(This blog entry is a continuation of my last entry entitled Spiritual Loneliness.)
David Whyte, in his stunning poem, Self-Portrait, calls our attention to a state of being not unlike what I described in my last blog entry as Spiritual Loneliness, a “fierce embrace” in which “even the gods speak of God.” (Read this gorgeous poem here.)
What I am calling spiritual loneliness does not happen out of the blue. It happens out of ego investment in a “false god.” It is the dedication, reverence and devotion we lend to what is mortal, a person we are in relationship with: lover, spouse, child, parent, etc.; a job or project we believe will define or “make” us; a belief system upon which we base our entire reality; an image we want others to have of us; or a cause we may have exaggerated out of proportion. (I think we can even make a false god out of our own suffering.)
The investment is likely complete and extravagant in nature, a putting of all one’s eggs into a proverbial basket. When the basket breaks and the eggs smash to the ground—the relationship ends with a break-up, a betrayal or death, the job is withdrawn, the image destroyed by scandal, the belief system found to be corrupt (“losing our religion”), and so on—the devastation will be so severe and so complete, you will not be able to locate yourself among the wreckage.
With nothing in the “spiritual basket” to fall back on and rebuild from, all you have to turn to is an ego-consciousness whose worst nightmare has arrived. And it will keep you occupied 24-7 in its ceaseless pain-ridden monologue.
But this nightmare is not your problem—that’s just the horse it rode in on.
The universal and biggest lesson of your life right now? Do not worship false gods. Yes, there is a reason why that is one of the commandments. Our dedication and devotional wiring was installed in order for us to communicate with and serve the Divine—not what is mortal. And not entirely surprising, devotion to the Divine is the antidote to and pathway out of spiritual loneliness.
I have noted in recent years, how many who, like myself, have been following a shamanic path for decades, have gradually begun to feel the need to supplement their spiritual practice of journeying, drumming, ritual, and ceremony with meditation, chanting, prayer, keeping silent retreat, and what Sandra Ingerman calls a practice of transfiguration—in order to become more than a messenger or walker between the worlds, but an embodiment of Divine Light—the one who heals not by what she does, but who she is.
I love shamanism—it is still my practice. But it is not enough. Journeying is a beautiful thing, and there is no better method of exploring the shadow. Journeying answers our questions: why am I feeling this way? Why am I stuck? Why can’t I let this go? What am I not seeing? Journeying makes us work—it engages the mind to reconfigure the story into a healing one. Journeying makes things happen: within it, we are constantly moving, searching, locating allies, merging, fighting, unraveling, being dismembered, retrieving, transmuting, and on and on. Within and without the journey, we are performing ritual and ceremony. The practice of shamanism is busy: drumming, dancing, seeking, seeking, always seeking. And it is wonderful.
But it is not enough. When I entered the void of spiritual loneliness, I was exhausted and depleted from journeying and ritual. I was empty. The light was out. I had no inspiration, no hope, no desire to do anything or say anything. After all that seeking, I had not found myself. Because who we truly are does not live in the shadow. Who we truly are lives in Divine light—and is that light.
Until this planet was graced by two great teachers 2,500 and 2,000 years ago—the Buddha and the Christ—Divine light was often thought to be reserved for gods and supreme beings. Humans had forgotten who they were. We did not know we had this in us. That we could invoke, radiate and become light. That we are light.
Sandra Ingerman says: “As human beings with egos we often forget our true nature and we over identify with our personalities and bodies. We are light in bodies. Alchemists did not literally change lead into gold. Rather they transmuted heavy leaded consciousness into gold light consciousness. Jesus in Matthew 5:30-20 challenges us not to hide our light under baskets. When mystics all over the world perform their miracles of healing they are seen to shine and become luminescent.”
Balance—the true balance we seek in shamanic practice—is a balance of shadow and light; of doing and being; of bringing things to light and becoming that light; of serving and embodying.
I spend time each day now in prayer, meditation, and song. I do not do it to heal anything within myself. I do not do it to gain anything. Or solve anything. Or answer anything. I do not do it with any purpose in mind other than to serve—to sit in silence, invoke and radiate the light. To hold it in my heart, and then, to give it all away—without condition.
I cannot say how this practice has changed me, but I know it has. What it has given me—without my asking—cannot be estimated, predicted or understood. But, I do remember everyday that without it, I am lost in struggle and empty, and that my life is void of inspiration and meaning and gratitude.
Here and now—since that is all I can speak for—I am grateful to my spiritual loneliness and the sharp remembrance of being broken down to nothing. I am grateful for all the lessons I learned while “boxing” my deepest shadow. I am grateful to the black pain and the dearth. And most of all, I am grateful to the horse it rode in on.