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Developing One’s Spirituality: A Treatment for Stress

By January 17, 2017Blog

Through relationship with our closest friends and family we develop trust and understanding. To a shaman or energy healer their relationship with spirit or the divine is no different. Let’s start with the poem below that focuses on relationship. While reading it, notice who or what comes to your mind?

You

© Margery Wang

I still remember the first day we met
We were too shy to say much at all
It’s funny to think back to that time
Because now we’re having a ball!

They say that true friendship is rare
An adage that I believe to be true
Genuine friendship is something that I cherish
I am so lucky to have met you.

Our bond is extremely special
It is unique in its own way
We have something irreplaceable
I love you more and more each day.

We’ve been through so much together
In so little time we’ve shared
I will never forget all the moments
that you’ve shown me how much you cared.

Friends are forever
Especially the bond that you and I possess
I love your fun-filled personality
Somehow you never fail to impress.

The world could use more people like you
it would certainly be a better place
I love everything about you
You are someone I could never replace.

You are always there for me
When my spirits need a little lift
I cannot thank you enough for that
You are truly an extraordinary gift.

You are everything to me and more
I could never express that enough
Life is such a treacherous journey, and
Without you it would be even more tough.

Our story will continue to grow
With each passing day
Because I trust that with you by my side
Everything will always be Okay.

You are so dear to me
You know I will love you until the end
I will always be there for you, and
You will always (and forever) be my best friend

Who or what came to your mind as you read the poem “You”? What qualities does that person or being or spirit have? Why did they come to mind for you?

What I would like to discuss in this blog is that developing a spiritual practice and developing one’s relationship with the divine will bring each of us to realize our own divinity. We are all born into these bodies from the divine and spending time and effort and focus on developing one’s own relationship with the divine is what will remind you of your own divinity.

Michael Harner, the Father of Modern Day Shamanism puts it this way:

“People practicing their Shamanic practices tend to undergo transformation as they discover the incredible safety and love of the normally- hidden universe. The cosmic love they repeatedly encounter in their journeys is increasingly expressed in their daily lives. They are not lonely, even if alone, for they have come to understand that we are never really isolated. Like Siberian shamans, they realize Everything that is, is Alive! Everywhere they are surrounded by life, by family. They have returned to the eternal community of the shaman, unlimited by the boundaries of space and time.”

So, what is “shamanism”, let’s look at a few excerpts from Wikipedia on the definition of shamanism:

“Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the spirit world. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.”

And another quote: “Mircea Eliade, who was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago wrote, “A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism=’technique of religious ecstasy’. Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul.”

I have been a student of shamanism for 15 years and I find any written definition of shamanism or energy medicine interesting because it is not an intellectual study. Everything in shamanism or energy medicine is about learning and developing relationship through experience. Some statements I feel comfortable using to explain shamanism or energy medicine are:

  • We are all born divine
  • All beings are of or from spirit
  • Shamanism is nature based, nature is a shaman’s classroom and teacher.
  • A shaman or energy healer through experience and practice learns how to expand their brain and being to interact with non-local consciousness.
  • The healing art of shamanism is to work together with a client on a mythic or energetic level to bring their subconscious limiting patterns to consciousness so that they can have the power to consciously shift their limiting patterns as they see fit.

One school I studied with is The Four Winds Society, which was started by Alberto Villoldo, PhD. Besides taking all of their training programs, this organization also gave me the opportunity on two occasions to travel to Peru to interact and learn from the Quero.

The Quero are direct descendants of the Inca that fled into the mountains of the Andes when the conquistadors of Spain came to conquer the New World. They lived at or above 15,000 feet in the Andes mountains for 500 years and so their culture and beliefs were never effected by the Europeans. Thirty years ago, Alberto Villoldo went in search of the Quero and he not only found them, but it turned out they too were looking for a person to help them bring their teachings to the western world. Today, Alberto is considered one of their elder shamans.

In one of Alberto’s numerous books, Island of the Sun, he states: “I realized long ago that the journey of the Four Winds represented an ancient formula for transformation: shed the past that restrains us, confront and overcome the fears of the future and death that paralyze us, so we may live fully in the present; apply the skills learned along the way to access a sea of consciousness as vast as time itself, then express the experience with beauty as a caretaker of the Earth.”

You see, a shaman comes to understand through their own healing that we are all wounded. Each of us carries baggage or wounds around with us. We can come into this life with wounds from past lives or from our relatives who preceded us or we can experience wounds during this lifetime. And it is our wounds, our story or our container that needs to be cleared, shifted and healed.

In a May 2013 issue of Discover Magazine entitled “Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes” Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist, and Michael Meaney, a neurobiologist discuss how epigenetics effect who we are and how we live: “According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.

Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn.

Or not. If your grandmother was adopted by nurturing parents, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support. The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too.”

For a shamanic healer, the medicine wheel of the four directions is used to help the shaman understand the cycle of healing. First, is the South, where one works on shifting their individual container or let go of their individual stories that hold them in a rut or cause them to be or feel stuck.

The West is the direction to focus on shifting one’s family stories, myths or cords that hold us. It is the direction in which we let go of our ego, our shadow. It is the direction in which we figuratively die to who we have been so we can be free.

In the North one closes all the back doors so that we may dream our lives into being. It is about mythic dreaming or hummingbird dreaming which does not include a lot of detail. One puts a dream out to spirit and trusts spirit to lead or facilitate the path. This is where one’s relationship with the divine is pivotal! Early on in my training I did not understand this and so I always tried to plan out all the details towards reaching a goal in my life and got upset when things did not go as I had planned. But, over the years I have seen and learned from experience that many times the outcome that I was frustrated about not happening was not as grand as what spirit had in mind. This learning to trust comes with developing one’s relationship with the divine.

In the East the focus is on practicing awareness. Awareness and consciousness of one’s own behaviors and judgements. One has to be awake to be aware and understand that the judgements we make of others is actually a projection of what we do not like about ourselves. Whenever we are disturbed by someone else to the point of disrupting our lives, the practice of being aware is to turn a mirror on oneself and to seek the lesson, healing that is in it for us. The East is also the direction in which we strive to become a master of time. To understand that time is cyclical and not linear. To grapple with the duality of the practical and the spiritual and to realize that there is time to do both.

This cycle of the medicine wheel is forever turning. One does not go through the medicine wheel once and then is therefore healed and complete. One comes to the understanding that life is a cycle and we cycle through the medicine wheel over and over again.

Some of this is illustrated through the following excerpt from:

Courageous Dreaming: How Shamans Dream the World Into Being,

Alberto Villoldo, PhD, 2008.

“During the Middle Ages, two stonemasons were working in Paris on what would become the cathedral of Notre Dame. A traveler, intrigued by their activity, stopped to ask the first on what he was doing. ‘Squaring a stone’, he replied.

‘I see,’ said the traveler. But his curiosity was still aroused, so he walked over to the other mason and asked what he was doing. ‘I’m building a cathedral,’ reported the man.

Just like these stonemasons, we can choose to live our story in a way that’s limiting or in a way that’s empowering and inspiring. This is the first step to dreaming the world into being: understanding that our actions are occurring in more than one dimension or plane. We can be certain that the man who says he’s building a cathedral has a greater sense of meaning, purpose, and power than the other man who’s merely squaring a stone—even though at one level of reality, both are engaged in the same activity. Building a cathedral happens in the dreamtime, while squaring a stone happens in linear, ordinary time. The Notre Dame cathedral took nearly 200 years to complete, yet in the dreamtime or the all at once, the cathedral already existed, and the second mason in the story could be part of a project much greater than he was.”

One of the biggest problems of our lives today is that having a spiritual life is not prioritized. I ask all of my functional medicine patients if they have a spiritual practice? What I hear most people say is that they are very spiritual; but they do not have any regular spiritual practice. In primitive tribal cultures the hierarchy of the trilogy of body, mind and spirit had spirit at the top, body in second and the mind a distant third. In our modern world the hierarchy of this trilogy has been flipped around and placed the mind as number one, the body remains second and spirit is in a distant third. What I have come to learn through my shamanic training is that placing my spiritual life and practice as a priority helps me to deal with stress and has instilled in me my knowing that spirit or the divine or the universe or God, depending on your frame of reference always has my back. I honor and nurture and cherish my relationship and connection with the divine.

But, to have one foot in the world of reality and one foot in the world of spirit requires learning and practice. A shaman, for example, learns the wisdom teachings, devotes themselves to developing their relationship with spirit and is to be of service to their tribe or community. I have heard my teachers explain many times that once a person dedicates themselves to the ancient teachings and steps on the path that spirit will answer. That spirit is available and if you call spirit will answer 24/7, but my teachers also explain that spirit also expects that if spirit calls, you will be available and you will answer 24/7.

My good friend and shamanic brother, Michael Farrington shared with me this short poem by Radindranath Tagore:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy!

Michael has spent a life nurturing and developing his relationship with spirit. He raised seven sons for many years by himself and then he cared for his father until his passing; but through it all Michael always prioritized his connection to the earth and to spirit. Once his years of caretaking for his immediate family ended he decided to build a labyrinth and to travel and share walking the labyrinth with others. The only instruction is to walk in with your concerns and your questions and to walk the labyrinth open to the answers. Once at the center, to walk out in a state of grace and gratitude. I love hearing from my friend about all of the interactions he has with people on his travels with his labyrinth.

So, if you are living a life full of stress, anxiety and fear, what I am suggesting is that you ask yourself if you have prioritized developing your spiritual life? If you haven’t, then this could be a path to finding peace and joy in your life. It will take time and opening yourself up to experiencing different spiritual practices or religions. But, once you find a spiritual practice that resonates with you, stick to it: For Jack Kornfield warns:

“If we do a little of one kind of practice and a little of another, the work we have done in one often does not continue to build when we change to the next. It is as if we were to dig many shallow wells instead of one deep one. In continually moving from one approach to another, we are never forced to face our own boredom, impatience, and fears. We are never brought face to face with ourselves. So, we need to choose a way of practice that is deep and ancient and connected with our hearts, and then make a commitment to follow it as long as it takes to transform ourselves. This is the outward aspect of taking the one seat.”

So, I ask you this question:

What spiritual practice do you use to help you walk your spiritual journey?

And I leave you with this poem by Rumi:

Although you appear in earthly form

Your essence is pure Consciousness.

You are the fearless guardian

of Divine Light.

So come, return to the root of the root

of your own soul.

When you lose all sense of self

The bonds of a thousand chains will vanish.

Lose yourself completely,

Return to the root of the root

of your own soul.

Why are you so enchanted by this world

when a mine of gold lies within you?

Open your eyes and come-

Return to the root of the root

of your own soul.

You were born from the rays of God’s Majesty

when the stars were in their perfect place.

How long will you suffer from the blows

of a nonexistent hand?

So come, return to the root of the root

of your own soul.

You are a ruby encased in granite.

How long will you deceive Us with this outer show?

O friend, We can see the truth in your eyes!

So come, return to the root of the root

of your own soul.

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