Back in the 1970s, I was a teenager and the world was a different place than the one we know today. I lived in a relatively remote, valley up on the Pennines in the North West of the UK, which was behind the times in many ways (we still had an outside WC!). This farming community was strongly Methodist and any kind of belief outside the mainstream Christian ideology was treated with harsh criticism. The Internet as such didn’t exist, and with only limited access to (censored list) books from a mobile library van, it was almost impossible to perceive any kind of spiritual belief outside Christianity. So, of course, I followed the only path available, training as a Methodist lay minister until I could no longer reconcile Christian teachings with my visions and inner experiences. There was nobody there to offer any alternative explanation or teachings that could have unveiled my experiences and put them in perspective, so it was a very confusing and painful time to realise that my integrity would force me to step away from the only spiritual path I had ever known.
It would be decades later, in my late thirties, before a spiritual and health (shamanic) crisis forced me to reconsider my beliefs and ask the fundamental question, “Who am I”? This time the Spirits brought a teacher into my life who could give me pointers to find out the answers to the many questions I had. She wasn’t part of any mainstream religion, in fact, she seemed to be the kind of person that mainstream religions warned against–an independent, powerful woman who is in tune with the natural world and so much more. Her encouragement, stories, teachings and above all, observational common sense, allowed me to make sense of things I was experiencing, the Spirits I was meeting, and the changes I was going through. So, in the timeless tradition of our Ancestors and Spirits, I now try to pass that gift on to others so that more people can cut through their confusion to find their own answers and healing.
It doesn’t mean that only my belief is right and mainstream religions are wrong, quite the opposite. It means that each person has free will to follow what proves to be true, and so your own free will is a necessary part of being who you are.
Now in the 21st Century, there are few who do not have access to the Internet and the wide range of writings on every different belief systems on the planet. Choice, information, and knowledge are abundant in a way they have never been before; however, so are misinformation and falsehood. Learning about each different belief system allows us to discern the foundational truths behind such beliefs, so as to share common ground with others.
Being brought up in that pragmatic farming community imparted some benefits, though: closeness to nature, being able to sense and read the seasons, the weather and other signs of change. It also taught me the necessity of being self-reliant, hard-working and practical, qualities I try to live by and encourage in others. It’s all well and good to be able to journey, have otherworld visions ,and even teach those basics. We live in a material world, and often it is practical actions that are required on an intimate level, such as helping a friend, volunteering with a charity, growing your own food, driving a neighbour to a clinic or generally taking your time to do something of benefit to someone else.
Learn more about Jules and her work on her blog, www.worldtree.org.
Available worldwide, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism.