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Shamanic Spiritual Crisis
Shamanic Spiritual Crisis:
(Being Dragged in Kick'in and Scream'in)

The following are excerpts from a letter I received from a practitioner who had been working very hard at their practice. Now you might think working hard at one's shamanic practice would not stand out as a particularly pressing issue. However, tapping into our worldwide shamanic heritage can have its problems. Just because shamanism is natural to being human, this doesn't make it necessarily easy. Along the way, one may face severe challenges.

I invite you to listen to what this practitioner reports about facing a spiritual crisis, which is as much a part of shamanic practice as is anything else:

"I have been hell'a emotional, hell'a introspective and hell'a connected... I actually feel as if... time has shifted? That I am living in a different world? That I have accepted something I can't unaccept. Things are new, but not unfamiliar, but very unfamiliar to these eyeballs.

"I have only inadequate words."

"...I'm a mess. Is this normal? Crying, tender, detached, huge huge pulls to get away alone and away from the products of people... I want to get tanked right now. But I see it, don't have to act on it, don't fear it. It is what it is, an indication of my level of discomfort. But so notable that it is so strong..."

"Now, don't go thinking I am a basket case, I'm fully functional, lol. But I have fear that I may not be. But I will be. I always am... Like I am questioning myself more now than ever, and the ever was so comfortable and even exciting, but now I am within a framework that can inform me, and I know nothing!"

"This all feels like an emergency, and I know it will pass..."

With this practitioner's consent, I offer these excerpts because they may ring familiar to those who commit themselves to the growth-work that comes through our ancestral shamanic practices. Though the experience of growth can be deeply distressing, integration 'falls into place' even when from the inside - and from the outside - this may be difficult to see.

When we go through a major change we may feel like lots of things are coming apart, which is understandable, because they are! A lot of stuff can open up and the 'coming apart' has every right to be unnerving, for it truly is disruptive and life-changing.

When experiencing this kind of growth-work we may feel like a mess and want to drink, immerse ourselves in a movie or in other ways run away from the growth because our natural and instinctive reaction is to cover over the pain. We are being challenged at our core: our self-identity is at stake. To let go and release our former conceptions, whether they be of oneself or of the world around us, challenges all of our 'terra firma' (firm earth, our metaphysically supporting conceptual foundation) and demands a huge adjustment.

Change at this level is deeply discomforting and the body/mind will naturally revolt.

Yet, just as a buoyant object beneath the waves yearns for the surface and is compelled to reach for it, the truth, whether it be of oneself or of how the world is put together, is likewise compelled to surface. Once unconstrained, our insistence on truth is unforgiving in its desire to reach this. That is not a bad thing, but when we are caught up with such an imperative, the feelings can be tremendously unsettling. When something out of balance goes back into balance, there is a necessary re-shuffling at the foundation.

Although our species has a natural ability to do shamanic work, the experience of heightened disruption comes in in equal measure with the strength of our readiness to learn, and our intention to do well. In other words, the practitioner who works harder may ironically experience higher turmoil!

No one said shamanic growth was easy. However, proceed carefully. Growth and change might be easier to handle if we limit our journeying to once a day at the very most, and to do so only for straightforward, directed, intentional purposes, such as to learn something in particular, to go to a particular spirit helper for advice or relationship-building, or to do some particular work for a client.

The self-questioning of this practitioner indicates an intense demand to put forward one's personal best. This is a character trait: not a bad one, but a demanding one. And, yes, there are support groups, for shamanic practitioners, but not like: “Hi, my name is _____ and I'm a shamanic practitioner," but rather, groups like drum circles and other shamanic groups who meet to do journeying together, talk about shamanic things, and find support for their practice.

An urge to actually abandon the whole thing and run away from our practice may seem surprising, yet is very normal. An awareness of such a reaction has been recognized throughout history. Those members of the tribe or community who have been chosen by their community to start working with (and learning from) the shaman is well known to have only gone kickin’ and screamin’. How much easier it would be to simply become a hunter, basket-weaver, or in the more recent eons, anything else! There are any number of careers that would feel more normal than that of a shamanic practitioner.

However, the fact that shamanism (and shamans!) have persisted throughout history and across the globe testifies to the 'upside' of heading out onto this path. Although a shaman can look forward to occasional severe re-calibration of oneself and the world, the necessity for going through such challenges is generally accepted as just part of the process. Yes, kickin' and screamin' will probably happen, but it's nice to know that we can go through it.

And even nicer to know that we come out the better for it!