One of the foundational skills that one learns in the shamanic journey or shamanic meditation is how to turn and face one's fears rather than turning and running away from them. Learning to walk towards what we are afraid of is counterintuitive and can be extremely uncomfortable. It is a scary notion indeed to teach oneself not to run from their demons. However, the experience you gain from building this skill is both essential for safe journeying in altered states of consciousness and is deeply healing when transposed into our waking world. ['Transposing into our waking world is' what I am setting out to demonstrate in this post. It gets pretty gritty and personal a ways down. So consider yourself alerted, reader!]
In the journey space our fears often present themselves to us visually as monsters. With practice and some tough work you learn that these are not in fact monsters but hurt parts of ourselves or others that are communicating their pain to us in the only way they know how. They often present us with visual images grotesque enough to show how scared that part is. Essentially when this happens we are witnessing parts of our inner world screaming out to us saying, “I hurt SO badly, pay attention and help me!” Once acknowledged and addressed the transformation is often deep, lasting and quite moving to both experience and witness.
I coach and teach this technique often. Fear is a common theme in the shamanic experience. It has a seat in the medicine wheel and is acknowledged as a potent teacher. The shamanic experience is so often healing precisely because it encourages those most difficult and feared parts of our self to rise to the surface to be examined. The act of altering our consciousness signals our physical, mental, emotional & energy bodies to engage in healing. Layering in Divine presence through container building and invocation additionally supports this process. It can be difficult to encourage my clients towards these realms, knowing what lies in wait. But I am always so proud and humbled by their courage. It feels like a privilege to witness such profound core healing.
It is arguably harder to take a dose of my own medicine than it is to coach others. I want to share an experience with you to highlight a personal, teachable moment. To model vulnerable leadership and to build intimacy and trust with you. I won’t teach from a pulpit and you don’t build one for me, okay? I’m real and fallible and mess up...I commit to sharing those stories as well. The truth is you learn more from these stories than you do the funny ones!
Confronting a personal monster
So if you know me well or have been reading this blog you know I am at a financially tenuous moment in my transition into self-employment. In fact, today we crunched the numbers and despite a very successful launch and an abundant amount of good work over the past few months...we are falling short on our bills this month. We don’t have rent for next month in the bank yet. While a developed and mature part of my mind understands that being a self-employed entrepreneur is a marathon not a sprint, and Rome wasn’t built in a day and this work is often seasonal and etc etc etc., my dad/husband/sacred masculine meter is flashing the emergency lights. Because I have tried this whole starting a business and building a practice thing before. Right after graduate school in fact. I am working on a post right now where I share an abridged version of my healing journey with you and I will cover this at greater length there, but here is the skinny. I entered into a business agreement after grad school and quickly learned the hard way how much an addict can fuck up lives when they are in the closet about their own addiction and receiving no treatment as a result. Only months after moving my life across the country one half of my family was not speaking to me, I had no money, no job, crushing debt and...well...we will fill in the blanks later. The point is, going through that loss was traumatic and money was at the center of the dispute. SO this has brought up lots of fears and wounds.
The figures aren’t lying though. We need to take care of our basic needs so that we can hold space for others, so we have been heading to the drawing board looking for solutions. Our programmed first response has been to head down the path of predictable status quo solutions. Erica (my wife) and I have discussed whether or not I should just go back to the corporate roles and ‘get back in the game’. Or she should. We both should, right?! That is certainly what the dominant narrative would have us believe. Just work harder and produce more and you will be rewarded with a safe and stable life. Except we did just that, Erica and I both. We both worked as corporate executives, we both gave our full commitment and energy to production for the system and were regularly promoted to Director level positions. And we both got sick and almost died in our 20’s. Multiple times. Due to overwork and the systemic trauma embedded in Capitalism and our own families. We could layer in the complexity of the failed health care system and the debt I took on because of that to further highlight the point. We could also talk about the way our culture devalues and renders invisible the contributions of women who choose to be full-time mothers. Or the way industry responds to a woman who has been mothering a child and chooses to return to work...at the bottom of the ladder.
My experience tells me that working harder and producing more and becoming a corporate leader does not equate to being rewarded with a safe and stable life. That’s not how the game works for my generation. The only way that story works in this day and age is if your parents or grandparents have money, own real estate and/or you have a trust fund or inheritance. And yes, you can pick at that and tell me there are exceptions. Or tell me to follow Dave Ramsey or read his books. But I’ve done all those things. In fact I had to borrow money to file for bankruptcy from a family member (shortly after getting out of that abusive business relationship) and the stipulation for the loan was to meet with a Dave Ramsey counselor. Been there, done that. I have also managed P&L's in the millions, successfully grown profits, reduced expenses and have a masters degree. So ignorance or lack of context really isn't the problem I am facing. The reality that I have lived is that you can work your ass off and be the best at playing the game, but never get anywhere unless you have lift from the other generations behind you or you get lucky. And that’s for a privileged white dude!
I have tried to live out the status quo recipe for success given to me by my culture twice. This is a BIG monster for me. It has repeatedly presented itself to me, often leaving me confused because I thought I had turned to face it already in both waking and the journey space. But instead of turning to face it I think I merely tried to trick by convincing it and myself that the status quo solutions were what I really wanted. And I do perform the role convincingly well: I am smart, I am a white heterosexual male, I carry privilege, I can speak and act like a wealthy person. I never set out to manipulate others to get what I wanted this way. But it did buy me some time and breathing room for my family. It allowed us the briefest of windows to do some important healing as a family. But this monster is not that easily fooled, and now I feel ready to face it again.
So face it I shall, by expressing to it my true value and contribution to the solution, not the problem.
So, as you are my witness, to this monster that I have been trying to trick into going away by conforming, by playing by all the rules, by contributing to solutions with status quo responses, I say this:
I see that you are hurt. I can feel that you are in pain. I understand the reasons why you act the way you do. I pray for your healing. I pray that you summon the courage to change your ways. I choose to share with you three lessons you have taught me in hopes that your heart can hear it and begin to heal.
My ability to pay my bills and/or amass material wealth is not an indicator of success in my life. My riches exist outside the realms of an economy or industry.
My natural state is one that is sovereign from a system that values production and growth over contribution to the global family.
Reciprocity is at the heart of Vitality. When I commit my talents to regenerative projects versus extractive ones my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing soars. This ripples outward to impact my family and my community. The growth of my vitality allows me to hold space for others to seek out their own.
I bless you, I honor you, I release you!