The Shape We’re In

Jane BurnsUncategorized

“Save your neck or save your brother

Looks like it’s one or the other

Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in.”

                                    The Band

I have been a practitioner of shamanism for nearly twenty years now and during that time, I have been blessed to work with many lovely people, spiritual seekers who have come looking for a new direction, more clarity about their lives, or greater peace about their past.  Through the remarkable tool known as the shamanic journey, I have been privileged to receive numerous insights into the mysterious workings of the human soul and the reasons why we come to make this Earth our home.

During the time I’ve been making these journeys, I have seen patterns emerge from the clusters of clients who come reporting similar experiences and challenges.  While each journey is unique, it is also quite similar in what it reveals about the human condition and the struggles we each commonly face.

Lately, I have been drawn to the idea of taking that observation a bit further and exploring the idea of specifically making journeys into the collective experience, as a way of taking the group temperature, assessing our mutual fears and challenges, and hopefully finding remedy there.

Shamanism is both divination and healing.  It doesn’t stop at observation and diagnosis.  Finding remedy and balance is key.  While I have witnessed firsthand the remarkable efficacy of shamanic healing in individual lives—once those individuals agree to changing their story, letting go of their illusions and embracing a new way of seeing and being—I wonder how we can effectively make a collective diagnosis and alter our group circumstance.  How do we together shift the preponderance of one set of ideas or trends for another?

When I conduct personal sessions, I always begin by asking the helping spirits to show me the client’s conditioned self through their eyes.  The conditioned self is the self of the world—we might say the ego or the little self.  It is the part of us that operates out of the sum and total of our experiences, the forces that have influenced the way we think and act, what we believe to be true.  We are traditionally influenced by our upbringing, socialization, education, family creed, peer group, gender group, class and racial experience, religious beliefs, ancestral creeds and worldview—even the karma with which we enter each life can shape our conditioned self.  These influences create patterns of behavior, limitations and obstacles.  They reflect the ways we have negotiated parts of ourselves away in order to cope and survive.  When a child is confronted with the choice of either being loved and accepted or being authentic—either surviving or taking on the risk of uncharted territory—the child will eventually, if not immediately, choose acceptance and survival.  The nonconforming child, who is embraced and appreciated for the full expression of her pure and unadulterated self, is a rarity I have yet to encounter.  A conditioned self is essentially a diminished Self, a stifled soul.

Acceptance aside, there is also the impact of life’s trials and tribulations to consider, which start early in this world and don’t, to my knowledge, seem to let up much.  The human must constantly negotiate these circumstances and maintain, to the best of his ability, safety, sustainability and belonging.

Whether we realize it or not, we spend a good deal of time as adults trying to undo the effects of our conditioning and the suffering it has caused us.  It’s very clear to us that something isn’t right; we just don’t know what it is or how to fix it.  We feel divided, swinging from a deep longing to return to the person we remember ourselves to be and a knee-jerk compliance to a more superficial, but powerfully ingrained conditioning.

The true nature of the soul often stands in direct opposition to the conditioned self—the helping spirits have shown me this again and again.  I’ve come to accept it as the key struggle within the modern human condition.  What we might call the battle within. 

And what is it we’re fighting for?  All the unclaimed, unrealized power we have lost along the way.

What, I wondered, does this struggle look like on a collective level?  What is the predominant state of our collective conditioning—the pervasive patterning that currently impedes our greater human growth and prosperity?

What follows is the summation of my journey for the collective and the guidance it provided for all of us going forward:

The present state of the conditioned collective self is one of score-keeping.  It seems as though many of us are spending more time looking on the other guy’s paper than doing our own homework.  There is an atmosphere of constant monitoring, competition and paranoia, the fear that things will be taken away from us by the Other, as well as the belief that resources are in limited supply and there will not be enough to go around.  A temperament of “desperate times call for desperate measures”—perhaps born out of a pandemic experience—and the overwhelming belief that we are being lied to and misled by others, is quite strong right now on the planet.

As humans, we tend to imagine that things, particularly misfortunes, just kind of happen to us.  That what we experience is moreso our reaction to random events and circumstance, rather than the determinant of them.  But, I also think we might ask ourselves: is our global state of mind—as described here—a reaction to the pandemic or its creator? 

The part of the collective soul that is being aspected right now, in other words, being called forward from a recessive state, is the Mother, the Divine Feminine, the nurturer, the compassionate one, the refuge.  Not only is this part of our collective soul being stifled, but the Earth itself—as our Great Mother and protectorate—is also being perilously compromised in Her ability to provide us with the refuge we require here.  Without safe refuge, we cannot do what we came here to do.  We cannot be who we intended—or are destined—to be.

Consider Maslow’s pyramid to self-actualization, which claims that basic needs like food, water, shelter, safety must be satisfied before we can reach the great and hidden potential of ourselves. 

The very creed of the Mother consciousness implores us to leave no one behind, to provide equal entitlement, equal respect, and opportunity for every member of the (world) community. The survival of us all depends on it.

When I looked at the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our current state of the world, I found a stronger than usual reluctance to take a leap of faith, to put ourselves out into the world with a spirit of magnanimity and a willingness to serve, as well as a growing envy and suspicion of those who do.  “This is not the time to serve the world,” goes the collective thinking; “this is the time to serve the self.”  (Back to those bottom rungs of Maslow’s ladder.)

On the emotional plane, there is a growing fear of intimacy, and a collective sense that intimacy incurs obligation and greater complicates things in an already complicated world. Alliances have become more practical and our attraction to others more opportunistic.

Spiritually speaking, we are in dire need of rescue.  Beyond the physical rescue we crave from disease and danger, the emotional rescue we look for from suicidal thoughts, addiction and despair—all on the rise—we are, as a race, much in need of spiritual rescue.  We are experiencing a collective fall from grace among ourselves and our leaders, that must be addressed before the physical and emotional fallouts can be remedied.  There is a spiritual principle that tells us that when we reach beyond our own needs to save another, we actually rescue ourselves.  We learn the principle of Oneness—the spiritual dimension of the collective.

(Now, granted, not all of us are responding in this way to the state of the world, but we are still swimming in the soup of it!)

The loss to the collective soul is two-fold: a loss of discernment and a loss of sovereignty.  The loss of discernment has led to the mass confusion nowadays about what is true and what is not true, and a collective inability to deeply know that what is not in alignment with spiritual principle simply cannot be true.  What policies or beliefs, for instance, that disregard or dispute the immanence of God in all things, cannot stand as truth.

The loss of sovereignty has led to the turning over of personal power to others who determine for us what to think, how to act, what to say and devote ourselves to.  To the lemming, that might seem an easier way to live, but it actually isn’t living at all.  It amounts to signing over your will and removing from your life the very purpose you have in living it. 

The human soul, above all else, longs to live a life of meaning, to serve its unique and destined role in the world.  We simply cannot afford to bargain away and squander the rare opportunity we have been given to live our lives in blessed and miraculous ways, ways we cannot even imagine.

So, what can we do to reverse these trends and call back our collective soul?  Here’s what the helping spirits advise:

(1) Make a list of time-honored spiritual truths. For instance:  We are all one.  Everything is divine. Love conquers all.  Right will prevail.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And, so on.  Write these down in a journal and keep a growing list. When confronted with a dilemma or a confusion, pose your questions alongside these time-honored truths.  Humanly engineered deception and falsehood simply cannot stand against them.  The helping spirits believe that when we look to current facts and opinions, trends and social beliefs for guidance or perspective, we risk staying caught in the question of what is true, because trends and opinions are temporal, situational and biased, whereas spiritual truths—such as those listed above—are timeless, universal and impartial.

(2) Be equal in your treatment and regard for others.  Forgive your enemies.  Forgive those whom you believe have contributed to and capitalized on the unfortunate state of the world.  Forgive those whom you believe have enabled them.  Allow yourself to not know why things are as they are and accept the Divine Order in everything.

(3) Begin to acknowledge your own sovereignty, even if you haven’t yet figured out how to access it or own it.  Even something as simple as denying the reality or deservedness of the place in which you find yourself (e.g., a mantra like: “I know I put up with a lot of abuse from others and that I don’t have to do that.  I know that I am sovereign and am finding my way back to my power.”) is a brilliant start!  Admit that your struggles would simply not exist if you reclaimed the power from which your conditioning has separated you.

The power animal that was given to help us with these challenges is the Horse.  The Horse, being a herd animal, has a sharp sense of collective experience and thinking.  It has also been made the accomplice to many destructive human endeavors, has suffered much at the hands of humans, and yet, has retained its grace and wisdom throughout its sad history.  What a great teacher for us!  Rely on Horse to provide insight and power to your healing work. 

As we heal ourselves, we will heal others.  As we heal others, we will heal the world.

(If you would like to see more journeys into the collective, let me know!)