29 April, 2012

The subject of Fear in Psychopomp work

Last week, my Grandfather died.

He lived to be 82, and had a good death. He was able to die and then come back long enough to say his final goodbyes to many of my family at the hospital. I am so thankful for that, and I am thankful that a relative was able to perform his Last Rites.

His death occurred on the New Moon of this month (April 21st), which is a day that I have set aside for personal Shamanic Homework. As I am focusing on Psychopomp work (see previous entries), I found that I had a great amount of fear and grief that kept me from Journeying.

In previous times, if I was fearful, or lazy, or procrastinated too long in my Shamanic Homework, I would arrive in the Otherworld to a verbal lashing from my Spirits! The general Two-by-Four that hit me over the head repeatedly was, "How can you expect us to work with you when healing clients if you won't get off your ass and learn the work?!?"  Of course, after a few bites and Dismemberments, I went on to have some pretty incredible Journeys.

This time, I didn't want to do the work, because I didn't want to pop out into the Land of the Dead and end up seeing Grandpa when I wasn't ready at all. I wasn't really sure that I even wanted to be the one to actively direct him to my Spirits, and so I lit a candle, poured a beer, and asked that my Spirits meet up with him and Guide him without me.

Afterwards, I started to feel guilty, and tried to pull a few Runes and Tarot cards to see if my Spirits were pissed off again. I got such confusing omens that I eventually put everything away in a huff and ate some chocolate. I resigned myself to the uncomfortable feeling that surrounds death and grief and didn't think about my homework again.

During the Second Night of Grandpa's death (after Calling Hours but before the Funeral), I tossed and turned and couldn't quiet my mind enough to sleep. I also felt too afraid to really sleep, in case I dreamed a True Dream about Grandpa. I exhausted myself by reading the Hunger Games (wonderful books!) and entered the half-awake/half-asleep state right before the blackness of full sleep.

I heard his voice. He said my name.

I knew it was real, because everyone else in the house was asleep, it was 3am, I was half-unconscious myself, and I immediately felt the full-body tingle that comes with a Real Experience.

From all my years of training, I knew how difficult it was to Hear and/or See something in the regular physical world that was purely spiritual in nature. But I was too afraid to follow his voice and Journey. I said, out loud, "I love you Grandpa, and I miss you, and I hope that my Spirits are helping you, but I can't Visit you in this way just yet. I'm going to go to sleep now."  And I grounded myself by reading more of my book and concentrating only on the physical world around me. And I didn't hear him again.

Upon waking the next day, and all of the days after that, I have felt the grief subside a bit, and I find myself see-sawing back and forth on whether or not I actually heard him. I felt disappointed in myself at first, that I didn't follow the possible opportunity to speak with him so soon after Death, but I am proud that I recognized my fear and did not try to Journey where I was not yet ready to go.

The same ethical standards that I use in my psychological work help me in this spiritual work. I find I have a much better time of it if I do not engage in Dual Relationships (working for family and friends as possible clients). The extra anxiety, stress, fear, and intermingling of other emotions make it very difficult for me to evaluate my experiences objectively.

I know that I will visit with Grandpa soon, and I look forward to the future, for when I am ready and have no fear.

22 April, 2012

Ecumenicon Presentation

This past afternoon, I had the honor of presenting at the Ecumenicon Interfaith Conference. I was presenting on Shamanism, and how it can be used to help Substance Abuse clients.

Here's the short little blip that I wrote for the website:

Shamanic Approaches to Addiction; Terrapin; Saturday, 3:00 pm; This class will give a quick overview of basic neurobiology & psychology of addiction, and introduce shamanic/spiritual theories of addiction. Students will have the opportunity to explore direct knowledge of addictions through Pathworking/Shamanic Journeys, learn about co-occurring disorders of mental illness, hear personal stories from addicts themselves, and practice skill learned in-lecture.
Sounds pretty cool, huh? Well, after brainstorming my outline, I decided that there was no possible way to fit in all of the above-mentioned things into 1.5 hours, so I had to do a bit of tweaking. I mainly focused on specific counseling techniques, how substance abuse/dependence are defined in the DSM-IV, and how to use different techniques to both determine a focus for questioning (runes, tarot, pendulum, etc.). I had a hard time defining how to use Shamanic techniques to increase a client's ability to receive and accept treatment, as it differs depending on with whom I am working.

There was excellent dialogue between the attendees and myself as presenter, and many debates ensued about the ethics of diagnosing clients without the education and/or licensing to support one's instincts.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had a family emergency that took up the weekend of the conference (see upcoming entry soon).

19 April, 2012

Another Ancestor Dream

I was walking with my sister, Teacher and classmates into a grocery store. We stopped at a freezer to get something, and then we were under psychic attack (?). Caroline encouraged us to gather round, and began chanting the name of all the Egyptian gods. They appeared in the sky overhead! Isis, Nepthys, Osiris, Khnum, etc. And then I began looking for Anubis (saying, "Where's Anubis?" in my dream). I turned to my sister and said, "I love my religion! When we call for help, the gods really come!"  As I kept calling out, looking for Anubis, I was transported to a small village in very ancient times.

This village had about 40 people, in a forest-type place, and of course, I was drawn to the Dead. They were kept in stone bairns/cave-like structures. The bodies would be covered in white, on a ledge or table, with lit torches at the head and foot of the ledge/table. The stone caves had an inset wall, and I didn't smell any rot...

Children were playing in a cleared field in front of the Dead, and the emotional atmosphere was of normality. The Dead were part of life, not to be ignored or shunned, but no one was interacting with the corpses ( no Druids or priests, etc.).

I was then asked, by an invisible tour guide (or Ancestor?) to go to the Cooking Hut. A small child came with us. I smelled wonderful smells; a large nude woman was stirring a pot. The child (a young boy) inhaled the steam, smiled, and began to talk to the woman. I couldn't understand them, so I moved closer. As the woman stirred the pot, I could see the limbs and skulls of 2-3 corpses in the pot. They were brownish-grey, and combined with root vegetables, like in a stew. At first I was stunned, but not grossed-out. I wondered if my Ancestors treated the bodies somehow, so that they would not get sick. I was trying to figure out if certain veggies had something to do with the lack of prion disease...?

I also got the impression that the Eaters of the Dead (yep, that's a 13th Warrior reference that my Dream-Brain made!) did this for both survival and reverence, but that the corpses were just meat. The Souls/Spirits, once released from the body, could be spoken with/interacted with at special Stones.

For now, I'm sort of keeping track of all these Dreams as if they are from the some area of space and time. I feel like the imagery is a combination of Celtic/Germanic culture, plus other things that I can't place at all. This is also the second time that Anubis has arrived in my dreams by name, so perhaps he's guiding some of this?!?

What do you think of this dream?

02 April, 2012

Thoughts about a Purge-Ritual

It's taken me a while to post this (had to back-date this entry for the time it actually occurred!), as the Purge-Ritual really through me off my whole routine for almost an entire month.

A Purge-Ritual, from what I understand, is used for personal self-work. Deep self-work, with a capital D. I had been looking forward to this ritual for weeks, and I was happy that my fellow classmates were going to be with me, so that we could support each other.

Psychologically, I had felt as though I was stuck in my routine, of work, home, class, etc.  I was very happy to help with the Shamanic Healing Circle back at Sacred Space 2012, but I was out of practice, and psychologically, I was doubting my abilities, and having a hard time shoving my Ego out of the way to get the Work done. This was reflected in the healing work I had done for myself that day, and in the omens that I had pulled from my Runes and tarot decks.

One of the largest lessons that I learned (well, re-learned) immediately was the difficulty I was having doing self-healing, versus healing work for others. Why is it so hard to do things for me, and yet so easy to bounce up to help a friend/client? I was pushing myself out of balance, and becoming Ungrounded. I spoke with one of my Spirit Animals, who helped me understand that especially when working with my clients at work, I needed to be Grounded and Centered in my own Self. So many of those with mental illness have difficulty centering and focusing, and I can passively help with that through my non-verbal language and Energetically.

During the second half of the Purge-Ritual, my classmates and I helped each other by Drumming, Rattling, using Stone Grids, and Toning. I felt so much love and strength pouring through me, and my drum, that even though the Ritual lasted ~10 hours (I'm not even kidding about that), I was able to last through it all. I crashed into bed around 3am.

The next few weeks were absolutely ridiculous. My emotions were all over the place, and I felt Angry All the Time. And paranoid, too. I kept trying to evaluate what I was feeling, to see if it was tied to any memories of parts of myself that I tried to heal, but I was unfocused and impulsive. I didn't trust myself to explain what I was feeling to any of my friends/classmates, so I did the typical Coyote-thing and stayed at home, laid low, and waited for my emotions to even out again.

They finally did, and I discovered something about myself that I have struggled with all my life. I have a really hard time with rumors, gossip, and bad impressions. I become paranoid about them, and wonder how they will affect my life in some Machiavellian way. I blow up crazy scenarios in my head, and then I think that the only way to change someone's mind about me is to confront them and convince them about what I'm really like. This Purge-Ritual brought out some psychological traumas from my past, and helped me to evaluate them without becoming re-traumatized by the images and emotions. By laying low and not trying to impulsively work out half-made solutions, I was able to grow and heal from those past events.

This Purge-Ritual was supportive and deeply moving, and I hope to make it a part of a yearly practice.