Anger and other dark allies

There are five Reiki precepts that are taught in a traditional Reiki I training; five pithy rules that Reiki practitioners are asked to adhere:

Just for today:

– I will do my work honestly

– I will not worry

– I will kind to myself and others

– I will be grateful

– I will not be angry

I’ve always had problems with the last one. 🙂

One of the main reasons I am attracted to Shamanism and Earth-based spirituality is that it is so inclusive of the dark forces. We see these everywhere in nature – tsunamis, thunderstorms, tornados, scorpions, volcanos, great white sharks, cancer, parasites.

Even though these things are unpleasant and even abhorrent to us, we don’t really see them as a kind of problem in of themselves; as things that shouldn’t exist or that shouldn’t be happening. They simply are. They are part of the grand design, the great happening – Nature expressing itself in its myriad of ways.

We humans too have a nature; an inner nature of feeling and emotionality that that if allowed to flow unimpeded mirrors exactly what we see from the larger perspective above.

It is my belief that in general, healing is most often about helping people move more fully into their nature – owning all of themselves – not just the parts of them that are polite, safe, socially acceptable, and unthreatening.

We are all in a constant state of evolution, and if we are coming from the supposition that we are divine beings, than we must look at all the parts of us that we try to hide – jealousy, resentment, anger, annoyance, frustration, lust – from a standpoint of evolution.

They are there, because they serve deep and meaningful purposes.

And if we can SKILLFULLY harness their energy, observe and honor their presence within us, and listen to what they are trying to teach us, they can become not dark forces that we are victim to and have to contend with, but dark allies that can help to light our way.

I recall a story a teacher of mine had told me about his commute to the city from Staten Island. My friend is one of the most wise, realized and kind people I know. But he is also a self-identified witch. And witches aren’t afraid of the dark.

One day, I was talking with him about some annoyance I had just had with some company on the phone. Endless talking to a computer, ridiculous customer service, press this button and that button, overcharges and unethical business practices – We have all been there. I was really mad and worked up, and I had asked him, if I could be more skillful in the face of a situation like this.

He said, squinting his eyes and with a dark grimace on his face, ‘The other day I was on the Staten Island ferry on my commute home from the city. It was so hot, and the ferry was packed. There were children everywhere, smelly people, others playing boom boxes loudly, and a lot of pushing and shoving to squeeze as many people on the boat as possible. As I sat there, trying to make myself small, my knees in my chest, closing my eyes to try to drown out the experience, I had a fantasy: I wanted to kill EVERYONE. I fantasized about how I would do it. Murdering them all. Suffocate that child, strangle that one, and throw that one overboard. Everyone would be terrified by me as I relished in their fear and misery, my hatred in full bloom, one by one destroying them ALL!’.

We both, of course, burst out laughing.

But what he was conveying to me, was something that can be so helpful in the therapeutic process – making friends with what’s happening – even if it’s dark, shameful, or ‘wrong’. In that moment, my friend was getting on his own team. The full expression of his dark thoughts was an act of compassion toward himself. It helped him to not fight against the moment, but rather to really be with what’s there.

Now, I am of course not advocating blind reactive anger, or chronic anger (often the result of deep wounding). But rather, an intelligent presence; a kind acknowledgment that ‘this is happening’. It’s only in this recognition, that we can begin to look at what is underneath; what our darkness is trying to teach us.

In another session with my teacher, I remember expressing real jealousy at another person’s accomplishments. He smiled and said, ‘Oooo, what are you yearning for? What might you need to do for yourself, to not feel that any longer? What direction does it point you toward? This jealousy is there for a reason. How is it helping?’

Again, making friends with what’s happening; getting back on your own side.

Theres a tradition that I love among gurus, shamans, spiritual teachers; those who have done lots of work on themselves – its a tradition of LAUGHING. They seem to always be laughing. And the laughter seems to stem from the fact that to them, NOTHING really is all that scary. Even our darkness.

My work is about teaching people to hold themselves in ALL that they are. In doing so, they can start to remove the subtle ways in which they turn against themselves and the world.

Expanding the Buddhist definition of ‘Right View’ through Spiritual Counseling

One of the fundamental and central philosophies of Buddhism is the Noble Eight-Fold Path – eight steps to enlightenment through wisdom, ethics and meditation. The path has eight aspects that are always listed in a specific order: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

Like any integrated system, all of these parts work together simultaneously.  And listing them separately, I imagine, helps contextualize and organize them as teaching tools for those who study Buddhism. Quoting Pema Chodrun, ‘Buddhism is really big on lists’. 

The Buddha taught that the foundational groundwork of clear seeing, of Right View, is the first step we take toward Enlightenment.

Right View refers to very specific buddhistic philosophical tenets: the inevitability of death, the truth of karma, the reality of rebirth, the nature of samsaric existence, the impermanence of all things, the absence of a fixed individual self, and the interconnection of all things. Lama Surya Dass, author of AWAKENING THE BUDDHA WITHIN colloquially calls these, when adopted as a belief system, ‘mind changers’.

But Right View, to me, needs to be malleable and individual, not just Buddhist. Each person who comes for spiritual counseling is in a search of their own personal ‘Right View’ – a way of being and an intimate belief system that supports their growth, healing, individuation, and potential.

So often, the ‘view’ that clients have of themselves and the world, is in direct opposition to their greater good; a ‘wrong view’, so to speak. Helping them dismantle this, a spiritual counselor must guide the client into unlearning that which has contributed to this mistaken way of being/seeing and to bring them toward new possibilities.

The counselor, therefore becomes not just a loving presence of unconditional love and support, but a teacher as well. Knowledge is a doorway to choice and possibility and it helps destroy the illusions and ignorances that block people from the discovery of their truest selves.

When counselors are able to provide information and knowledge, it can help the client to transform unhealthy habituated patterns and beliefs.

For instance, the acknowledgement of the truth and validity of a client’s childhood trauma (this actually happened to you!), and explaining what trauma is and what it’s long term effects are, can be tremendously healing.

Other examples might include – teaching loving-kindness meditation to someone who tends to be hyper-vigilant and distrustful of others. Helping a client see that their pattern of attracting abusive relationships may stem from some unfinished business with a parent. Explaining to one conflicted about his sexuality that many indigenous cultures revere those who are thought to be gay, lesbian or transgendered; often referring to them as ‘two-spirited’ and pedestalizing them as spiritual leaders of their communities.

The above are just a few of an infinite number of examples that demonstrate how Right View can be essential to healing.

People are often living lives from a foundational belief system of mis-knowledge that is not supported by contemporary psychology, essential spiritual truths, or the energetic laws of quantum physics. In order to heal, we must traffic in truth, and truth is often obscured.

That which is suggested by the counselor as a course of action, or taught as new information to be integrated, are not absolute edicts or commands to be followed by the client. Rather, they are the material with which the counselee learns to see themselves differently. An invitation to adopt a kinder, more inclusive and supportive outlook; one that is instrumental in helping them to claim their wholeness.

From AWAKENING THE BUDDHA WITHIN:

Right view is the reliable touchstone that reminds us to look at the world without delusions or distortions about reality, or ourselves; to see roses where there are roses and thorns where there are thorns. Right view emphasizes the development of wisdom, or prajna, which at its essence means knowing what is, knowing how things work, and knowing oneself and others. 

Shamanism and Nature

Shamanism pre-dates, and underlies all spiritual paths and systems. Unitive contemporary spirituality seeks to find and identify that which is true and resonant for all sentient beings. And, the wisdom of the ancient indigenous cultures does this through the reverence of nature.

The reason why we would want to revere something is because we are inspired by it, because we want to align with it; to be more like it.

There is an inherent and unmistakable perfection in nature. Nature exemplifies order and design. When we look at it, we see a system that is self-generating, self-healing, holistic, and deeply interconnected. There is an ‘is-ness’ to nature that is, as Alan Watts would say ‘of itself so’. There is nothing to add or leave out, nothing to improve upon or deny. It is a web of life that functions and exists effortlessly; the sum of all of its parts.

There is no such thing as an imperfect cloud, a neurotic ocean wave, a self-loathing giraffe, a guilt-ridden tree, a shameful thunder storm. Even when nature is violent or unpleasant to us, we still see it as somehow necessary and inevitable. In Shamanism, we use nature’s example of un-conflicted wholeness as a template in which to guide us in our lives.

This is good medicine.

We are nature. Our bones are earth, our breath is air, our blood is water, and our emotions and metabolism are fire. There is nothing that goes into us or comes out of us that doesnt come from or return to the Earth. We are all the children of Pachamama, the Earth Mother, and she nourishes us every second of our lives.

We, as a species, are in trouble because the Earth is currently under threat. She is not a commodity to be exploited. She is a source of life that deserves our love and gratitude. And, she will never be beaten into submission.

And it is through sacred activism, and the inclusivity of our vision, that we can help to save Her and ourselves.

It is my hope that Nature becomes a mirror for all of us to see and recognize the inherent divinity and holism that is our natural state; our birthright.

Sin

Philosopher and author, Alan Watts on Christianity in his scathing lecture ‘Sex and the Church’ – ‘Christianity has institutionalized guilt. As a virtue’. 

I am not a church-y guy. But the other day I found myself transfixed (like a car accident where you can’t look away) with one of those Sunday morning Evangelical shows on cable TV. The pasty and paunchy preacher spouted on about ‘Sin’, ‘Absolution’, ‘God’s Remorse’. ‘God’s Forgiveness’, ‘the Sacrament of Confession’.

Usually this would just make me roll my eyes and change the channel. But this time, I felt ‘triggered’ by what was being said; and particularly bothered by this idea of ‘sin’. I had, of course, heard of sin thousands of times. But I hadn’t ever examined the implications of a belief structure where it is a central concept. After all, many people go to church in earnest looking for ways to heal, and means to help them improve their lives. And, what they are often being taught about is their sinfulness.

While I personally did not suffer religious wounding (other than the pervasive Christian cultural dominance in the collective unconscious of much of the Western world) many of my clients have. And I believe that the idea of ‘sin’, as it is traditionally understood, is not only antithetical to healing, but can lead to continued fragmentation, confusion, and disempowerment.

People who have experienced emotional wounding, neglect, trauma etc. often have a deep sense that there is something inherently wrong, dirty or shameful about them. Negative personal decisions they have made and life experiences that they have attracted because of their negative core beliefs, become a further source of embarrassment and shame.

Healing is best approached from a strength-based perspective – one in which the client is being guiding to their already healed self.

Implied in the concept of ‘sin’ is judgment. And judgment (naming those bad things that we have done or that we are) is not only unhelpful, but potentially extremely damaging.

Judgment contributes to the deep inner conflict between who we actually are (perfect and whole) and who we mistakenly think ourselves to be (broken, unlovable, lost etc).

Furthermore, the notion that only someone with specific credentials and some kind of ‘pipeline’ to God’s mercy (The Confessor) can absolve another from the badness that they are, does nothing but help to support an individual sense of powerlessness.

Those on the healing path need a perspective opposite from sin. No matter what mistaken, improper choices have made, no matter the level of ignorance that has led to those choices, no matter how ‘low’ we have ever been, no matter what the ‘sin’, we were always innocent.

We are always, in any given moment, doing our best.

Aligning with this idea creates acceptance and inclusiveness. It teaches us that the best place to be is exactly where we are. Only then can one begin to work with ourselves in a different way.

Even those who commit atrocities or create great suffering do so out of a kind of fear and ignorance that begs understanding and compassion, not judgment. Taking responsibility for the negativity in one’s life comes not from the ‘forgiveness’ offered by the male (always male), all-knowing great Papa-in-the-sky-God. But rather, from a sense that we can acknowledge our mistakes, see and hold our confusion and pain with love, and reclaim our innocence.

Engaging in ‘sin talk’ opens us to the corruptible; to every aspect that is abhorrent about organized religion. A sin to whom? Who decides what is a sin? A sin in the context of a particular culture or religious structure? A ‘mortal’ sin or just an ‘everyday’ sin? Is it a sin to kill Hitler? Capitol punishment? Alternative sexuality? Stealing when your children are starving? What a women does with her body? It’s all a slippery slope.

The notion of sin leaves no room for the unknowable. It projects a human understanding and logic unto God; and worse, a human sense of justice. And whatever this is depends, of course, on what one’s individual sense of justice is. Carolyn Myss (author of ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT): ‘If we are just, then God must be ALL just. If we are loving, then God must be ALL loving. If we are moral than God must be ALL moral, but times a hundred! 

Everything is reduced to good/bad, black/white, nice/not nice.

But within our mistakes, foibles, and sufferings (our sins) are jewels of directionality that help to light our way.  They are opportunities to help remind us of what we have forgotten – our inherent divinity.

While Christianity is not my path, I am totally on board with the ‘these things and more you can do’ school of Christianity. This means direct revelation from the Christ, as the Christ. We have the power, because we are the power.

The alternative view is guilt. And guilt, as far as I am concerned, is extremely over-rated.

The truth about curses

Curses, evil spirits, and possession – When people contact me believing that they are victims of these things (or the like), I am often wary about taking them on as clients.

My reticence is not that a prospective client is ‘cursed’, ‘possessed’ or ‘haunted’, but rather that they are operating from a cultural and psychological belief system (and an energy system that is following suit) that makes them ‘curse-ABLE’, ‘possess-ABLE’, and ‘haunt-ABLE’.

When I was working with a shaman is Brazil, he said something that I will always remember regarding the importance of maintaining strong energetic boundaries and protection:

You get to have your body and the three feet around you. That’s yours – Your energy, your aura, your body. The universe can have absolutely everything else.

But that is YOURS to do with as you choose’. 

What the shaman was speaking about is directly related to what tends to happen when one MAKES ONESELF energetically vulnerable to these low-frequency or ‘bad’ energies. There are many reasons why this occurs.

Negative energy and harmful intentions toward others, are of course, very real things.

To see this in action one need only watch two boxers before a fight – in each other’s faces, staring each other down, scowling and sneering. You can observe them trying to hurt the other just with their thoughts.

But it’s also important to note that both fighters seem to have built up psychological and energetic defenses that make them impervious to the other’s ill intentions. They have found a way to seemingly not allow the negativity to permeate their field.

Curses, as I’m discussing in this context, are actually quite similar to the psychic warfare created between the boxers.

It is my hope that the following helps to clarify (and debunk) the nature of ‘curses’ in a way that can empower people to relate to these kinds of energetic disturbances in a workable way.

It should also be noted that I am speaking about energetic and notphysical violations (which could also be considered a kind of ‘curse’).

The use of the word ‘body’ in the above quote from the shaman may imply that he is suggesting that we always have a ‘choice’ in what happens to our physical bodies. This is of course, not the case, nor is it my intention to suggest otherwise.

PSYCHOLOGY AND CULTURE

Implied in the language of ‘curses and evil spirits’ is a kind of victimization and powerlessness – ‘I am weak and vulnerable. This evil thing has been done to me by another. I have no control over it. The world is a very dangerous place. I am haunted’.

This way of thinking often comes from a specific personal belief system in which people choose (or subconsciously want) to see themselves as subject to these energies.

But its origins can also be the result of a cultural context (a nationality, geographic location, or a nuclear family) in which there has been culturally-sanctioned victimization, discrimination, or disenfranchisement.

From the psychological perspective, there is often a great ‘benefit’ for people to see themselves as victims. This allows them to blame others, not take responsibility for their lives, and to continue to live life from their wounds (I’m broken, such and such has been done to me, so I’m allowed to be a mess’).

I have seen a real pattern of attachment to this victim identity; this powerlessness. And it can feel like a real threat to even talk about dismantling it. But this is what most often needs to be the focus of the healing work, not the ‘spookiness’ of the ‘curse’.

Additionally, I have never had anyone come to me asking for curse removal where there wasn’t a history of trauma. I’m not saying that trauma and ‘curse’ always go together, but I personally have never seen it otherwise (more on this to follow). And there are a host of other possible psychological explanations such as mental illness or chronic anxiety and fear.

From the cultural point of view, the quality and nature of curses seem to differ by nationality, location, and religion. For instance, Haitian Voodoo doesn’t seem to exist in Buddhist countries, the only place to supposedly find a legitimate exorcist is at the Vatican, and I’ve never heard of a Hindu needing a de-possession. There is simply no standard, cross-cultural context for any of this.

In many cultures around the world, women are often subordinate to men. And by adopting (or accepting) a paradigm that readily allows for curses to exist, women secretly indoctrinate themselves into the possibilty of more ‘power’ (its the only way they think they can get it) and at the same time mirror their culture’s sense of female weakness and low status. This dynamic can, of course, apply to men too.

ENERGETIC CONSIDERATIONS

From a shamanic perspective, low entities and dark forces absolutely do exist. But they can only attach themselves to a willing host. This means that when energetic boundaries are in some way compromised – when there is a ‘hole’, so to speak, in the aura, something ‘bad’ can then ‘come in’.

The universe abhors a vacuum, and energy finds a way to balance itself (even if its by taking on bad energy). In other words, when we aren’t energetically ‘all there’, we are then open to other energies that ARE NOT OURS. This is what can make one susceptible to a curse or dark force.

There are many ways in which we lose ourselves. For instance, during trauma like physical or sexual abuse, pieces of our vital essence (or soul) can splinter off from us. Or we can consciously or unconsciously send them away (disassociation). These are adaptive reactions that are trying to help protect us from further pain (‘If less of me is here, it hurts less’).

Another possibility that might remove parts of us from our own energy field is if we have sublimated a core need in order to hold someone else’s (a parent’s for example), or in an effort to fit in.

For instance, a child who’s core need is not met, will often adjust by forming a sense of self that pretends that need doesn’t exist, or he will in some way banish it entirely from his field. This then leaves a space for a foreign entity to attach.

Healing requires us to be energetically FULL OF OURSELVES. This means having very clear boundaries and bottom lines, being vigilant about what (and who!) we allow in to our energetic field, and having a personal belief system that is self-loving and nurturing. The idea is, as the shaman said, that ‘you get to have your body and the three feet around you. And you can do with it what you choose’. 

Evil spirits and curses are powerless and cannot hold or attach to a vessel that is filled with love, self, and personal power. It’s impossible. It’s like a mosquito trying to bite an iron bull.

So, its not about changing the ‘curses and evil spirits’, it’s about changing the vessel!

Manifestation through the Chakras

The origin of the Chakras began thousands of years ago, when they were first mentioned in the Vedas – the ancient Hindu texts of knowledge. Today, with the incredible popularity of yoga and wide-spread interest in alternative healing, they have come into the awareness of the contemporary main-stream culture.

But the Chakras are still widely misunderstood. They are seen as mystical, eastern, yogic, esoteric. And though it’s now common in our contemporary parlance to hear things like, ‘I think my chakras aren’t balanced’ or ‘open your heart chakra’, there is still little understanding of what these kinds of phrases mean.

So, it’s my hope that I can help demystify and unpack the chakras in a more practical and accessible way. Because whether you know it or not, your chakras are functioning in your life right now. Moreover, they are your personal doorways to your spiritual growth and physical health.

The seven chakras are energetic disks of energy (chakra in Sanskrit means wheel) and information that are housed along the spine. While they are inside the body, they also connect, assimilate and contribute to the energetic information contained in the human energy field, or aura. This field of personal energy surrounds and pervades the physical body, and it is directly affected by the external environment around us.

In addition, the chakras are located near (and in relationship with) the major glands of the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates and oversees all the biological processes of the body; this system is also responsible for the physiological response to the energetic information it receives through the chakras.

It is widely believed in holistic and Eastern medicine that all physical dysfunction begins first as energetic and/or emotional imbalance. The chakras are the ‘portals’ through which energetic disturbance moves into the tissues of the body.

The chakras are the ‘organs’ of our energetic anatomy, and the information contained in them makes up all of who we are – our beliefs, habits, emotional life, fears, sexuality, survival instincts, familial connections, relationship to spirit etc.

When the chakras are open, clear and spinning, they are functioning optimally and unconsciously. They work naturally, in much the same way that the lungs, heart, stomach, kidneys, eyes, brain etc. effortlessly carry out their respective functions.

But when there is imbalance or blockage in one or more of the chakras, we can lose vital aspects of ourselves. This contributes to psychological impairment and/or physiological problems that can undermine our growth.

QUALITIES OF INDIVIDUAL CHAKRAS

The above diagram shows the seven major chakras and their location in the body. Each chakra contains qualities, attributes and information that I will summarize as follows. Also included in the following are explainations of how a chakra might become compromised.

I will start from the seventh chakra at the crown of the head, and work down the body to the first at the base of the spine.

7TH CHAKRA (crown of the head) – INSPIRATION

This chakra is where we receive inspiration from our ‘higher self’, or from Spirit. It is the seventh chakra that receives guidance from ‘above’ and brings it into our conscious awareness. This guidance is the ‘voice’ that urges us to start a new exercise program, write a book, move to another city, change careers, leave a relationship etc.

The seventh chakra becomes blocked when we don’t listen to inspiration, when are disconnected from a ‘higher power’, or when we have beliefs about ourselves and the world that make the guidance we are being given impossible, inconvenient, or frightening.

6TH CHAKRA (center of head) – THINKING AND VISUALIZATION

This chakra houses our ability to think, visualize, and intuit.

The sixth chakra becomes impaired when we don’t allow ourselves to take in new ideas, when we don’t trust our intuition and intellect. And, when we have beliefs about ourselves and the world that would make it futile to visualize something new for ourselves.

5TH CHAKRA (throat) – COMMUNICATION AND WILL

This chakra houses how we communicate and express ourselves. It is also the seat of our personal will.

Fifth chakra dysfunction is caused by a compromised ability to speak and communicate our personal truth. When we have beliefs about ourselves and the world that cause us to limit our expression, or if we lack the will to support our true integrity, this chakra can become impaired.

Also, when there is incongruency between the head and the heart, the fifth chakra (located between these two points) will often be compromised. This almost always manifests as an addiction. Addiction lives in the fifth chakra.

4TH CHAKRA (center of chest) – LOVE AND RELATIONSHIP

This chakra is the place of love, compassion, empathy and relationship.

A closed or compromised fourth chakra occurs when we ‘close our hearts’. Most often this has to do with fear and control. We fear the free intercourse with the world and ourselves in it. We close the fourth chakra as a way to protect ourselves from hurt, rejection, abandonment, and the inherent instability of life.

3RD CHAKRA (solar plexus) – SENSE OF SELF

This chakra contains our personal power, self esteem, ego, persona; who we think we are in the world.

When we fail to fully individuate, when we have mistaken beliefs about our true and authentic nature, when we lack the esteem for ourselves that leads to personal empowerment and clarity of self, the third chakra will fail to function at optimally.

2ND CHAKRA (two inches below the navel) – SEXUALITY, CREATION AND EMOTION

This chakra is where we feel most deeply. It is the seat of our sexuality and our impulse to create. It is through deep emotion and physical sensation that we make manifest whatever we choose to bring forth into the world. It is also the place where we have the most access to the deep knowing and wisdom of the body (listening to your gut).

Sexual wounding and sexual disconnection, fear of being in one’s body, and stifling feelings can all cause imbalances in the second chakra.

1ST CHAKRA (base of spine/perenium) – SURVIVAL NEEDS, EARTH CONNECTION

This chakra contains what we need to continue as a species – our most basic survival needs – food, shelter, clothing; and the fight and flight response

Homelessness, un-groundedness, disconnection from family, poverty, and severe trauma can all be causes for imbalance in the first chakra.

MANIFESTATION THROUGH THE CHAKRAS

It is important to note that the chakras, despite their individual qualities and characteristics, work together as an entire integrated system. And if even one is compromised, it can effect the integrity of the whole.

One of the best ways to illustrate this is by looking at the chakras as a pathway toward the manifestion of a singular goal.

Let’s explore the goal of writing a book and run it through the chakras system:

7TH CHAKRA (crown of the head) – INSPIRATION. You have beeninspired to write a book. You get a message, a feeling, an idea, from Higher Self, from Spirit, that you should write a book.

6TH CHAKRA (center of head) – THINKING AND VISUALIZATION. Youthink about the book. You visualize what it would be about, and what it would look like. Who would read it? How would you organize it? Could you get it published? Is this book worth the energy and time it would take to create it?

5TH CHAKRA (throat) – COMMUNICATION AND WILL. You begin to talkabout the book, and figure out how to find your voice in this book. How would you communicate your ideas? Would the language be formal or colloquial? Do you have the will to commit to the long hours of creating this book? How would you have to organize your life in order to make writing this book a priority?

4TH CHAKRA (center of chest) – LOVE AND RELATIONSHIP. You pour your heart into the book. You give it your love. You develop arelationship with what you are creating and you cultivate relationshipswith others (publishers, literary agents) that will help and support this endeavor.

3RD CHAKRA (solar plexus) – SENSE OF SELF. You identify yourself as a writer. It has become a way in which you think of yourself; a part of your identity. I am a writer.

2ND CHAKRA (two inches below the navel) – SEXUALITY, CREATION AND EMOTION. You feel what it’s like to write the book, and you have all the emotions associated with doing so. You are in the thick of thecreative process. You feel the fatigue of hours in front of the computer, the frustration of accidentally deleted work, the excitement of a chapter that you hadn’t previously planned.

1ST CHAKRA (base of spine/perenium) – SURVIVAL NEEDS, EARTH CONNECTION. You’re book is published and available on amazon.com. You are paid money for your book which provides you with food, clothing and shelter. Your book has entered the world.

As you can see in the example above, it is the negative/limiting beliefs that we hold (I’ll never be a writer, I am not intelligent enough to be a writer, I always fail at everything, I don’t have the will-power to write, I am afraid I will fail, I don’t have a unique voice, I can’t afford to take the time) that keep the chakras from being open, clear pathways for manifestation.

Further, if there is an energetic or physical constriction in the area of a chakra or the chakra itself, we may have less access to the vital contribtion that a certain chakra contributes to the process of manifeastion.

 

What I learned in Sedona

Sedona, Arizona is one of my favorite places, and one of the most special places on earth. I have been there many times since my first visit in 2001.  Home to the most incredibly beautiful red rock mountains, gorgeous desert landscapes, and a population that seems to be inundated with seekers, mystics, healers and the like, Sedona definitely has a ‘spiritual’ vibe that is unmistakable. It is widely believed that the land itself of Sedona contains ‘vortexes’: swirling, vibratory, healing ‘channels’ that seem to be a part of its very landscape; and I wanted to experience what this place claimed itself to be.

I traveled alone, relatively ‘new’ to spirituality, unsure of what I was looking for, but not entirely a novice. I had practiced meditation on and off, for some years, and was at that time, a Reiki practioner. Nevertheless, I was definitely on a ‘quest’; for what, I didn’t know. To this day, I have no idea of how Sedona even came into my consciousness, I just found myself, one day, intent on going there.

When I arrived, as soon as I saw the first mountain as I turned onto the Sedona exit traveling on HWY 179, I could not believe it. It was just so unspeakably beautiful. But I had NO IDEA why I was here, and I was staying for an entire week. I was going to be in a tiny motel downtown, as opposed to one of the luxurious spas that most vacationers frequent, and I had no agenda whatsoever other than to ‘experience’ this place. I figured I would go to a ‘healer’ or two (the local population seemed to be teeming with them), maybe get a massage, hike and relax.

I spent the first few days just walking around, hiking the well-marked trails and getting very quiet. More quiet in fact than I had ever been in my entire life. It was so awe-inspiring to be in this landscape, so peaceful, so vast (you could go on a hike and not see another living soul for hours). And I just wandered, hiked, sat on rocks, washed my feet in mountain springs, laid in the sun, and became friendly with the occasional fly or gnat that seemed to be attracted to the sweat on my body.

And then… I began to have conversations with myself. I would ask a question about what I didn’t understand about life, my relationships and friends in NYC, my family, my career, and I would immediately get an answer. The answers came in a friendly voice (different from my acerbic, city tone, but definitely still my voice), and they made a kind of fundamental, pithy sense. Nothing earth-shattering, not incredibly enlightening, but clear and kind and manageable and comforting and reasonable. And a little weird. I was, after all, talking to myself. The voice didn’t seem ‘spiritual’, it was just kind of pleasent; it felt like ‘Jonathan, relaxed’.  And I thought, ‘it’s nice to be on vacation’.

And then I went to Boynton Canyon. 

I was told that this is a popular, relatively easy, but long hike with just a few steep parts at the very end. ‘Why not’, I thought, ‘what the hell else am I gonna do here’? I arrived at the entrance of the trail early on my fifth day in Sedona. And I began. The tiny trail I followed to the top took over two hours. It was very gradual, very pretty, surrounded by forest that made it impossible to have any perspective of where I was or where I was going. I still had the talking-to-myself-in-Jonathan-calm-voice-thing going on, but at that point in seemed familiar, and frankly, kind of boring. And then I got to the top.

I climbed the ‘steep part’, and found myself alone on thousands of yards of flat red rock, surrounded by forest, so high up that I couldn’t believe it (I had been climbing at such a gradual pace I didn’t realize where I was going). I was in the sky. And I could do nothing but sit there and take it in. And then, something weird happened:

My consciousness total changed, everything seemed totally foreign, I felt kind of light-headed, nauseous, and oddly happy all at once. And I then experienced, became one with, communed with, merged with…..IT. Yes, IT (capital letters on purpose). Call It – God, Higher Self, Buddha, Jesus, Divine Mind, The Mother, whatever, I was with IT. This happened spontaneously, faster than conscious thought. Uncontrived. Unexplainable. Sensations in my body that I had never felt. Unfathomable peace in my heart. Connection and understanding and harmony and joy with the world, the universe, my enemies, my friends, my past, my present, my future. Total oneness with all that is. And EVERYTHING made sense. And I realized this: I. Am. Never. Alone. 

I. Was. With. IT. 

And then, something even weirder happened:

I knew that I was with IT, and IT knew that I knew that this was happening. And I knew that IT knew!!!!! (You may have to read this last sentence slowly a few times). And it was all unmistakable. 

And I sat for an hour or so on this stunning precipice, in blissful connection to all that is, and all that I am. It was incredible. A milestone, a victory, an enlightenment experience.  

And then…………………………………………………….I became neurotic!

As I walked back down the mountain, through the narrow trail, I began to think: ‘I must hold on to this feeling, this connection, this new perspective. But I know it’s going to go away soon. It may stay while I’m in Sedona, but once I get back to NYC, I know I’m going to be screwed. But if I could keep it, If I could somehow, right here and now, integrate it, I would be happy for the rest of my life. I would never worry. I would never feel out-of-sorts, lonely, confused, sad again. I would always have the answer, and I would be SO POWERFUL’.

So as soon as I got back to my hotel, I made an appointment with a healer for that night.

I found her on the internet, and she was exteremly impressive. A licensed CSW with certifications in Hypnosis (which is what I wanted her to use on me), NLP, Shamanic Healing, Reiki, Sound Healing, EMDR, you name it. And my intention in going to her was for her to hypnotize my IT experience, and all I learned from it, into me. I wanted it integrated deeply, implanted, permanently into my subconscious.

I arrived at her small home in the suburbs of Sedona at 8pm, only about four hours after IT had happened. She greeted me warmly and walked me around her home to her covered back porch. The view looked on the canyon where IT had happened. There was a fire going, some candles, sage burning, and we sat opposite each other at a small table.

Physically, she wasnt what I expected. I had the image of a croney ‘medicine woman’, or a clinical East European Hypnotist, with maybe an accent. But she was pure American, really pretty, actually kind of gorgeous, in great shape, smartly dressed, early 40’s. And she seemed CALM. Like the calmest person I had ever met. Not spacey, or cold, or indifferent, just present and SO CALM. As I sat down, and took in the night sky, the candles etc, and thought ‘I know this woman can help me’. 

‘What can I help you with’? She said, ‘Why did you want to come see me?’

I then launched into, without pause, the entire story of my life. I told her everything I could think of: my upbringing, my parents, my family, my acting, my talent, all the mistakes I had made, my life in NYC, my sexuality, my relationships, my achievements, my regrets, my budding spiritual life, my confusion, my worries about finances, my bad habits, my triumphs. Everything. This concluded with a complete re-telling, in as much detail as I could, of the entire IT experience. After all, it had just happened four hours prior.

Then I said, ‘So, I have come to you in order to keep the new awareness that I have just acquired from my IT experience. I want you to hypnotize me so that it becomes permanently ingrained. So that I never forget it. So that I go back to NYC, or anywhere in the world, for the rest of my life, always walking with the knowledge that I am connected to everything. That I am never alone, that I am protected, that the answers are always right there, that I am powerful, and complete, and loved, and safe, and at peace. I feel that now, here in Sedona, but I know it’s going to go away. And I have heard that hypnosis helps ‘implant’ new thought-forms into your psyche. So, will you help me? Does all this make sense?!?!’

She had been silent the whole time, just listening. Calm. Poker face. And the she said, ‘I can help you’. Relieved, I said, Oh my God, thank you so much! What do we do, do you do the hypnosis out here?!

She then took out a notepad that was in front of her on the table. It had been there the whole time as if she would, at any moment, take notes. She picked it up, and so I couldn’t see what she was writing, and began to, it seemed, draw something on the paper. It took 30 seconds, she held the paper to her chest, so I couldn’t see it.

And then she said, ‘You know this session is 150 dollars’?

I said, a bit taken back, ‘Yes! I have the money right here’!

I can’t hypnotize you, she said, but I have been sitting here listening to you for an hour, and it’s important that you pay me for my time. But I CAN help you. 

‘OK….?’, I replied.

Then she turned the paper that she had drawn on over so that I could see it. And what was on there was not a drawing at all. It was two words written in block letters, taking up the entire page. And the words were:

CHOOSE AGAIN

‘Choose again?’, I said.

She said, ‘Yes, choose again. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You just have to remember, whenever you forget what you learned on that mountain today, to CHOOSE AGAIN. We spend our lives learning and forgetting, being in the light and then the dark, being absolutely sure of things and then plagued with doubt, holding firmly to beliefs that help us grow, and then totally discounting them. In the end, there is only one thing to do. Choose Again. Its always a CHOICE. In any given moment. Always. You just – Choose. Again’.

A pause. We both looked at each other. She shrugged, as if to say ‘sorry it’s not ‘deeper’, but that’s all I got’. Then the space between us filled with that sober clarity that happens when a mental fog lifts as you are pervaded by real, unmistakable Truth.

And at that moment, we both spontaneously, at the exact same time, burst out laughing. Uproarious, sloppy, tearful, cracking up.

I hugged her, payed her, and I went back to my motel.

And that’s what I learned in Sedona, and it cost me 150 bucks.

Trauma and the creation of the false self

Trauma is an event (or series of events) which threatens life. Classic examples of trauma include physical and sexual abuse, incest, sudden lose of a loved one, an accident, fighting in war, being the victim of violent crime, and surgery – the body under anesthesia still knows on some level that it’s being cut open.

When trauma happens during childhood development it can have deleterious life-long effects. In addition to the previous examples, children can also be deeply traumatized by a host of seemingly ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ circumstances such as living in an unstable home, domestic fighting, alcoholism or drug use in the family, divorce of parents, bullying from peers, and confusion about sexual identity. Even being sent away to a boarding school, or being subjected to extreme temperatures can be traumatic for a child.

There are two responses that occur during trauma – ‘fight’ and ‘flight’. These reactions are ‘wired’ into our biology; adrenalin and cortisol levels rise, breathing accelerates, muscles engage and our bodies instantaneously engage in either aggression, or getting away as fast as possible. But Dr. Peter Levine, in his book HEALING TRAUMA, describes a third reaction that can also occur, and its this reaction that can be utterly devastating to the normal development of a child. Levine calls this the ‘immobilization response’ – it’s when the child does nothing. For a myriad of reasons, aggression or flight do not seem to be viable options for the child, or he intuits that either reaction could ultimately cause him more suffering. So the child does nothing. This immobilization is a defense mechanism that seems to happen automatically.

Levine saw this mirrored in nature. A Gazelle, when hunted and chased by a tiger, knowing that there was no escape would, before the tiger had actually gotten hold of him, simply lay down and give himself to the tiger. The Gazelle’s biology sends an instantaneous signal for it to stop fleeing in order to minimize the inevitable pain and terror of being ripped apart. Conversely, this immobilization can cause the tiger to be confused, to pause, and the gazelle is given an opportunity to possibly get away. It’s like a small ‘death’ before an actual death, and it is experienced in humans similarly.

During immobilization, conscious awareness leaves the body. Psychotherapy calls this ‘disassociation’ – a part of our consciousness, our ‘spirit’, separates from the body in order to endure the trauma. The last place you want to be during a car crash is in your body, and nature seems to help make this happen. From a shamanic perspective, this loss of consciousness is called ‘soul loss’; a piece of our vital essence splinters from us. But the trauma remains in the body. When clients come to me because they have ‘bad energy’ or think they are being ‘haunted’ by ‘evil spirits’, often my first instinct is that they have trauma trapped in their body. And from a Shamanic perspective, that is essentially what is happening.

This process of disassociation, of soul loss, wreaks havoc on the child’s development of self. It greatly compromises the natural and biological intuitive system that we all possess – the part of us that, when functioning normally, tells us that we are in danger, that someone or something is bad for us, that we are being violated, even that we are angry. Without a healthy and functioning intuitive system, we go through life defenseless, vulnerable and without clear direction.

This is why so many of my clients; intelligent, educated, often extremely gifted people, have no idea what they want to do with their lives. They have little sense of purpose, no clarity on what is good for them or what they truly want, they are in jobs they hate, in relationships that are damaging etc.

In addition to a dysfunction in the intuitive system, trauma causes another problem, and this is perhaps the most important factor in how trauma creates the false self. Children are incredibly adaptive, but they lack the intellectual capacity and autonomy to see the truth about their situation. In other words, they are unable to understand that it is the perpetrator that is at fault. And they begin to draw conclusions about what has happened to them, laying the blame entirely on themselves. After all, from a child’s perspective, a parent (or any adult) is a magical person who seems to know everything, who feeds and clothes them, has taught them language, potty training etc. The child simply can’t understand that he is not the one at fault.

Children therefore, have no other alternative but to begin to draw false conclusions and create misperceptions about themselves and the world. And because this process is happening during formative years (they are called formative for a reason), these become the foundation of the child’s core beliefs. These beliefs look like this: ‘there is something wrong with me’, ‘I deserve to be hit’, ‘I’m a bad girl’, ‘I’m unloveable’, ‘relationships are violent’, ‘I don’t deserve any better’, ‘the world is unsafe’, ‘the world is cruel’, ‘women don’t like me’, ‘men don’t like me’, ‘I’m dirty’, ‘the way to get through life is to be as quiet as possible’, ‘my only power is when I am sexual’, ‘I have to be perfect’, ‘I’m a failure at everything’, and on and on.

This mis-knowledge, this fundamental mis-take, becomes the basic groundwork for the development of the self. And, these beliefs become as ingrained and automatic as recognizing ‘that is a cat’, or ‘this color is red’. A persona, an entire sense of self, is created that has absolutely nothing to do with reality. And it becomes habituated and totally unconscious.

Negative beliefs and misperceptions, unexamined, will remain with us forever. This is why people, even with an ‘adult’ understanding of what happened to them, having even forgiven their perpetrators, will still attract (and unconsciously seek out) energy, relationships, situations, careers, addictions etc. that mirror and support the fundamental negativity that they acquired during trauma. This follows the Freudian model of seeking that which will help us ‘work through’ what was dysfunctional or incomplete in our early primary relationships.

But healing is about being in present time. This means knowing where your energy is going, having an intimate awareness of what thought forms you give clout to, and what perceptions and beliefs about yourself and the world that you are currently ‘financing’. It means facing squarely all the ways in which you compromise yourself, and calling your soul back to you with bravery and purpose. If ANYTHING in your energy, your psyche, and the world that you have created for yourself is not serving you, is antithetical to your true nature, and is not leading you to your heart’s content, it must be consciously released, and vigilantly guarded against returning. This takes time and it takes effort. But it’s way better than letting a terrified child run your show.

You CAN come back to yourself, your true self, after trauma. You can at anytime begin the process of finding out who you actually are. And when you take even one small step in this direction, you will find to your surprise, that the universe will help you in ways that you never imagined. And there just may come a time when you say ‘thank you’ for ALL OF IT (even the bad stuff), and go on your merry way.

Alice Miller, psychotherapist and author: 

The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body. And although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feeling manipulated, our conceptions confused and our body tricked with medication. But someday, our body will present it’s bill. For it is as incorruptible as a child. Who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses. And it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.

Om Namah Shivaya

I’ve been wondering if I should edit myself or just honestly share an experience. I decided I would.  It may mean something to someone reading this; so here it is:

Babji’s presence became known, ok, appeared to me last night during work with the Santo Daime in New York. I only vaguely knew of him, in that I had heard his name. Truly. He kind of just appeared.

Babji was an Indian guru for many and died in 1984. His simple message of ‘Truth, Simplicity and Love’ touched innumerable lives. This morning, I looked him up and read about him. He’s pretty extraordinary. People who’ve met him described him as ‘the embodiment of love personified’.

OM NAMAH SHIVAYA is Babaji’s mantra. It is translated roughly as ‘Thy Will Be Done’ or ‘The Truth Sets You Free’. But I like to think of it as ‘a call to ask and then to LISTEN”.

Uttering this mantra puts you in harmony with the world during these troubled times. Traditionally, it is said 108 times using mala beads. But Babji said that is not necessary. OM NAMAH SHIVAYA invokes the creative principal of the universe. It is said to be the first words uttered by the Creative Source; the oldest mantra. It can be translated as I bow to/surrender to/take refuge in Shiva. Lord Shiva is known as the Doer of Good, and the mantra is also interpreted to mean: ‘I bow to whatever Good is happening and to Whomsoever is doing it’.

The following is an interview with Babji. It’s odd that although this is from over twenty years ago, it seems to speak to the dawning of the new age that seems to be imminently upon us:

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And how do you use this mantra? 

Babaji: Repeat the mantra on a daily basis when at work or during meditation. Japa is repeating the mantra while passing a mala bead or what you call a rosary bead through your fingers each time you say the mantra. There are 108 beads in a mala. But you don’t have to do this.You can simply repeat it silently. 

For those reading the transcript how do you pronounce it? 

Babaji: It is pronounced like this” Ooommm Na-ma She-veye” 

What are these great changes you are speaking of? 

Babaji: The great changes or Great Revolution has started. It will be both wondrous and destructive. Most of mankind will be destroyed as Nature balances out the great injustices that mankind has caused against the environment and each other. There are a few out there who will be open to this message and will repeat the mantra, live in Truth, Simplicity and Love and serve others. They will live on the higher path, attach themselves to God. They will be brave and always walk on. There will be many mountains to cross,but they will not stop until the goal is reached. They will be strong, and will never feel disheartened. These will survive the Great Revolution. 

What does your message have to do with change? 

Babaji: Change is nothing new. It is a Law of nature. What is born must die and what dies must be born. The human being is enslaved to his lower path. The higher self must be developed, so that the lower self is destroyed and the heart is transformed. 

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Babaji’s talk of ‘revoltion’ and ‘destruction’ can seem like some pretty ominous stuff. After reading this interview this morning, I heard shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman talk about the ‘shift’ that is now upon us as a species and as a planet. She said that the current evolution of the global organism will be ‘one of love, not procreation. Not survival of the fittest, but cooperation of spirit’ – This is a profound change in the DNA of humanity. It begs for a different conciousness and intention for the entire human race; one that seems not only required, but inevitable as we move toward a higher plane of existence as a species. 

The answer seems to be love. I mean ‘love’ as a PRACTICE. The Course in Miracles speaks of only two choices at any given moment – Love or Fear. Doesn’t it seem better to open our hearts, embrace all, and find a way for all of us to have a place at the table? Isn’t this why the Earth isn’t well, and despite it’s incredible abundance there doesn’t seem to be enough to go around?

So, If it’s true that we are all Divine (which we are), let’s give in to our inherent goodness; the same goodness that we inherited from the creative conciousness of Shiva (or if you’re science-minded, the creative conciousness of hydrogen, nitrogen and sub-atomic partcles!). Take care of our Earth and each other, embody OM NAMAH SHIVAYA, and have a nice day! At least!

You’re more ‘cloud’ than you are ‘you’.

Taoism, in my opinion, is essentially the Chinese version of Shamanism. It’s a philosophy and way of being that has been referred to as ‘the wisdom of nature’.

There is a concept that underlies Taoist philosophy, and this idea is key to personal healing and transformation. In Chinese, it is called tzu-jan — that which is ‘of itself’, ‘by itself’, or ‘of itself so’. In other words, tzu-jan expresses that which is automatic, that which happens by itself, that which simply is with absolutely no effort.

Now this is actually a really easy thing to understand. We are, as alive human beings, brimming over with tzu-jan. Let me show you what I mean:

As you read this, take a moment to find your heart beat. Right now, as you are reading, slow yourself down enough to actually find it. Pause, and find it. It may be in your chest, your armpit, your groin. You may feel it, or you might just sense a movement or life-energy in your body; a feeling that your body is doing its thing. Now, in your mind’s eye, imagine all the functions of your body that are happening right now – You are breathing (you can take conscious control of your breath, but it’s always there even when you aren’t paying attention to it), your stomach is digesting food, your eyes are sending signals to your brain and your brain is interpreting these words on the screen, your glands are secreting chemicals that help maintain your immune system, your hair and nails are growing, even the neurons sending signals to move your finger on the ‘mousepad’ of your computer is so automatic that you arent even aware of it. All of these things happening with absolutely no conscious effort whatsoever from you.

In fact, that thing that you call ‘you’ (John Smith, dentist, 45 years old, father of three) has no control, and no part in just about anything that is happening inside you. It is ALL occurring by itself; effortlessly, and perfectly. It is ‘of itself so’. And you – your personality, your ego, that persona that you define as ‘me’, has nothing to do with any of it. You don’t ‘grow your bones’, they just grow.

Now for a moment, think about waves crashing on a beach, cloud formations on a sunny day, a tree in a forest that you once noticed, a school of fish shoaling in perfect formation. These things, just like the processes in your body are likewise, totally spontaneous. They just are. Yes, the cycles of the moon can effect the tides, gases and elements merge in just the right way to create a cloud, photosynthesis is responsible for the growth of the tree, fish respond instantaneously to tiny vibrations from the others in their school, but these are just explanations and conceptualizations of a bigger process; a Great Happening – Nature occurring all by itself. Can you now entertain the idea, that you actually have a tremendous amount in common with a cloud, a tree, a school of fish?

Even a hawk making a conscious decision to swoop down and eat a mouse is still a completely spontaneous event. Its the hawk’s nature to eat mice (they have the vision to see the tiniest movement thousands of feet away), and mice were meant to be eaten by hawks (they make up for this by being incredibly procreative as a species). You might think that the hawk/mouse example is a little more like us. We do, unlike a cloud or a tree, have a conscious mind.

But here’s the thing: until we learn to teach it not to, our conscious mind lies to us. It tells us who we should be, what rules we are supposed to follow, what we are actually allowed to have, even what we are supposed to look like. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t get out of nature; true authentic nature. You cant tell it what to do, boss it around, or beat it into submission. Nature will always win. And just as your heart beats ‘self-so’, if you give it a chance, your mind can function in the same way. We are just too afraid (confused, beaten down, socialized) to let it.

This is all that healing is: Aligning what is happening in our minds with our real nature. The same nature that beats our hearts and the same force that produces the clouds. And by opening our arms to the Great Happening (and its going to happen whether we embrace it or not) and saying ‘YES’, we stop fighting with nature, we make friends with ourselves, and we see our reflections in the trees.