Tag: community

Thursday Betwixt – Embracing Community

In this series we’ve talked about needing humans as part of our spiritual support. I’d like to elaborate on why we specifically need groups as part of our spiritual support.

Photo by Eric Chan ~ flickr

You would think that for animists, community is an easy one. The perspective of animism assumes awareness of, if not connectivity with souls. Most of us modern seekers project that view largely onto what we were domesticated to perceive as inanimate: trees, cars, rocks, clouds. Further, we’re more comfortable seeking soulful meetings with rattlesnakes than another person.  Specifically, a lot of us are more at peace with solitary affinity, and avoid groups like the plague.

Not without good reason, of course. Most modern animists emerged from the church. We arrive back in the wild having chosen to leave an organized belief system that no longer works for us, and any structure that even remotely looks like it. However, when we make those kind of breaks, we realize in hindsight we’re leaving more than a belief system.

If you’re like me, having grown up in a small community that revolved around a tiny country church, my family and church social engagements were inseparable. The same people I saw at Sunday services, choir practice, and youth group, were the same people I saw at Sunday lunch, the Saturday matinee, school ballgames, and birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. They were the same people who gave my mom rides to work when the car broke down, had us over for cookouts, babysat me and my sister, and brought casseroles when there was a death in the family.

Despite however hypocritical, support is ingrained with the belief system; thus, when we leave the church, we leave such help behind. We are trained from an early age to believe that amenities are faith-based, and faith changes, they disappear with relationship. These mundane deal-breakers are like attempting to leave an abusive marriage. Congregation members stay with a faith they don’t really believe in because they can’t sustain without the material supports of the community. Ie, the community would disown them across the board, if they leave.

Likewise, the tangle of religion-of-birth and family can create incredibly painful interactions. Leaving can alter families forever, particularly if those relationships were already strained. Again, some people never break from the church because they can’t bear to lose family ties. Sometimes interconnection does come with strings, and we have hard compromises to make in extricating ourselves from them. This emphasis on situational support grooms us to put spiritual needs last.

Many of us also haven’t had good experiences with groups beyond church doors. Whether focused on earth-based spirituality, a specific cultural path, healing modality, soul practice, community interest, sport, or hobby, it isn’t long before we realize the problems of organization affect every collective. At some point in development, every group has power struggles, personality clashes, imbalance of support, a lack of necessary guidance. Such is the human plight of meeting in numbers.

All of these experiences with groups shade our ability to connect collectively, as animists. When we allow such painful experiences to shape how we come together in groups now, we miss a vital component of personal growth. Don’t misunderstand–there’s certainly room for a healthy, progressive solitary path in any -ism. My concern for whether such isolation is truly working lies in how overall spiritual wellbeing continues to develop and grow. In most cases, it doesn’t, not just due to going it alone, but from choosing solitary out of fear.

The reason we go offroad isn’t just rejection of the main path. It’s also rejection of that base need to group with other humans, and denial of the necessary hoops we must jump in our personal development to deal with the trappings that come with being an active group participant. It’s really no wonder that when I start talking about community to clients and students, their eyes glaze over, because they associate community with suffering. Their psyche folds under pressure from not being able to separate support from confinement, manipulation (perhaps even bullying), dogma, hierarchy.

How do we become animists or shamanists in isolation? How do we develop and maintain healthy boundaries between the personal part of our paths that can never be shared, and the part of our ever-conjoined paths that craves conscientious balance with others? We can’t, until we honor how we arrived where we are.

Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism by S. Kelley HarrellThe ability to find a group now rests solely on healing the wounds from joint interactions past. It’s the healthy thing to do, but it’s also the responsible soul thing to do. When we carry old wounds and try to engage with a group, we’re ripe for having those wounds re-opened. For those particularly introverted, even the base dynamics of group interaction can send us recessing deeper into isolation.

By facing social hurts of the past, we learn exactly what our boundaries are in new collective interactions. We come to intimately know what qualities make a good leader, contributor, witness, teacher, and supporter. As we make heart connections with these roles, we learn more about how to support ourselves and others. We internalize the very thing groups sought to teach us to start with:  the true delineation lies in what needs we are required to fill ourselves, and the ones we need filled by others.

We don’t have to give up the Nature community for a human one. In fact, culling our feelings about interpersonal networking to support our spiritual path can inform and strengthen all of our other connections. As with learning what needs should be filled by whom, we refine when to turn to which community.

What needs does Nature fill for you?

What needs do people fill for you?

Who is your human community?

How do you bless it?

Available now for pre-order on Amazon and other stores, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism — for the spiritually curious youth in us all.


Thursday Betwixt – Healing, Initiatory Crisis, and Community

“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.” S. Kelley Harrell, Gift of the Dreamtime – Reader’s Companion

In the Thursday Betwixt series, we’ve talked about the various guides that can be gleaned along our path–both spirit beings and mundane–and the significance of each. We’ve somewhat talked around why community is important, though I’d like to take that deeper.

Photo by Kip Soep ~ flickrWhether undertaking to learn journeying, to fit for the role of shaman, or experience soul healing through any range of modalities, the number one contributing factor to pitfalls along that path that I see time and again is lack of community. I work with people for whom a class in journeying has cracked them down the middle without proper understanding of how to carry that changed perspective into regular life. I mentor people who want to serve as shamans, though function as the only animistic person in their familiar. I have sessions with clients who leave elated, only to crash a few days  or weeks later.

Each of these examples presents some form of initiatory crisis. After experiencing some sense of awe, distress became greater. I could cite multiple reasons that the ecstasy ebbed. Could be lack of engaging personal spiritual discipline on a daily basis, or maybe poor or lacking mindfulness skills. Perhaps healing wasn’t brought to its fullest potential, or deeper needs for healing were hidden. Fear may be dominant. There may be a lack of tools for how to deepen and ground spiritual emergence. I see each of these omissions often; however, the one downfall I see in almost every case of distress after ecstasy is a lack of community. People, in general, don’t reach out for support.

Often clients don’t want to feel pressured to schedule a followup session, which is understandable. Students don’t want to circle the same material. However, leaving the burden of communicating their spiritual needs on them doesn’t work, particularly if they can’t recognize it for what it is. They are so high at the time of the initial shift, they don’t see the point of having to return, to revisit hallowed ground. Yet without a workable plan in place to support and sustain their initiation, they start to feel distress. They don’t set a followup because they feel the first shift must not have really worked, because they are ashamed that they couldn’t hold onto their healing, or they become afraid of how their mundane needs to change to support their soul. Often guilt is a motivating factor in a client not returning to his/her teacher or practitioner.

On a more practical level, many people are socially or geographically isolated from others who share their spiritual path. They don’t have people near them to connect with, or they’re afraid to out themselves as a follower of a divergent belief system, or as someone uses alternative healing methods. Likewise, people fear not being able to afford community, whether that’s an inability to pay for followup sessions/classes , give donations toward a drumming circle,  or shoulder the responsibility of the interpersonal exchange that community requires.

What is community? What purpose does it serve? How does it influence healing? The teacher or practitioner is part of the community and should be openly appealed to as such. Any spiritual leader who offers classes or sessions in soul healing should be available for what comes after. That said, this single role doesn’t form the whole of a community. It informs the drive to actively participate in one. The group that supports us needs to be people with whom we can speak openly, to whom we can listen steadfastly, and with whom we feel a close sense of belonging. 

What is sometimes called the shamanic narrative, or healing story, is the tradition of healing through community. The idea that through sharing our story, we recognize commonalities, inspire, and evoke healing, creates the basis from which others gain the power to identify, share, and heal through their own stories. In this way a single story heals a village.

That’s the spiritual and neurological magick. The grounded function of community stems from something far more basic: the needs to be heard and to listen. Sometimes all we need is a witness. Other times we need input, tools, another modality, accountability, structure, empathy. We don’t find these resources alone. Certainly, we may consult spirit guides and totems, though most people who are experiencing distress at a personal level also have problems making functional use of altered states. If we can’t talk about our experiences, our experiences can’t mature into a workable lifestyle that sustains healing and the completion of the initiation.

Consider what groups you participate in. Do they support your truth? Do they even know your truth? Do you avoid groups? How might community affect your healing? How might sharing your healing story affect someone else?

Weekly Rune – Mannaz

Mannaz - Weekly Rune on Intentional Insights, by S. Kelley Harrell

Mannaz – human– This week Mannaz fosters our fullest potential. Relationships are key, and whatever is on the agenda can only be accomplished when we make use of our  collected resources. Rest assured, though, all signs point to success in your work, when you can create outer and inner balance.

I call Mannaz the animistic Rune, though that could likely be said about all of them. I say it regarding Mannaz because it looks like Wunjo facing a mirror image of itself. Wunjo is the Rune of joy or delight, which is often characterized as the Law of Attraction–the point at which we’ve figured out that how we hold ourselves determines our lot in life. Joy beholding itself. By finding joy where we are, joy finds us everywhere. The effect of Mannaz, in that case, would be, how we hold ourselves affects us all.

From a shamanic standpoint, in cosmologies Mannaz represents the strata where humans are most directly empowered, or what some might call the Middle World. It’s the place of Earth spirituality, the fae, Nature Spirits, and the pool of our formed wisdom and compassion. If you’re struggling with how to best tap into the power of this Rune, look no further than your imagination. Imagine what you want. Sense it, see it, taste it, listen to it, feel it. So it is. Such power of manifestation is the gift of the Middle World, the act of Mannaz.

Just as Mannaz indicates humans interconnected and drawing on the spiritual resources in their home domain, it also illuminates the human in balance with itself. Take time this week to address Mind/Body/Soul/Emotional needs. Just as you draw on the support of those around you, truly, deeply support yourself. This act of self love is your calling, your gift, and your greatest secret potential.


Weekly Rune – Mannaz

Mannaz - Weekly Rune on Intentional Insights, by S. Kelley Harrell

Mannaz – human– Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it, and solicit all the help you can to sustain the momentum.  This week isn’t about acting alone, being the star, or any other solitary victories.  Sure, this is your life, and it all comes down to your choices, actions, and energy, though your ability to be successful with any of that sources from your ability to connect.

Nobody can do it for you, that’s a given. So, neither hero antics, nor suffering in martyred silence are necessary. Get up, get out, and do. Engage. Talk about your plans. Share your insights. Get insightful feedback. Listen.  Give insightful feedback. Be genuinely interested in what others have to say, about your plans, as well as their own.

The message is that you can get there, wherever ‘there’ is, possibly this week. You can be done with what’s on your plate. The way this happens is by becoming authentically involved.  The energy created from your liaisons with others not only manifests your desires, it also fosters the desires of others to manifest.

This is how creation happens. This is how the actions of one affect All. This is how we come together to be community for each other.  This is how we remember we were never separate.

Healing the PTSD of Hurtful Etheric Caregiving

Kelley, I found you through Soul Cafe. Yesterday I had a horrendous experience with a sound healer. I felt he did not listen to me, passed judgement on me, left me feeling hurt, angry, abused, terribly alone, and misunderstood. He talked a lot and no sound healing took place. In trying to make sense of this and reviewing the session I feel he was very harshly teaching me a lesson about there being no one able to save me but myself, that I have all the power to do so. What is it about me that creates situations where I always feel isolated, different, not heard properly? I seem unable to communicate clearly. In that session I quite literally lost my voice. I keep getting stuck in cycles where I begin to blossom and then wither, and experience loss. More than the loss of the person there is the pain of looking at the situation and having to contemplate how wrong I was about everything, all the positive signs. How can I return on my path? How can I pick myself up again? Best wishes, Sam

Thanks for your note, Sam. I’m sorry that you experienced such judgement from a supposed healer. I wholly trust your assessment of the situation, and I’m glad that you do, too. Although this previous Q&A isn’t the same as what you experienced, the underlying necessity of etheric work having meaning for the client persists.   Not only could he not address your concerns, he couldn’t meet you where you are.  I’m sure the harsh things he said to you did urge you into a different, more aware energetic space. The thing is, he could have ushered you into that space without judgement, fear, and now PTSD, and that’s the part that really chaps me. Not only did he not meet his obligation to you in the healing, but the whole session didn’t have to be that way.

When I ask your guides to reveal the resonant thread in this experience, they flick that guy in the ear. As well, they deeply urge you to find and connect with a spiritual community of peers, benevolent beings not necessarily on the same path you are, but those who can compassionately witness your growth and allow you to witness theirs. At some point we all need like-minded others who can help us hold the space–our own space and that which we hold in All That Is.  We’re not meant to hold it alone all the time.  This guy reinforced to you that not only are you supposed to hold it alone all the time, but that there is something wrong with you if you don’t.  You came to him asking for help doing just that, and he let you down then kicked you for being down.

Finding like-hearted folk will help you heal from this ‘healing’ experience. I respect that you are a spiritual person and you look to the soulful education in all experiences. This drive to find the light in all things carries you. The hurt that this man inflicted is real and needs to be released. As you describe, he was only the most recent experience in a long chain of loss. Because the hurt he inflicted is so fresh, healing this hurt can provide a release for the entire pattern. The guy didn’t have a message for you, bless him. He was the message:  It’s time to release feeling stuck in a pattern of hurt and loss.

In the New Age is the sentiment that we all heal ourselves. While I do believe that, the statement is incomplete. We can’t heal what we aren’t aware of, and we can’t heal with skills we don’t have.  Sadly, numerous energy workers  cling to the idea that we should all just know what we need.  To me the inability of a healer to fill that informational gap shows at minimum a lack of education in the ability to teach the needed skills, and at most a lack of compassion in helping at a more human level. With some healers there is so much emphasis on the spiritual, that more mundane needs go unmet. Wounds happen on all levels, and so does healing.

I do encourage you to connect with others, and through references find a healer who can compassionately assist you on your path.  If at all possible, find someone with the skills to help you process what comes up in the work you are doing.  If a healer can’t help you with skills to cope with the emotional depths, ask them for a reference to a professional who can.  Depending on where you are, I would love to work with you–in-person or remotely.  Also, there are a couple of things that would be helpful for you to do for yourself:

  • Alone in a quiet, meditative space, imagine going back to that session. See it in full detail–the moment you walked in the door, the sounds, the scents, the way it felt, when you met him. Be the experience again, only this time you have your voice. As the experience unfolds, say the things you needed to say to that guy and couldn’t. Let him know how you feel about the way he is treating you and about his role as an energy worker. Thank him for the growth you’ve had as a result of meeting him, and see yourself walk out the door. When you feel grounded in your body, open your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  • Another thing is, your guides are very close to you and are very in tune with what you really need. They are available to inform you on direction in your spiritual growth. Imagine meeting them in a similar fashion as above. Alone in a quiet, meditative space, see yourself in the most comfortable, serene Nature space that you can conceive. Notice how it feels, how it smells, the atmosphere. As you sit and enjoy the space, hold in thought that you allow your guides to come. They may be humanoid higher beings, animal or plant totems. Just sit with what comes and observe. If and when it feels appropriate, ask them questions. They can be a bit tricky about interviews, so tread lightly and keep it mostly to observation. Do this everyday for a week or two. The closer you come to your spirit guides, the more you will attract a solid spiritual community in form.

Cheers for you, Sam. You’re onto something great!


Guest Blog – Making Community

I had the wonderful opportunity to guest blog this week at Dragon’s Den:

I joke to my flist on Live Journal about dreams that I have, in which we gather for reunions infused with long-weekend slumber parties and lots of gluten-free snack foods. The thing is, I really have had that dream recurrently, for years, and half or more of the people on my flist I’ve never met in-person. These are people I’ve met through various venues, interests, and life stages, who for whatever reason have become a solid presence in my life for the last nine years. Yet in some odd ethereal way those dreams are gatherings of this unique clan of writers, soul friends, spirited minds, and our time together is very much not our first meeting. It is a reunion. We are not starting from a beginning. We are in progress.

Other online groups I meet in dreams for rituals, the creative goddesses who craft the cosmos through their art, the global priestesses who genuinely do tend All Things in their daily spiritual practices. We assemble and bless the event, evoke the spirit, chart it into our footsteps then clear out, leaving not a careless crumb behind, cos we are ladies, after all. These are my dream communities, not just in my dreams but my ideals… more

If Mama’s Not Happy… Harnessing Etheric Support in Hard Times

Kelley, my husband and I are taking care of his mother in our home. She is not well and on hospice. He is barely working due to the economy and is having an extremely hard time coping. I rely on my deep faith and metaphysical beliefs to keep going, and try at all costs to inspire my husband. Is there anything about this situation I need to know to assist him with all of these life transitions? Thank you for your insight. Deborah

Thanks for your inquiry, Deborah. When I look down over this dynamic, I see that you are keeping a good bit of etheric distance from your mother-in-law and husband, and keep to yourself a lot more than usual. You aren’t avoiding anyone, just creating a wide berth for everyone else to have space they need in your home and to keep intrusions into your own space a minimum. For you, allowing others their space is a gift, partly because you treasure solitude and space so much, but also because you understand what growth can come from time alone. Your mother-in-law is not etherically capable of that kind of self-work right now. All she can do is hold it together, and that’s a big drain on you, your husband, and your space. Get others involved in keeping her entertained and engaged. Ask loved ones and your community to come have a meal with her, or read to her. Find volunteer groups if you have to, pet services who visit people who are house-bound. Spread this need around as much as you can, not just for your own sanity but because your mother-in-law needs diverse healthy life forces around her right now. Schedule weekly visits from friends so that you can have your alone time and reboot.

Personal Sacred Space

Personal Sacred Space

Your husband needs others to help, too. He is taking so much on himself and feels it’s his duty to be everything his mother needs. While understandable, it’s not possible. One thing you can do to help him is get your loved ones and community involved, ASAP. Like your mother-in-law, he isn’t able to lift the household vibe right now. He can, however, be more active in how he holds his mindspace, and that may need to be addressed. Regardless, he doesn’t have the etheric ability to support the collective. It’s right that he focus on maintaining himself right now. You have an emotional reserve to draw on, to feed you, and right now he doesn’t. Even under sunny skies, you are the emotional trendsetter in your household. Where you are is where everyone else is. You have the ability to set the pace for all involved, which to large degree means you have the responsibility to.Particularly right now, when you aren’t feeling the direct blow that your husband is. The balance for you lies in finding how much you can cheerlead and knowing when you need to step back and give yourself a break. I’m not suggesting you be quiet or demure, just remember that your strength is in how you hold and create your space. And as you get familiar with that you sill start to see how personally empowering working with your etheric space is.

Your husband doesn’t have a solid foundation to process the things happening in his life now, but he’s not going the route of the stoic. He is actually questioning from where he draws strength and faith, and is shifting his beliefs based on this experience. As well, he will rise to your emotional status. He learns from you, even if he doesn’t express it as so.

Your power lies in exerting your etheric field instead of withdrawing it. Now is the time for your intuitive gifts to come to the fore, not only for your own sanity’s sake, but for the benefit of the group dynamic, too. I see the center of your home is very active elementally. It would be a great place for you to work with your space, to invite the land elders, Nature spirits and any other light creatures who wants to help your household. Make your home sacred space. Always remember that you have etheric help to call on as much as friends and loved ones. Ask these beings to help you hold the space. Ask them how to arrange your space to better facilitate the changes in it and your lives right now. Ask them what plants or stones can be allies in your space right now, and in what rooms they should go. Revisit this bond with your home spirits a couple of times a week and keep that relationship active and manifesting in your home. It will do wonders to alleviate stress and move you all closer to needed improvement. This ritual of observance and awareness will also radically strengthen your intuitive skills and your marriage.

Along that line, your husband and yourself need to take time, alone. If it’s not possible to do over night, at least go on a date together. This partner alone time needs to be a priority on a regular basis. He really needs to feel and stay bonded with you, even if his earthly consciousness acts or speaks otherwise.

Hang in there, Deborah. Remember that you can ask help of your allies, physical and spiritual. Your intuition is great. Go with it. Your space and your family are demanding that you come out of the broom closet.