I’ve been sitting with this article on the shaping of shamanism as a dangerous industry in South America, particularly with the use of entheogens as induction into ecstatic trance. I don’t condemn or condone the use of substances in trance work, though everyone I know who uses them never does so alone, always with a trusted master of such approaches to the spirit realm. The use of such chemicals is the focus of the article, though I’m not convinced it should be. I think something more compelling is at work.
That said, I’ve written several blogs and articles on the pattern of believing enlightenment hides in some far off land, and that trend concerns me deeply. Again, whatever works for you. Whatever gets you there. It is with all caution in mind that I say, the trade of spiritual tourism isn’t limited to tribal nations or economically oppressed countries. A thriving business of spiritual healing exists right here in the US, with potential wonders and dangers of its own. Recall 2009’s James Arthur Ray sweatlodge fiasco. The truth is, we’ve never had to travel far and wide to find charlatans, anymore than we’ve had to in order to find enlightenment.
Culturally, we are perched on the border of very interesting territory. We see old regimes falling, organized religions crumbling. Many seekers readily identify a hunger to connect with deeper meaning in life, a need to caretake self at every level available. Yet, even though many are leaving those old systems, we still carry with us old engrained truths. Foremost is the belief that we cannot, should not, find enlightenment for ourselves, that we must defer to a schooled master of esoteric truths, who will instruct us along the journey to find our own. Punishment for seeking enlightenment through ourselves is deeply engrained. As well, so many are deeply hurt or turned off by the established institutions that we run to anything that doesn’t resemble them for help. We don’t believe that enlightenment lives in our backyard–literally in the faces that look like ours, the Nature that graces our every day, the circumstances of our own creation.
These seem like small concerns, though they actually manifest as widespread cultural spiritual emergency, leaving people vulnerable to all manner of healers, energy workers, shamans, and exotic adventures that promise great release. Coming from historic frameworks that taught us no spiritual autonomy, the senses to intuit what is in our best interest are often undeveloped. Particularly for those in pain, every healing modality sounds promising, every practitioner is a saviour. Given that, I think it’s important for spiritual renegades to feel supported in finding the path and soul healing approaches that are right for them. In fact, I think the following considerations are good guidelines for anyone taking their spiritual path, direction, and healing into their own hands:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Just because a modality is spiritual doesn’t make it magickal, or honest. All healing approaches take work, usually of the disciplined mindful variety. They also take time. Anyone who says you can be fully healed in one session and offers no support for processing the results of the work after that session likely will do more harm than good. As well, anyone who says s/he can heal you is working through ego more than soul.
- Seek services from practitioners referred by someone you know. If you don’t know how to choose a practitioner best for you, ask a deeply trusted friend for insight.
- If you have no referrals, do lots of research. Read. Study. Ask tons of questions. Any practitioner who won’t give you free insight into their work and how they do it isn’t worth your time, let alone your money.
- Work only with practitioners who honor you. If you feel disregarded, manipulated, further hurt, insulted, or otherwise compromised by a practitioner, this person is not acting in your best interest. Please also know that this person is not representative of other such practitioners.
- Above all, honor your gut feeling about a modality, as well as the practitioner. If a modality is right for you, but the practitioner isn’t, find someone else. If the practitioner feels right but the modality doesn’t, ask if the work can be done a different way. Wherever you are on the path of cultivating your intuition, you have deep signals that tell you when something isn’t good for you. Honor them. They are your best ally.
Though many of us have been on alternate spiritual paths and/or held the role of soul wellbeing facilitator for decades, this road still looks wild and daunting to those who are newly seeking support and direction. I encourage other spiritual healing practitioners to become involved in an active effort to educate clients and the general public about your work, why you do it, how you do it. Education will be the thing that not only informs our culture of its shamanic legacy and potential, it will also be the force that heals us all.