The Shamanic Dimension of Mental Health… A Personal Story

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Shamanism is a natural state for me and it’s within this framework that I carry a passion and purpose to help bring a new perspective to the growing issue of mental health in this country and around the world, particularly in modern societies. There’s a growing “hunger” in many for re-connection to something beyond us. In every sense of the word, there’s a profound Awakening taking place.

A shaman understands that what humankind perceives as “invisible”… that which we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our physical bodies… actually holds the wisdom of the ancestors and the Universe. Tragically our modern, technical, fast-paced society has created a true disconnect with our indigenous roots. As we’ve gained prosperity through technology and material wealth, we’ve sunk into a state of poverty regarding our connection to our roots. The end result has left us trying to navigate our lives in an uncertain world without rudders or tracking systems. No wonder people feel mentally unstable!

What many of us experience in our physical world is but a small fraction of the reality of what really exists but we’ve been systematically trained since birth to  believe on a linear level the world can only be a certain way. Concepts which carry us outside the box and beyond our comfort zones often mess with our sense of order and safety. The belief systems which have been drilled into us all our lives cause us to create our own personal prisons of thought but there’s a deep longing for a missed connection whether we’re conscious of it or not. This is why so many in growing numbers are being drawn to shamanism in general.

There are many experiences in the spiritual and psychic realms that mimic or overlap the current traditional standards of mental health. Our societal challenge is to expand our knowledge and understanding in order to address the needs of everyone at their core and to become aware of a much wider and richer picture.

Although shamanic energy has always deeply resonated with me for as long as I can remember, about 15 years ago I began to have dimensional experiences   which confused, amazed and terrified me. It was outside my realm of personal experience and perspective and it took years to fully comprehend what  happened and why. It takes time to process.

I eventually came to understand it had been part of an initiation into a type of shamanism many are still unfamiliar with. I’ve noticed an increasing amount of information on this beginning to show up on the internet however.  Ahhh… the information highway! It begins as a trickle and eventually becomes a river.

This of course was a process… not an event… and I was led on paths that have intersected with shaman of many types and in many cultures as well as prolific teachers, mentors and other healers who each showed up at the right time and played their own part in giving me critical information, support, understanding and compassion. There are really no words to adequately describe the gratitude I feel towards every one of them.

It was often a very lonely and isolating process peppered with large, stinging doses of judgment from many who couldn’t understand something so far out of their own experiential realm. Curiously, this also included many in my field of work. This is the same kind of deep, emotional pain those who suffer with mental health issues experience. They’re labeled by a flawed system of diagnosis and limited understanding. As difficult as it is to be thrust into an experience they’re already having difficulty understanding and often find frightening, the burden becomes that much more difficult when they’re then ostracized, mistreated and judged by others. This only exacerbates the problem and causes more emotional damage.

This particular story is one I’m willing to share with the intention of helping others understand the possibilities that exist beyond this “reality” most people have come to mistakenly embrace as truth. Also, for all those who have had similar experiences but have been reluctant to talk about them, I want them to know they’re not alone.

Several years ago I began to have a recurring dream. I would be standing and screaming at something I couldn’t see. It wasn’t coming through my mouth but rather my solar plexus (the third chakra)… the region in the middle of our bodies. Instead of a “voice” however, it sounded and felt like the blast of a powerful hurricane obliterating everything in its path. Although I couldn’t see my own image, I was very aware that I was the source of it. It was full of a lot of fear, anger and power.

This went on for a few months…restlessly haunting my sleep every few nights before another layer gradually infused itself onto the situation. I began to have a nagging feeling I was going to have to give my life up for what I believed I would need to do in my life. I wasn’t sure what that even referred to but it began as a quick, passing thought and gradually became a nagging obsession of sorts.

Then one day as I sat doing energy work with a small group of fellow healers, strangely feeling more like an observer than a participant, I heard myself make the comment, “I’m going to have to die for my work here.” I got some understandably strange looks, especially considering it had nothing to do with the conversation at hand but nobody was more caught off guard than I was! I responded with surprise, “I have no idea where that came from!”

That instance would be the beginning of an ominous, growing feeling related to losing my life in some way because of something I was involved in… maybe speaking out regarding some large injustice? I didn’t know… I began to refer to it as a “soul ache” because I had no other words to describe the experience I was having. It was incredibly painful because I didn’t know where to turn for help. I knew it wasn’t a physical or mental issue but much more a spiritual one. It continually grew in proportion and all the while the dream kept repeating itself.

I finally reached my breaking point during a week-long trip to New York City with my family. There I was surrounded by concrete in every direction and feeling a strong need instead to be with the healing, soothing energy of Nature. Central Park didn’t cut it!  In fact, to call it a longing would have been more accurate. The crowded center of a bustling city of that size became almost unbearable. Although the energy in large crowds has never been one of my favorite things, I had been there on numerous occasions in the past and really enjoyed myself but this time was different.

The dreams amped up with a vengeance and left me waking up each morning with a horrific feeling that my energy…. my life essence… was literally… slowly… systematically…. draining out of me, leaving in its place a growing emptiness and a sense of some type of death. I would wake up each morning and sit in my bed rocking back and forth and crying with a deep feeling of desperation and hopelessness I’d never known. The hardest part was hiding it from my family. I didn’t want to spoil a trip they were so excited about and I knew this wasn’t something they could even begin to understand. I knew instinctively it had a shamanic link to it and whatever I did to address it would need to be done with the help of another shamanic healer.

During that trip I also began to notice dimensional shifts as well. I would walk across the street to Starbucks each morning from my hotel and each time I would reach for the door handle, my hand would jam into the glass door instead as I missed my intended target by a few inches on either side… It was as if the dimensions were off somehow and weren’t lining up.

Upon arriving home and in a state of desperation, I immediately called a Lakota-trained shaman, Rebecca Singer, whom I had done some work with in the past and had great respect for. After describing my experiences to her, we made plans for me to drive the 4 1/2 hours to her home for a ceremony. I proactively rented a hotel room for the night because I knew I would be in an altered state when I was done.

Full of anticipation and relief, I laid down on the table in her healing room… an assistant standing at my feet to ground me while another sat in the corner with a drum. Drums and rattles are often used as tools to assist in ceremonies and healing rituals to help break up energy and support the participants in traveling out of their bodies into other dimensions. Rebecca painted me from my jawline down to my armpits with a red ochre paint and then began to chant and shake her rattle as her assistant began beating the drum.

That was the last I remember being aware of anything in that room. I immediately found myself sitting on top of a horse… a pinto to be exact. I couldn’t “see” myself but knew I was a young, Native American male. My face was painted with traditional war paint in red, white and black. I was looking out at what lay before me and screaming… the same scream from my dreams… but this time it was coming from my mouth. I felt the same feelings I’d experienced in my recurring dream… anger… fear… a sense of power. I instinctively knew that I was preparing myself to ride into a battle that would claim my life. I knew I was putting myself in a trance-like state to be able to mentally and emotionally accept the inevitable.

The next thing I remembered, as Rebecca leaned down close to my ear, I heard and FELT her speak… ”Georgia, you are NOT a male warrior in this lifetime. You do NOT have to sacrifice your life. You are a Mother-Bear Warrior and you’re here this time for the children.” In the physics of energy work, speaking from a place of true, correct power can affect profound change. I felt her words resonate through the core of my body to a very deep place. To this day, it’s difficult for me to tell this story without feeling the emotion rise in my throat.

Upon completion of the ceremony, as I opened my eyes I was puzzled to see a wide-eyed look of surprise on the faces of everyone there. The rattle had broken into many pieces and lay scattered all over the floor. I never heard any of it. Rebecca’s only comment was that she and I had ridden into battle together against a very dark being from my past (a past life) and obliterated it. We’d also done it in record time considering this ceremony typically takes about an hour and a half and we were done in 45 minutes. It’s amazing what concerted energy from two warriors can do!

That night I had a powerful dream in which a white wolf showed up with information that was very comforting and validating for me. From that time on, my recurring dream stopped and I felt a healing and freedom from that entire experience there are truly no words to adequately describe. It was finally over.

I know beyond a doubt that there was no other way to deal with this particular situation except through the use of shamanic energy. This was a shamanic experience and sometimes one must fight fire with fire. I also know that without that help I would have died. My sense is that it wouldn’t have manifested in my physical body but more in my psyche and probably would have looked like a comatose state I would have eventually sunk completely into… never to return to consciousness again in this life. There are many ways to die.

I know there are often experiences out there which don’t fit into the standard context of mental health diagnosis. I have come to understand through this and many other experiences, just how little so many people are aware of regarding what exists in a much wider, universal picture. There’s a great deal to be learned and the best place to start is by re-connecting back to the Natural World and our indigenous roots where the ancient wisdom lies. We have forgotten what we once knew.

The world is also not black and white but rather many shades of gray and many people experience spiritual or shamanic “awakenings” which closely mimic psychosis related to schizophrenia and bi-polar. Great harm can be done to a person’s psyche by intervening in the experience with doses of mind-numbing drugs and yet this is the most common current treatment in this type of situation.

Our food sources, the toxins in our environment, many of the commonly prescribed medications and vaccinations… the destruction of our Natural Resources, the hand the literally feeds us… ALL play a critical part in our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health and they’re all connected and affect each other. We have to treat the WHOLE person.

We as individuals and as a collective society need to become aware of the part Big Pharma and conglomerates like Monsanto play in making vast amounts of money at the expense of our health on all levels and even our demise. If not us… then who? It’s an inside job and our leadership lies within our relationship to Spirit and the indigenous wisdom of our Ancestors.

Our societal and professional communities must shift and expand in their perspectives and treatment of mental health issues to be able to see the reality of the boundless possibilities that truly exist.

Get curious… Remember…

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A Lack of Creative Vision Makes Prisoners of All of US…

A Lack of Vision Creates Prisoners of All of US…

In just this last year in this area at least 100 people were killed or wounded by someone reported to have mental health issues. Even more concerning are the statistics which show 1400 mentally ill individuals killed family members, 13,000 committed suicide and the numbers are only increasing. These cases more often than not, end up in our juvenile & prison systems… after they’ve passed through our schools & communities. One half to two thirds of these people were “formally” diagnosed with a specific mental illness which is a stretch anyway considering the poor accuracy rate of the current testing methods.

The mentally-ill inmates in our prison systems are dealt with in ways which are at best ineffective and at worst archaic and stunningly cruel. This also applies to many of the disciplinary actions in many facets of our communities where students, inmates, patients & other community members are acting out and at risk to themselves & others. Our police & prison officials need to be adequately trained to handle them & our laws need to be changed to reflect the reality of the situation beyond the antiquated “just lock-em-up” mentality of the Old West. We’re living in a technical age. Not only is it ineffective, the cost to the taxpayers for utilizing these solutions is much, much higher on levels well beyond the financial.

Traditionally, inmates with serious behavioral issues while incarcerated are automatically put into solitary confinement. This can result in an endless procession of people doing their time there and then being released into the main prison population only to repeat their behavior & be returned literally for years on end. They’re confined to a tiny, concrete cell & allowed no human contact… their meals slid through a small opening in the door like feeding time for the dangerous animals in the zoo & an allowance of only 1-2 hrs. a day to exercise or walk around with 2 armed guards. I’ve read accounts of inmates being subjected to this treatment for 23 YEARS or more at a stretch. As any intelligent person can imagine, the result is either a far more fractured personality or total insanity. These people are often released back out into our communities far more wounded than they went in with little or no hope of successfully acclimating to a productive, non-violent life. What we do to ALL life, we ultimately do to ourselves.

I’ve always believed that the old, ineffective ways which have historically been chosen to address many problems on a personal level & as a collective society have shown a distinct lack of creativity, vision & compassion as well as an acute overdose of ego. This same “lack of” holds true for war. The legacy of pain & dysfunction it creates branches out in ways we don’t even realize. Being cut off from their humanity will do that to a person… Fighting fear & violence with more fear & violence = perpetuation NOT solutions, whether it’s physical, verbal, emotional or spiritual. At some point don’t we need to ask ourselves “How’s this working for us?” & get serious about the answer?

 It’s not about tip-toeing naively through the flowers, sprinkling fairy dust & happy intentions all around… It’s about having the wisdom and insight to see a bigger, healthier picture beyond what ails us & then having the courage to step into our Power. We have to become responsible for ourselves, work to create change & claim on our right to not be manipulated by those we trust to have our collective, best interest at heart.

                                         GET CURIOUS…. REMEMBER

 

Mental Health… So what’s in a label?

Among the countless things I don’t know is one thing I’ve learned FOR SURE… life is anything but black and white… neat and tidy! It comes instead, in a spectrum of shades… often overlapping according to facts and perspective. The issue of mental health falls perfectly into this conundrum. We seem to have a need to define everything and give it a name. It makes us feel safer… more in control regardless of how far from the truth that really is.

The professional field of mental health has historically been broken in many ways. A diagnosis can only be as accurate and effective as the tools used to assess any given situation along with the insight and training of the psychologist and or psychiatrist making that assessment. Until recently due to a lack of funding and priorities, the human brain has not been studied beyond a certain point. The tendency has always been to view the issue from only part of our human spectrum which is only a slice of the entire pie. The reality is we’re all made up of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies… each just as essential as the next and all connected and symbiotic.

Good therapists are worth their weight in gold but sadly those who aren’t seem to far outweigh them. This has been not my personal experience repeatedly but also mirrors the opinions of many friends and peers of mine in this field who have identified this as a real problem as well. Nobody in a healing profession can be effective unless they’re willing to also do their own personal work. People are often drawn to professions like these because of their own tough experiences and a sincere desire to help others. What they don’t yet understand however is we can’t help anyone else unless we’re willing to help ourselves first. When we know better… we do better. Knowledge gained through books and class-time is very different from wisdom. This is what we gain from going through the process ourselves. It shifts our perspectives and the way we deal with everything and everyone around us. Otherwise, it becomes just another way to avoid our “stuff” by focusing on someone or something else. That’s not empowering for either party!

Unfortunately, the propensity for life-long damage to someone who is incorrectly diagnosed or mishandled by the so-called “professional” they’ve sought help from can be heart-breaking. It certainly has been for me as I’ve listened to countless personal stories from clients and friends who have suffered the repercussions of being incorrectly diagnosed and labeled. They’ve all held the belief that they WERE their diagnosis… somehow less than everyone else… flawed… not worth having a joyful life or a healthy relationship. In every single case, they could not have been more wrong. NOBODY should go into the field of mental health unless they’re empathic and compassionate enough to see and understand the perspectives of those they are supposed to serve. The damage I’ve witnessed from ignorance on the part of the professional who should know better has left me many times with my mouth hanging open in amazement.

Learning to truly identify who we are at our authentic best requires letting go of the antiquated beliefs that keep us stuck, powerless and unable to see the bigger picture and truth of it. Becoming aware of the labels which hurt and shame so many and keep them hostage is something everyone of us can and should do. It also means having the courage to speak up when we hear or see someone doing something counter to that. At our cores, THAT is who we ALL are.

GET CURIOUS…. REMEMBER…

Recognizing Shame and Finding Grace

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Sometimes the best avenue for really understanding the value of something is to view it from the polar-opposite perspective first. “Dis-grace”…. When have you felt shame & embarrassment over not measuring up to someone else’s ideals? Although we need to be self-policing, I have continually met & worked with SO many people who carry such immense shame that was never theirs to own…often through entire cultural histories… always caused by abuse & a lack of respect & value for them as individuals, usually very early on. Their shame blinded them to their own value & ability to make better choices for themselves. I’ve always recognized it in their eyes.

The good news is at the end of each & every day, we’re our own jail-keepers. That truth allows us the opportunity to stand in our own Personal Power and re-define ourselves. As tempting as it may be to place blame for our decisions on someone or something else, we truly disable ourselves by not recognizing & accepting responsibility for our own “stuff” & allowing others to do the same. Our human mistakes are how we learn what we’re actually capable of & we remain stuck & disabled when we’re “rescued” from that… whether through good intentions or forced slavery. And yes… what doesn’t “kill” us, actually does make us stronger!

I watched African American adults in the South where I grew up for 10 years during the 60’s & 70’s, carry themselves in shame… heads down… shoulders rounded… adults unable to look me eye-to-eye even in my youth.  I was a 21-year old, blue-eyed, blond intern working with their children… the ONLY Caucasian in that entire, inner-city, elementary school. I also felt the sting of being treated by the staff there as not worthy of acknowledgement which I eventually realized in hindsight was just their shame manifested in another form.

I interacted with wonderful, loving Africans in Jamaica who carried great shame from their own slavery into their culture in so many insidious ways. Their people were only emancipated in the 60’s & in a more passive-aggressive effort to speak to their pain & anger over losing their freedom; they ceased to create their vibrant art during their enslavement. The poverty in which they live leaves them feeling very much “less-than” the many tourists & elite but very small upper-class there. They fear being judged & defined by it.

The energy work I’ve been involved in with various Native American, tribal communities over the years is yet another example of a gifted people who have been so lost in the painful issues that have plagued them for generations…alcohol, drugs, physical abuse, suicide, etc. They still hold great, intrinsic wisdom and insight through their DNA from their early ancestors but collectively they’re unable to see the higher vision of themselves through the lens of shame they’ve carried even though it doesn’t belong to them. It was put in place long ago when their way of life was crushed along with their spirits by the early settlers who took away their right to choose the life they had embraced & flourished in.

Enslavement of any kind robs humanity of its Self-Love & higher vision of itself. As Maya Angelou so simply & wisely put it… “When we know better…we do better.” Sometimes it takes some assistance from others who can hold up that vision for someone of who they truly are until they can see it for themselves. Every person needs to “see” who they came here to be… underneath the layers of painful “lessons” we all tend to collect in our lives. If we don’t discover who we authentically are, how can we really know our purpose? We ALL have one.

Because our thoughts so very much create our realities, learning to live in “GRACE” is profoundly important. Grace is not perfection but rather the ability to see the Higher…Bigger Picture of things so we can gain a more realistic perspective & then to “let go” and allow it not only for ourselves but everyone else. It is and always will be an inside job!

   “GET CURIOUS …. REMEMBER”