It’s been a while since I updated the Betwixt series. For those of you who are new to it, on selected Thursdays I shed light on lesser discussed aspects of the modern shamanic path,
For years I thought I had reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I never felt particularly down in the gloom of winter, but in the overwhelming bright sunlight of summer. Funny acronym, SAD. I knew deep down, though, that’s not what it was. This time of year for me is a collusion of cycles ending and beginning, by which I specifically mean birthdays, anniversaries.
Just as there are the micro cycles we see and know throughout our lives all the time, also are bigger ones we aren’t so familiar with, until something happens, until something demands that we respect them.
However sad or appropriate it may be, the last time I was abused was the night before my 7th birthday, which is to say that I remember it vividly. There were candles, a pool party that wasn’t, rallying of troops, and a dire negotiation with the Multiverse–which for whatever reason worked out on my behalf. The juxtaposition of that event with my birthday, the most hallowed of holidays any of us can ever have–the opportunity to stand in the presence of the Multiverse and say, “I’m Still Here…” Well, let’s just say that for a very long time, I wasn’t convinced of that, and even when I was, it wasn’t easy.
I reached a point of quiet on that front some years ago, in my mid-thirties. The sting was gone, though a dull nothingness took up its place. Then something truly miraculous happened, again. On my birthday in 2001, I first held in my hands my memoir, Gift of the Dreamtime. The irony wasn’t lost on me, though I didn’t shrink to that. I realized as I thumbed through those crisp new pages that a new era was beginning. I had to bless the old, take up its weary bones, and let new being take form.
So it has. This year I celebrate my birthday, honor the child who brought me to it, and the support of people from around the world who first read about the crossroads of my birthday in Gift of the Dreamtime. It has become more than my memoir. In the true sense of the ancient healing story, it has inspired many others to listen to their own, to tell them, to share their truths.
This ninth year of its being, you can download the ebook from Amazon for free 28-29 June.
Thanks so much for giving it your blessing on its amazing journey around the world!
Nauthiz – Need – Have you noticed that the last time Nauthiz was the Weekly Rune, Mannaz came the week prior, as is the case this time? It’s not a coincidence, and I swear I have more than two Runes in my bag!
By now we know that Mannaz is about learning to call on support and finding mind/body/soul balance, and that Nauthiz encourages us to slow down and be sure of our process. What does it mean that at this time we are being repeatedly called to be certain of our personal cosmology? That the way we order ourselves and observe how our order is supported by, supports, reflects, and fosters our authenticity? It’s a big question to ask.
So often we turn ourselves inside out to get into a routine that provides spiritual discipline, mental focus, physical strength, and emotional nourishment. Specifically, most of us don’t find that clarity without baptism by fire, without deep crisis prompting life change. We wouldn’t even look at ourselves at that level without deep personal emergency. Taking the step to take charge of our core wellbeing is perhaps the most important one we take in our whole lives. So then, how do we respond when the Universe asks us to change that routine, or to question its current relevance? We are used to questioning whether we’re in balance, not the method by which we sustain it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, yes? The very idea that what works needs to change can generate crisis all its own.
This week gently consider where soul sustenance has become rote. This is a bold undertaking from inside the comfort zone. We may gaze upon the scape of our spiritual discipline and see that it works fine, all is well, stability abides. Bless it, thank it, then look again. The message of repeated Mannaz then Nauthiz is that something somewhere in our personal spiritual path isn’t as it seems, even if that thing is reluctance to change the spiritual path. Recall, that which nourishes and guides us to expand our consciousness isn’t meant to be comfortable. It’s not meant for escapism. It’s meant to grow.
As you examine your personal spiritual path and find so much as a crack, address it now. This is your furlough of the soul. This is your opportunity to step back and find the glinting threads that bind your passion to your footsteps again, and find the way that meets your current needs in carrying it through everything you do.
This Runic duo heartily encourages us to use the resources at our disposal, to make the changes needed in our lives, however very personal and sacred. This combination is saying that we can either make that change of our own volition–initiate controlled crisis–or the Universe will initiate one for us.
Kelley, I survived domestic violence, leaving a marriage 4 years ago (the divorce was 3 years ago). The marriage lasted 14 years. I’m so much happier now, like night and day, but feel stuck in several areas of my life. It feels like the former marriage hangs over me like a gray cloud. What’s going on? Negative thought patterns? Evil spirits? How can I break free of this? Thanks, P.
Thanks for your note, P. Wow, your ex was a piece of work! When I ask to see the source of the cloud you feel, I’m shown a manifestation of your former spouse. In the distance I see a younger manifestation of you, though I can’t get to you because your ex stands between us. The spouse’s manifestation is a feminine elemental covered in writhing green vines, and the field around her swirls with daggers and blades that slice anything that nears her. She’s cloudy and dark, and her skin is sallow. Her teeth are elongated and sharp, and she lunges at me. My sense is that this manifestation is a component of your spouse that is stuck in your field, though it is more than that. The hold your ex has maintained since your departure has become its own life force–this seething green elemental.
I ask her simply if this is her life’s destiny, to torment you, even after parting. She stops gnashing at me and stares blankly. I ask her again if this is what she wants to do with her consciousness forever, and she drops to the ground, sobbing. She tells me that it isn’t what she wants, though her life force says otherwise. I suspect she is telling me what I want to hear, and after a few seconds she attacks me again.
I hold up my hand and tell her this kind of interaction is not an option. She can go up for healing willingly, or my guides and hers can take her there. Either way, this stops here. For a few more seconds nothing changes, and I place my hand in her etheric field. When I do I see blood and a gaping wound at her root chakra, and overall she’s generally hurt. She becomes a twenty-something woman then, who is exhausted and in a lot of pain. At this point she goes up for healing to the soulbody workers, and she moves on to her destiny. My guides clean up the scene where she had camped for so long, which also ripples healing out to others she harmed along her path. Finally I am able to reach the manifestation of you that is there.
You, likewise, are war torn and hurt, also very eager for healing. When I bring you up, you replenish quickly, and this manifestation of you is released. As well, the area in which you were held is healed, and my feeling is this clearing of your former spouse from your field is what has been needed. She is now free to address her pain and reasons for being abusive in a way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else. Likewise, you are in a place where you can choose more freely how to move forward without her influence.
This feeling of a cloud over you has been one long, draining spiritual emergency, PTSD of the soul. With it now cleared, take care to shore up your protection for a few weeks. Often after releasing energy that has weighed us down for years, when free of it we are vulnerable. Any sore sports, memories, feelings that come up from your time with her, bless them as merely passengers moving through on the way to their destinies. You can just hold the door and let them go. New irritations and sensitivities that arise over the next few days are just your etheric field remapping, raw nerves finding new pathways. Try not to get too into the feelings of things, and let them pass through as well, just observing, feeling.
You are wise to realize what a good place you are in now, P. I hope that you can stand more clearly and firmly in that strength as you shift more into yourself. If I can help you further, I’m happy to.
A component of shamanism that makes it different from other esoteric paths is servitude to a community. How one defines community can be as unique as the shamanist, herself. When I began my Masters work in 2010, learning what community I serve was a key focus. From my admissions essay through my thesis, I aligned my work with creating the Tribe of the Modern Mystic. I don’t know how it dawned on me, as I’d spent 12 years creating and sustaining The Saferoom Project, a peer support nonprofit for adult survivors of child sexual assault. I’d also devoted 12 years to deepening my shamanic path, personally and in working with others. I fully expected my formation of community to comprise some facet of assault survivors, though no matter how much I devoted to that work, I was pulled to mentoring intuitives in spiritual emergency. No matter how I put out the intention for working with survivors to be my community, the clients and students who darkened my doorway were budding seers and healers, every day people reeling from some experience of the wyrd that left them wholly changed and oppressively alone in their transition.
The first time I heard the phrase “spiritual emergency” was from my therapist in 1994. It had just been added as a diagnosis in the DSM-IV the year before. The day we met she told me that she could help me with symptoms of dis-ease in my life–depression, low self-confidence, PTSD, though she said flat out that she felt my distress was of a spiritual nature. She explained spiritual crisis as an awakening, in which the soul or consciousness is expanding more rapidly than the emotions or psyche can process. I can’t express what a unicorn she was, in the mental health care profession back then, able to make that statement with certainty. I spent just under 3 years working with her, experiencing great improvement of my symptoms, though the day we terminated, wholly affirmed that I was still experiencing spiritual crisis. Within two weeks of that last session I committed to deeper teaching on my shamanic path, had a soul retrieval, and felt relief from crisis for the first time in my life.
I didn’t want to walk back through that. To explore my capabilities in helping others assimilate spiritual crisis into soulful awakening required me to re-examine my rootless beginnings as an intuitive. It would force me to recall decades of knowing I was different in a way that defied vocabulary, the endless frustration and depression around feeling called to something that had no boundaries or guidelines, the loneliness of a solitary path, and the fear of many inexplicable phenomena that were part of my norm. I didn’t want to walk back through any of those things or the feelings they stirred. Yet in greeting the stories of others, mine re-emerged as a strong shamanic narrative, encouraging others to stay the course and affirming that they weren’t alone. Along with reviewing my history of spiritual emergency came unexpected emotional snarls tangling my abusive childhood once again with my spiritual path, even if only that both were occurring at the same time, that despite trauma from those different sources, the pain felt the same.
[learn_more state=”open”] An isolated hour with someone who utterly understands you can’t sustain next to weeks, months of inundation from others who don’t, and likely can’t. [/learn_more] I also began to see patterns of those struggling into awakened life coping with mental illness, separation from lifelong beliefs about self, religion, and cosmology, and a resounding lack of support from loved ones during this intensely jarring time. Their therapists didn’t understand, and neither their clergy, community, or other caregivers. I found myself at the center of a gathering of people who badly needed support in an area that, like it or not, I was providing. Yet, in those tenuous relationships, I realized they needed more, just as I needed more. They needed to hear it from someone besides me, more frequently than their routine trip to the local shaman, from a voice that could be engaged as needed, from others who understand what they were going through. An isolated hour with someone who utterly understands you can’t sustain next to weeks, months of inundation from others who don’t, and likely can’t. Most of them never spoke of the supernatural events in their lives to anyone but me. They entrusted me with their most precious secrets. How in the world would I create community when we had all been so ostracized in our personal lives that we couldn’t even speak our truths unless we thought only the Divine was listening?
In indigenous cultures, this dialogue would likely never happen. Not that they don’t experience spiritual emergency. They do–it’s called initiation. It’s called enlightenment, because they understand that enlightenment isn’t a sudden, dazzling solution to all of your problems. It cracks you open from the inside and requires you to rewire, start over, and do nothing the same. Shamanic cultures wouldn’t have this dialogue because they are born into their communities. They come into the world with the support system to witness, honor, bless, and grow their wild, intuitive selves from day 1. Such is not so clear in the west.
I’ve been on my healing path since I was six years old. From the age of seventeen I began my shamanic path. At twenty-seven I began working with others as a facilitator of healing. I realize now, as with all spiritual truths, the shaman doesn’t find the community, the community finds the shaman.
If you feel a need for such support not only of your experience, but in the development of your mystical life, learn more about the Tribe of the Modern Mystic. My life’s work, my heartsong, and my compassion welcome you.
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:
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.
In shamanic work is the concept of soul loss, or when an aspect of the soul has become distanced (I describe it as “shelved”) and can’t re-engage with the earthly consciousness. Souls are infinite, made up of limitless soul parts that travel in and out of our awareness. This soul traveling is the natural progress of growth, widening our awareness, expanding our consciousness. In times of trauma, when a soul part leaves and can’t return to the earthly consciousness, that’s when problems arise: chronic illness, feelings of depression, lack of motivation, feelings of not being completely present. Such is the path of soul loss in an individual. When considering collective soul loss, these factors plus another comes into play, making mass soul wounding more challenging to heal.
Horrific, heart-wrenching tragedies, such as the killings at Sandy Hook, in Nigeria, China, Portland, Colorado, at Virginia Tech, Columbine, 9/11, cause collective soul loss. Natural disasters such as Katrina, Sandy, the 2004 tsunami, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, result in mass soul wounding. As a population watching tragedy from afar, once we can process beyond our instinctive reflex to assess self and realize we are physically unaffected by the disaster, our hearts go out to those who were. We grieve for those lost. We mourn for those who lost loved ones and survived. We devote compassionate support to the affected community, through donations, prayer, providing manpower. We watch through the haze of the media circus, judicial process, and/or legislative attempt to prevent future disasters, seeking release, perhaps even hope, vindication.
Somewhere along that road we begin to realize that we are more affected by the tragedy than we realized, and we feel guilty for that fact. We feel that because our lives were not directly impacted by the disaster, we shouldn’t be disrupted in the daily honoring of life. We shouldn’t be stunted or disconnected from our joy. We shouldn’t feel it as much as we do. We feel selfish for thinking that we need healing, and for turning that heart focus to ourselves, rather than those in the immediate community.
Guilt and ego are the key inhibitors to healing collective soul loss. To devote healing to the whole dynamic, to treat the wound of collective soul loss, we have to include ourselves in honoring what happened, how it left us feeling, and in the healing offered. We must grieve the dead, even if we didn’t know a single one of them. Have compassion for the survivors, and all of the dark days ahead of them as they put their lives back together. Support them and their community in the way that we best can without depleting our own resources. Then repeat that whole process for ourselves.
Animism teaches us that we are all connected in the web of all things. As trauma in our personal lives creates perceived fragmentation of our souls, so collective trauma results in the perceived tear in that web. Only by remembering that we are all connected do we heal. Nothing heals in isolation, but through the combined efforts of us all. We must do what we can to express support for the immediate community, then our healing efforts must turn to our own wounds, knowing that what we heal in ourselves generates healing for others. This is the shamanic narrative. Through the creation of our own healing stories and sharing them, we inspire others to speak their stories. We create a bond focused on collective healing, assuring wellbeing for all.
Take time to reflect on your healing story. Write it down, if it helps, or draw it, paint it. Express all of the feelings wrapped into your experience of the healing process, and know that in doing so, we all heal. We all move closer to wellness.
Originally published on The Huffington Post.
Gift of the Dreamtime Reader’s Companion
Thank you for taking this journey with me through the Gift of the Dreamtime Reader’s Companion for the second, revised edition of Gift of the Dreamtime. I created this Companion to discuss what changes were made to the original text, detail peripheral events and processes brought up in the book, and to respond to reactions I received when Gift of the Dreamtime first came out in 2004.
The book was first published by Spilled Candy Enterprises. I’d spent a year to the date shopping the manuscript when publisher, Lorna Tedder, acquired it. I was thrilled to work with Spilled Candy and remain ever grateful for the experience.
At the time that I wrote this book, the publishing industry didn’t allow much expansion on the understanding of shamanism beyond academic and anthropological assessments. In short, they only understood, thus published, what I call “rearview shamanism,” a perspective that accepts shamanism as a thing of the past and not a thriving spiritual practice of the present. Books that had managed to be published extolling modern shamanism generally fit the formula of self-help books. They followed the formula of introspective memoir, followed by interpretation of shamanic events in mundane life, then closed with insights to engage the reader’s personal reaction to the text. None of them shared their shamanic narrative. None of them offered a glimpse into the other world experiences that brought healing.
I chose to write Gift of the Dreamtime from within that journey space so that reader’s could understand how shamanic healing really works, and Spilled Candy understood that purpose when other publishers didn’t. I remain grateful for Lorna’s insight and professionalism.
Thank you for taking that first formed trek with me into the Dreamtime. Thank you for returning.
For those of you new to the journey into The Dreamtime, welcome and blessings along your way.
I’m very excited to present this new edition, along with this Reader’s Companion. First off, if you haven’t met Christina Pratt, who wrote the foreward for the second edition, you need to. She’s author of An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, and the founder of The Last Mask Center. She’s an amazing shaman and wonderful person. Know her. Listen to her radio show, Why Shamanism Now, and you will find great support on your path, as well as direction.
If you’ve read the first edition, you will notice subtle changes to the text. The most evident change is the removal of the introduction to ecstatic journeying at the end. I chose not to include this section, as to really do justice on soul travel requires an entirely other book, which no doubt, others have already written more eloquently than my hurried end notes. Instead, for this edition I chose to stick more closely to my original intention for the text, which was to provide grounded insight into my process in creating initiations into shamanhood, thus leaving some sort of map for readers to do the same. The book now closes on an introduction to the role of the shaman in a community.
I had no idea where my foray into shamanic healing would take me. As such, resources for mentorship were slim. Gift of the Dreamtime tells my personal story of soul healing. At the time that I wrote it, I didn’t realize that it also chronicled a collective tale of finding initiation along a broken path, as many modern shamans have done. I’ve written extensively about this cultural quest in my column on The Huffington Post and at my blog, Intentional Insights, and look hopefully toward the future of what modern shamans bring to The Dreaming.
Enjoy the ebook, available at SmashWords and Amazon. Gift of the Dreamtime is also available on both sites, as well as the print edition is available on Amazon. It can be ordered by any local book shop. If you would like a signed first edition, please contact me directly.
Gift of the Dreamtime – Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma
Available on Amazon.
In the 8th year of its journey, bestseller Gift of the Dreamtime is now available in its second edition, in several ebook formats. With a foreward by shaman and founder of The Last Mask Center, Christina Pratt, the second edition of this fantastical memoir chronicles a modern shamanic journey from pain, to healing and accepting a calling to work as a soul healer of others. Groundbreaking at the time of its first publication in 2004, still no other modern shamanic work shares an experience of soul healing told from within the shamanic narrative, bringing relatable and credible insight to contemporary shamanic healing. Through that rare glimpse into her experiences traversing the spirit world, Harrell’s story becomes the reader’s adventure.
Not always easy to read, there are unflinching passages examining hurtful childhood memories, confrontations with overzealous spirit guides, and challenging personal obstacles she must overcome in order to heal. The book combines Harrell’s personal journey with instructions for creating similar soul journeys to help the injured child in all of us look at the hurt, understand it in a spiritual context, and forgive both ourselves and others.
Gift of the Dreamtime has remained a bestseller in modern shamanism since its publication, and has stayed in the Top 100 New Age Bestsellers at Tower Books since its publication 2004. Enjoy Gift of the Dreamtime in ebook for of various formats, print from Amazon, or order it from your local bookshop.