you to this point, this war is turning in your favor. You may have lost battles because of what you thought were your personal failings and inadequacies. Congratulate yourself on surviving what you have been through.
You are now ready to create a strategy to prevail in this energy war. Include in your strategy:
1. Do something to memorialize your recognition that your struggle is important. There will be difficult times ahead. Create a touchstone, talisman, or shield. Make and intensely personal and positive affirmation to hang on your bathroom mirror, or get a tattoo, or whatever will bring you back to this realization. The important thing is to be able to touch the memory of how it feels to be in the flow of healing energy. Magically remembering this feeling can bring you back to it. This is what called you to this battle and it is the weapon you will use in this battle.
2. Enlist the help of others. Are you keeping yourself in solitary confinement? You are not as alone as you think you are. While it can be frightening to seek like-minded warriors, it is well worth the effort.
3. Use all the skills you have to take action. Everything you know is a tool you can use. For example, if you are good at making plans, set a five year goal and make a plan for this year that will start to get you there. Leave room in the plan for things to change. If your skill is making cookies, take some to the assisted living center down the road with your prayers.
4. Be open for synchronicity, the greater your movement toward right action, the greater is the universe’s response to it. Expect sudden opportunities and realizations. Don’t be afraid to change your plans. When you realize that something no longer works for you, examine why you are doing it.
5. Realize you don’t know what this is suppose to look like. I am reminded of a woman who was constantly aware of spirits around her and kept asking them for a message. By suggesting that they might have been spirits who needed her help rather than where there to give her help, she was able to shift her expectations. Accept it that you don’t know what this looks like. We are all standing in a dark room feeling a part of the elephant and trying to guess what the whole elephant looks like. I can tell you, for sure, that we all have sticks in your eyes which prevent us from clear vision.
6. Be humble and kind. This starts will self acceptance. You are a gentle person doing your best. Sometimes things will work and sometimes not. You aren’t in charge of everything and you can’t force results. Accept this and forgive yourself whatever you deem yourself a failure.
7. Bring your practice to every part of your life. It is the constant practice that slowly brings results. This may manifest in such things as creating rituals, listening to your children’s dreams, or letting go of friends who no longer complement your changing goals.
8. Spend time in nature. This is our natural habitat and great teacher.
9. Be the change you wish to see by consistent and gently effort.