Shamanic Healing

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Emotional Poles - Grief


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Everyone wants to be happy as we define it as human animals - well fed, sheltered and sexually satisfied - but there is an element of grief and sadness within each emotion we express apart from that basic sense of reality.  Sadness is a part of the river that runs through us as emotional energy, and one that shamans must understand intensely if they are to be of help in healing or in helping those they serve.

Within sadness, the sense of loss, the sense of grief, there is a larger context served up to the sensitive eye.  It is one of scale and balance which we as human beings rarely stop to take in because the grandeur of it is too much for our understanding.  Grief represents pain, trauma, hurt on basic levels that normal human beings will do almost anything to avoid, but shamans court it at its core in order to understand a much larger construct.  Shamans understand loss on a scale much the same as they understand love; they move within the heart of tears in order to know the joy on the other side.  As human beings, it is our unfortunate lot to walk in the deepest valleys if we are ever to understand the magnificence of the view from the mountaintop.  Shamans go into that valley, reach the valley floor and start digging.  Pain can heal.

Looking at how we handle issues surrounding grief and sadness brings us a better understanding of what motivates us; what touches our energy in ways that free us from the boundaries of normal understanding, to plumb even greater depths beyond this worldview we have created.  The issue arises then, how can you use the normal feelings of sadness, grief and depression to actually move yourself to a larger understanding in shamanic terms?

There is a roll call of emotion in all this; shamans first seeks to understand what they actually own and what they do not.  They accomplish this by stalking themselves with a brutal ruthlessness.  The recap is part of that stalking process, but it is only one small part.  It brings clarity and breaks ties.  The actual movement to a place where we exist apart from the old selves (which we come to understand were not our own creation,) is the next step, and for that, you must move through the perceptual barriers of awareness.  Understanding the normal processes of grief and depression is the first step; learning what is and what is not yours is the second.  Altering that internal landscape at will is the third.  There's a fourth, but we won't go there yet.  Grief leavens our lives in one form or another, and with work can help us maintain balance between the extremes we must face in the process of becoming something other than what we were.  The object is not to do away with grief; the object is to balance it within ourselves in ways that serve us and allow us to continue growing.

By 'altering the internal landscape at will,' do you mean turning the little sadness into the big sadness?

Yes.  Handling your emotional body with skill and purpose, instead of being handled by it.

What do you mean by small sadness/big sadness?

The small sadness comes at the start of human grief, the normal grief processes we are party to living as human beings; the large sadness is a sadness that is overwhelming in it's power, and is deeply personal.  And yet, it is totally impersonal at the same time.

How would I know if I were feeling a big or small sadness?

If you can still stand on your feet, still see the world as it exists for you now, then you haven't seen it.  The power of the experience is unmistakable.  You come to understand the true nature of your insignificance and the greatness of your own power.

Can you help someone move from a small sadness to the big sadness in order to help them heal?  And if so, how would you do that?

You have to be careful with that one.  They can consume themselves, but at the same time, it is possible, yes.  I would simply start them on a process of dealing with every moment of grief and sadness in their energy, break open the connections and allow them to move through them at their own pace.

That sounds like recapping?

No, it's direct into their energy.  It's active, as opposed to passive on your part.  This is reaching in with the power of the shaman and changing things in ways that promote their own healing.

How do you help someone heal who is trapped in grief or depression?

First, you need to help them identify what it is they are really in grief or depression about.  Is it an issue of self-pity, is it the sense of loss, is it something which can be remedied physically?  Or is it something through which they have to move in order to come out on the other side?

What if they don't want to see it, but they want to heal?

They can still heal, but at some point, they will be forced to see it.  The process is such they can't avoid that if they have a true desire to heal.  You can help them by getting them to start the process, work the edges, etc., until finally they have enough energy to tackle the real issues.

If someone is in a crisis, there might not be time to 'work the edges'.

Then you have to be blunt, but in a compassionate way.  Make sure you are in your own detached space.  Use your talent, move the situation to where they can work with the real issues.  The shaman sacrifices himself or herself for that.  And keep in mind, some people don't want to heal from these things, and that is their choice as well.  Ask them how it serves them - what are they getting out of it?  They might surprise themselves if they will really stop and think about it.

Would detachment help?

Regular detachment really helps, yes.  Shamanic detachment would be better, but I don't expect people to come to that easily.

Could you explain what you mean by 'regular detachment' and 'shamanic detachment'? 

Regular detachment is the place all human beings can reach with a little effort.  It allows them to let go long enough to gain a new perspective.  It is not, however, the same as shamanic detachment; it can help them heal, though.  Shamanic detachment moves from a place of polar opposites.  It takes the heart of each emotional pole of existence, feels them all equally at the same time, and creates a detached space which is devoid of personal perspective or emotion - true detachment.  You start that process by learning your own death through, hopefully, le petit mort.

How does one achieve 'le petit mort', and what does it teach you about your death?

The little death can be had in a number of ways, the best way is to physically die and make it back before they shovel dirt on you.

Like near death experiences?

Yes, those will do.  Beyond that, there are many other methods, some which use drugs in other traditions; in mine, I prefer the 'talking parrot'.  Go through each minute of every day with a parrot on your left shoulder that talks in your ear.  That parrot is your death, and it will comment on everything you see and experience.  Soon, you will begin to understand where your death lies and what it means in terms of the way you connect with the world.  Then, search out your death.  Look forward to where on this winding path of life it is waiting for you, because it is waiting, and it won't go away. You'll find it, but be prepared for a shock when you do; few people really reach that point without changing in incredible ways.

Do you mean literally?  You will come to know and see the moment of your demise?

Yes.  Think about it - how would you choose to live your life in the face of that certain knowledge?  Not an intellectual understanding, but an understanding that seeps into your bones and makes a bitter taste in your mouth.

In dealing with my own grief, where is the best place for me to start?

In dealing with your own grief issues, find what is really yours; you will be surprised at the amount of grief you are carrying for other people.

How do I do that - recap?

Yes, and then, come to understand your own mortality.  Learn your death on very personal levels, know it, taste it, feel it stalking you every moment of your life.  You are dying right now.   Imagine what you might see through that process.  There are marvelous wonders to see, dreadful things to ponder, and distances to go before you rest that final rest.

Remember, "when you stare into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you"  - like floating eyes in the dark.

In a healing, when you release grief so that the person can process it, what can that person do to then deal appropriately with the grief?  Is there a danger that the person will go back to the way they were, if they don't find a way to process these emotions?

The crying is the release.  A person's energy will respond naturally to released grief and process on through; it's a natural function of our emotional bodies, but when it becomes trapped and fed long enough, it creates major problems.  The idea is not to try and 'deal' with it, but to allow it to complete the natural process it's been denied.  You have to allow that process to complete itself - let the tears flow - they are part of the natural cleansing of grief, sadness and depression from our emotional energy.