I’ve been asked several times why I tell people not to send “love and light,” Reiki, or “healing” when I express ill health.

A concept I’ve hammered throughout the Betwixt Series is that of personal choice, which is often wholly supported until a request defies personal logic. More than logic, when it defies personal projection of what is perceived as spiritually right and just, or it stirs our emotions, we forget all about personal choice. In this case, when we forget personal choice, we forget to honor the person at the center of the request.

In short, I ask people not to send healing because rarely can folks send such without projecting what they think it should look like. It’s our nature to want to help and support. In fact, many of us agonize over not being able to do more for each other. However, when we embrace the role of shaman, it’s our responsibility to recognize when we force the boundaries of someone else’s healing need in order to avoid dealing with our own feelings around it.

What I want is what you want.
What means ‘healed’ to me means ‘healed’ to you.

Life Betwixt - Essays on Allies in the Everyday and Shamanism Among (Book 2in the Intentional Insights Blog-to-Book series), by S. Kelley Harrell“But compassion!” you say. Yes, I say it, too. Again, the ability to hold compassion for someone without projecting how that compassion should manifest is key. Can you do that?

“But if I want you to be well, how could that possibly interfere with what you want for yourself?”

Good question. Let’s talk about how our brains work. Our brains function by pattern recognition. We have survived as a species because our brains are wired to recognize patterns and adjust our behaviour, accordingly. Our ability to pattern-match through our five senses is why we don’t put our hand on a hot burner a second time. With this in mind, a good bit of divination is sheer pattern recognition. This isn’t a newsflash, and I detract nothing from woo by asserting such.

Most people are couch potatoes when it comes to making radical change in their lives.  It’s not hard to predict what’s going to happen on a couch.

When emotions are involved, patterns are comfort food. Habits are deeply ingrained stuff. The function of pattern recognition is so powerful, it extends beyond our five senses into our dream state. An excellent article about the brain and dream patterns came out last year, indicating that we still pattern-match through our dreams–more effectively than when awake–as the brain barrier drops and ego is uninvolved. Through dreams, we access those deep patterns that we unconsciously project onto our lives and that of others. And we all learned in Psyche 101, it’s those patterns that truly inform our waking consciousness.

“But how does what I want actually affect people?”

We know trees talk to each other. The ancient unseen meridians of acupuncture have been proven as a thing. That information travels through quantum fields is also a thing.  Synchronicity phenomenon, which suggests separate objects interrelate with each other, results in correlations between their observable properties . Indeed, the science behind field interconnection and the ability to cast or source influence across it/them is undetermined. However, it hints at pattern recognition beyond the five senses, which has been a focus of ancient sacred paths as much as New Age woo. Whether we name the act of such energy work, magick, prayer, spiritual love and light, creating reality, Law of Attraction, Jesus Saves, or some force we don’t currently know, each of these points to the belief in pattern matching in our common fields.

"Spiritual Avoidance isn't spiritual." S. Kelley Harrell, Soul Intent ArtsThe end result is that when we put forward to [the Multiverse, the gods, G~d, or good luck],  an expression of what we desire into action–meaning we hold it in our thoughts space, our feeling space, and we actively do something on a regular basis to help bring that into being–we project a pattern of what we want. With actual effort backing up that projection, it’s probability of manifesting is pretty high. When we do that with a fixed expectation of other peoples’ needs, we can create conflict with what the person actually wants. Our good intentions can even have the opposite effect.

“My love and light can cause harm?”

Yep. If you put it forward with a projection–conscious or unconscious–of what you think that healing outcome should be, you risk undermining what the person really wants for self and causing harm. The entire premise of wyrdworking, creating reality, or whatever you want to call it works on our ability to sustain the space of what we’ve put forward as our desire. Part of that space is shared, always. Therein lie the countless variables we can’t account for (or can we?). If we have a view of what health and wellbeing looks like, yet that desire is assaulted constantly by what others think it should look like, it’s that much harder to hold the space for it to come into being.

For instance, each woman can create her vision of general physical health. She can, in her own field, be comfortable with who she is, work to foster that concept of self through what she tells herself, giving attention to her fitness and nutrition, make lifestyle and relationship choices that support her vision of herself. Yet if she’s surrounded by people who have a different concept of what she should look like, media that intimidates or undermines her self-care efforts, if she lives in a chemically toxic geography, or if she doesn’t have affordable healthcare, her ability to manifest that healthy self is directly impacted by others’ projections–literally and figuratively. Imagine if she truly is not well and in need of care how hard it is to sustain her personal desire of healing amidst the conflict of external projections.

When we assume our projections don’t hurt others, it’s a form of spiritual avoidance.

“How the hell does a person become aware of their unconscious patterns?”

I’m glad you asked. As shamans, it’s one thing to say it isn’t our place to determine what healing should look like for anyone other than ourselves (even then, sometimes we have to be flexible). On the surface most of us agree with that statement. However, when we take it to the real, gritty level of application, emotion, and habit, it means we have to become masters at pattern recognition–our own and those of others. Instead of just falling back on habits of wishing things well, we have to step up and be more active in focusing intention.

"Shamanism isn't a prom dress. It's your favorite pair of jeans that you wear every day." S. Kelley Harrell, Soul Intent Arts Photo by GollyGforceOne of the primary reasons we go through repeated initiations to become shamans is so that we clear out our own shit. We do it for our own benefit, and so that we don’t project that shit onto others. We also do it so that when others are walking through that fear phase of their own lives, we can honor that walk with informed support. We support without trying to change the fear, the walk, or the person. We value the fear as part of the full experience.

To boot, we don’t have to even think about outcome to bless someone in their time of need. We can affirm a person where they are, stand in our truth and path, and bear witness, bless, and support. None of these require forcing our own end game onto the dynamic.

It’s our job to understand our own biases and projections, and to create the spiritual alliances and personal patterns <–see what I did there–that keep our motivations in check. Are we perfect at it? No. The point is to bring in that awareness and wear it like your favorite pair of jeans. Shamanism isn’t a prom dress you wear on a special occasion. It’s your favorite pair of jeans that you wear through every thing, every day.

In practical terms, don’t assume that what you want is the same as what the person wants.  Ask what’s wanted, if anything. Ask how you can hold them in thought, prayer, or heart in a way that facilitates what’s wanted. If you don’t agree with what’s wanted, you don’t have to. Just be present. Have compassion for the person and yourself, and put the rest down, again, and again. And if you’re not sure how to do that, it’s time to learn.

If you enjoy this series, check out my book, Life Betwixt – Essays on Animism in the Everyday and Shamanism Among.