The nature and wisdom of triggers in the shamanic narrative, and guidance on how to release them.
A bit back my story was featured on Candid Slice, a very cool, conscientious blog based on the Triangle area, in NC.
The Healing Story – Listen, Share, Inspire, Heal
Years and a lot of intuition later, my fantasy world collided in a series of metaphors more grounded than my waking life.
I became a series of soul stories, a narrative of personal symbols and mythology. These stories were, literally, me. My self.
Is it any surprise that our earliest form of healing is also our first theatre–storytelling via empathy–the ability to feel as others do through reading facial expressions, body language?
Through this neurological weaving, we don’t simply connect with each other and share feelings, we give healing. We write healing stories.
Throughout archaic history, healing stories are mystical tales birthed from personal tribulation and victory, which are then shared. The process of relating the personal chronicle has several effects.
In hearing the yarn, empathy is generated in listeners. They connect with the emotions of the storyteller, which stir memories and feelings of their like experience.
The Listener becomes inspired. They honor and value their personal stories.
The Listener’s personal stories are aroused. The wound is witnessed, thus healing becomes possible, as does a conception of life beyond the wound. Through ownership of the process healing occurs. Listeners tell their stories. Inspiration is shared.
No more animistic mechanism than the healing story exists, no deeper sharing of what makes us vitally human.
In this tradition of one person sharing the narrative, a single story heals a village. Such is the hero’s journey, the evolution of the wounded healer, the shamanic narrative, even today. The visions that cloud, the scenes that replay, distracting from the rest of life, from the self that could be more completely be…
Be them and they will speak. Write them and they will heal. Heal, and we all thrive.
Originally published on Candid Slice.
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 – 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.
This month I have the honor of being the guest blogger on Pagan author, Barbara Ardinger’s site. Barbara is the author of Pagan Everyday and Secret Lives. Barbara’s blog is exciting because she updates it each time the sun moves into a different sign. Her profound take on stellar movement and what it means in our lives is awesome to track through her blog.
My guest blog this month come from my friend S. Kelley Harrell. Kelley’s an urban shaman who lives on the opposite edge of the continent from me. We became friends on a listserv. I read her new book, Gift of the Dreamtime, which is now out in its second edition. It’s a terrific book. I hope you’ll read it, too. Here’s Kelley–
“Bouncing is what Tiggers do best. —Tigger, from A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh
Since the birth of our twins a little over three years ago, I’ve delved back into children’s literature in an entirely new way. As someone who works as a shaman, I’m always intrigued by the shamanic narrative told in everything. This narrative is the story told to the shaman by the body or emotions, through symbols which are interpreted to bring healing to the individual. We each have this collection of symbols, some unique, some joined in collective meaning. In reading to my children a narrative I commonly find is the story of soul wounding and healing.
The most basic view of what a shaman does, thus the basic principle of the shamanic narrative, is an imbalance of power. Power is either missing from a place that it should be, or is in excess in a place where it shouldn’t be. A common state that results from this imbalance is called soul loss, perhaps the most common ailment shamans work with. Though I refer to it as “soul shelving,: it’s a state in which one (or more) of the infinite facets of the soul has wandered out and cannot reconnect with the manifest consciousness.
Wandering out is our natural state of widening our awareness, and we often accomplish this through dreams, creative processes, engaging new ideas and feelings. Upon experiencing trauma, soul parts leave and often can’t reconnect with the earthly consciousness, resulting in the state of PTSD. How this reaction to trauma manifests can range from severe self-destructive behavior to mild depression, the onset of physical illness, or the general sense that one isn’t quite one’s self anymore. This interrupted flow of life force abrupts personal power.
In reading to our kids, I see this journey from wounding to loss of power, to victorious balance and empowerment in children’s stories. Take the beloved Winnie the Pooh character, Tigger. Everyone knows him for his ability to revel joyfully in life, specifically for his ability to bounce as both a way to experience joy and share it with others. Because it is his most fond pursuit, it is his soul’s expression. Laura Driscoll’s The Search for Tigger’s Bounce, a later addition to the Winnie-the-Pooh series based on works by A. A. Milne, describes such a journey from soul wounding, through the story of Tigger’s lost bounce.
One day Pooh observes that Tigger isn’t his usual bouncy self. Specifically, Tigger is moody, his tail is drooping, and he’s very still. When Pooh presses him about feeling down, Tigger says, “I think I’ve lost my bounce!”
He can recall when he last bounced and that he doesn’t feel like bouncing now, but he doesn’t know the root of his lethargy and woe. Tigger realizes that his bounce has gone away, and that it went away so suddenly he didn’t know where he lost it. This is a typical description of the lethargy and sense of disconnection that occurs with soul loss. Senses and awareness we had prior are simply gone. Tigger’s ability to articulate how he feels and the symptoms around not being able to bounce demonstrate how we can intellectualize that we should be able to do something, be aware that it’s not working properly, yet we can’t just by knowing those things force it to be fixed. This is another symptom of soul loss.
His friends offer to come along and help him look for his bounce. This is a common facet of the shamanic narrative—the acquisition of spirit allies—Nature spirits, angelic guides—who support and assist along the way to healing. Eeyore, Piglet, Roo and Pooh set off to help Tigger find his bounce.
Roo suggests that Tigger return to the place he last had his bounce so the group can search for it there. This return to the source of imbalance is akin to the induction into trance in the shaman’s decoding of the narrative, and is also symbolic of Tigger having to face what caused his bounce to leave. In the shamanic narrative there is always some realization of returning to the source of trauma—figuratively or literally—in order to heal it.
In observing the stream where Tigger was playing when he lost his bounce, the group learns that he was bouncing on a fallen tree trunk, which bridged the stream’s banks. While bouncing on the fallen tree, Tigger realized he was above water and become very afraid.
Pooh then deduces that Tigger’s bounce had been startled out of him. Having an aspect of the soul leave in times of duress is a classic feature of soul loss. Often in trauma one can articulate the feeling of a part of self leaving, afterward feeling fragmented or that something is missing. In this case, Tigger’s bounce was missing. In being faced with a deep fear, his power had left him.
The group looks high and low for Tigger’s bounce, only no one finds a thing. No one can identify exactly what Tigger’s bounce looks like, so they aren’t sure how to find it!
Drawing on the expertise of yet another ally, Christopher Robin, he points out, “I think you got startled on that tree trunk. And then you got worried about bouncing. But you could never lose your bounce,” he says.  Christopher Robin represents the voice of the shaman, interpreting the symbols of Tigger’s story of losing his bounce, drawing meaning from them so personal to Tigger that he acquires a context in which to understand, thus overcome, his fear.
With the support of his allies and through the process of them witnessing his journey to reconnect with his bounce, and with Christopher Robin’s affirmation of his power, Tigger gains the confidence to try to bounce again. In the shamanic narrative, gaining the support of one’s tribe is the deepest fostering of healing. It is the bestowal of power. Within that support, power is recognized, thus balanced, and the wound released.
In the end, just like Tigger, we may not know where we lose bits of our power, but we fully recognize their absence. Armed with the insight of the shamanic narrative in All Things, we gain support to go back and find our bounce.
 The Search for Tigger’s Bounce, Laura Driscoll. Disney Enterprises, Inc., 2004.
My friend Kelley is author of Gift of the Dreamtime – Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma, now out in its second edition. Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts. You can Google her name and gets lots of hits and also find her on Facebook, @SKelleyH, , GoodReads and (good for her!!!) The Huffington Post. Check her out. She’s very wise. Tell her I said hi.
Originally posted at BarbaraArdinger.com
Have a writing project that just isn’t moving? Want to approach it from a completely fresh, inspiring perspective? Join me for the online class I’m teaching, Writer’s Block and the Shamanic Narrative, at the Pagan Writer’s Community. If you have an open mind and an overly active imagination, this class can help you get moving again. Details:
Writer’s Block and the Shamanic Narrative
Purpose: To examine writer’s block from an animistic, spiritual perspective, and through the use of art and the shamanic narrative in the Middle World journey, learn how to reconnect with the spirit of writing, and the potential of the blank page.
Duration: Four Weeks
Starting Date: May 7, 2012
Prerequisites: Experience with meditation. Experience with shamanic journeying is a plus, though not required. A work in progress. Ability to scan documents.
Requirements: Open mind. A stalled project or muse. Willingness to draw. Lucid in imaginative meandering.
Feel free to buzz me with questions at kelley at soulintentarts dot com.