Throughout the Betwixt series, I’ve talked about the significance of creating community along a shamanic path. I delved briefly into viewing ourselves as a valuable, informed member of our own spiritual council, encouraged readers to shapeshift into themselves to better step into their power. Taking that further, I’d like to talk about the many blessings and challenges of realizing  the body’s inherent spirituality.

Photo by Jessie Pearl ~ flickr

Most modern shamanic circles focus on all things soul. They touch on amorphous internal cosmologies supporting the whole, though the experience of the form remains demoted in that hierarchy. I connect this oversight to a tendency for modern shamanists to avoid Middle World work, as they tend not to explore the spiritual nature of what is most immediately around us. Rather focus is on higher guidance, deeper resonance.

The more I root into being here, the more I realize the body is the portal. It has all the answers, and knows the questions we haven’t thought to ask. We all get a body when we come into form, and it’s pre-wired and ready to go for the most soul rocking experiences imaginable. The body is intuition manifest. It’s the walking lexicon and interface, all in one. It’s how we are able to hear the mind, and the collection of a bazillion other senses that when we tune, remind us we’re animals. We’re Nature.

Yet we hit the ground running, to dissociate from the body’s wisdom. Ironically, the more we venture into spiritual community, often the less we incorporate the body’s perspective. We don’t often acknowledge that it has a perspective, let alone many. And the idea that every cell has a story… Well.

Pain, or some degree of discomfort, is often the voice we’re most willing to hear from the body. Again, it’s ironic, because it’s the one we least want to listen to. Because we live so outside the body’s experience of form, it is the dialogue of pain that presents a trove of information, expressing our experience as a world of hurt.

How do we wear meat suits, endure all the challenges doing so brings, and still remain connected with All Things? That is the challenge. There’s no one way or right way to do it, and each of us has a unique job in realizing our personal tribulations in staying engaged. My challenge around these involves being a cyclic person, from which I derive my most profound power.

For the record, it has taken me about thirteen years to write that last sentence.

What’s a cyclic person? Many things, the understanding of which is part of its unique challenge. Women identify with the phrase from the onset of menstruation. Certainly those who cope with fluctuating mood and mental health conditions relate. Men later in life comment around awareness of cycles, and how they affect their focus.

For me, it’s a combination of biochemical traits and chronic health conditions. I’ve never been diagnosed as having a mood ‘disorder.’ I have, however, been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Fibrymyalgia Syndrome (FMS) after a car crash in 2001, and have had minor strokes that among several outcomes, affected how I speak, read, and process data. While unofficial, my doctor approaches me on a spectrum of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). I work full-time. I maintain my writing career and my shamanic practice. I have a family, and a driving need to perform well at all of the above.

I recently wrote about how having cyclic focus affects my ability to manifest the things I want. The bigger picture of my changing tides is that I work hard to fully encompass the many voices in my body. I talk to my body, emotions, and mind(s) as discrete beings, and I also hold dialogue with the conditions that I manage. I call FMS in and we talk by a stream in my Lower World.  I frequently have tea with my neurotransmitters. I recently walked with my body to a mausoleum, where we released eras of sick relatives from my ancestral line. Likewise, when my mind just can’t find a foothold in the reality that I want it to, I sit with it where it is. I keep it company, giving it what blessings I can, then I go to sleep, and wake to see where we’ve arrived, because I know it will be some place different.

Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism by S. Kelley HarrellI’ve said often in articles, classes, and sessions, you can do all the soul work and healing you want. If the body’s not in a place where the mind can accept it, spiritual healing can’t stick. I’m willing to go all-in and say it won’t stick.

Where is your body, really? What feels great about it, and what doesn’t?  Does it talk to you? Do you listen? I promise, your body is a prophet in disguise, and that disguise is the limitations amassed trauma has put on your beliefs of what your form can accomplish. 

Get out the superhero cape. Put it on, and whirl around a few times. Ask your body what it most needs from you. Ask the conditions you manage how they inform you, how they cradle you, and how they alter your perception of the ordinary.

Give up your vocabulary, linear movement, and perceptions of how your form relates to the space around you. Become the brand new being you were when you got here, and see what it has always known, without impositions or corrections. Shapeshift into your body as it is, now. Let it choose the sounds that come out. Give it the freedom to move the way it wants to. Transform into the formlessness of deep being, and dive into what information lives there, because that is who you are.

This observation isn’t about learning the story of your body. It’s about learning your body’s story of you, and those are not the same experiences.

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