Shaman, Shamania

47293B99-5C30-45FA-9F78-9CE8820087D1

Our ancestors sought answers by journeying far and wide, seeking spiritual leaders for guidance and answers to life’s most pressing issues.  Many times, they sacrificed their lives in order to listen to the wise counsel of the healer, the devoted shaman.  The shaman was the median between the gods and the people.  He would summon spirits through deep contemplation and rituals, receiving divine life saving knowledge from beyond.  The shaman wore clothing that distinctly separated himself from the community, wore specific painting designs on his face, chanted freely towards the spirits in language unknown to the laymen, and danced in a convulsive like fashion.  Among those that sought out the shaman was a universal understanding that this process was the way of attaining help, direction, and insight into specific issues.  This understanding was ingrained in those that came before us and is a part of our present day make-up.  The chanting shaman is a representation of hope, renewal, and rebirth.  The outcome of seeking these “medicine men” was always one of healing, or at least a consolation of some kind.  

Fast forward present day, the most influential form of entertainment is heavily populated with shaman-like artist drawing in millions of young men and women, who as many of us, are seeking genuine and concise answers to life’s most essential questions.  The “medicine man” effect lures in crowds through senseless chants, tattooed faces, belligerent dances, strange smoke, lanky bare chested men receiving their share of the gold from their performance-and those eager to find answers, while entertained- come empty and leave empty.    

By far, this art form is extremely damaging to the psyche because it taps into the human drive of seeking truth and direction.  While we have moved away from the primitive days of climbing mountains for divine wisdom to climbing stages at an attempt for the same, the result of the latter creates psychological and social decay.  The messages we wholeheartedly yearn have been completely distorted into those that promote violence, hedonism, drug use, promiscuity, addiction, objectification of women, the breakdown of family and community, and the devaluation of morality.  We must all stop to ask ourselves what effect the shift from “knowledge from above” to “f*** b******, get money” has on our youth.  

There is no doubt that such senseless music and artists should be banned from our society.  More importantly though, and more effectively, it would benefit the individual and society to carefully filter content that resembles anything that promotes social garbage and deceptively disguises itself in the images of the “wise old men” of the past.  

Bottom and Birth

501B885C-5E2E-4849-B0CD-8C6344FAAD93

I’ve come to realize that at the core of every relapse, underneath the distress and volatility of each craving, there is a sincere and desperate cry for reality… a reality tht lives out love, wisdom, and truth in its purest form.

All the rituals and practices of the major organized religions cannot parallel the moment a person hits rock bottom. There are no scripts, no pretensions, no rehearsed utterances…just a man or woman bearing their soul, pleading for healing, for answers- sending their cry into the void in hopes that Something or Someone will come.  It’s miraculous to watch.  You’ll never see someone as connected to their natural state as that.  It’s similar to watching the miracle of birth.  Being able to be a part of moments like this, I’ve discovered that there is something greater than ourselves watching over Its creation and I’m convinced loves us.

Smile Through Storms

6E1E75DC-66F7-4CC9-A71F-3F9147F50354

“Pick me up and throw me where you will.  Wherever I land I shall keep the god within me happy…” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I’ve heard many stories from people in recovery dealing with obstacles, some so severe I wondered how they were managing to stay clean and sober.  Some had lost their homes to foreclosure.  Some were laid off from work.  And some had even lost children to illness.  In every account, the same statement reappeared at the end of each share, “But I didn’t drink” or “I didn’t pick up”… “no matter what.”  These people were living proof that something profound had taken place within, a spiritual awakening.  Though the external reality of their lives were constant and difficult, there was a wise and directing consciousness beneath what they presented. This consciousness was impenetrable- although their lives were shaken, they were far from broken.  

Recovery is spiritual awareness.   People become aware of the divinity within and make a decision to honor it on a daily basis.  Outside circumstances such as death, divorce, and financial problems cannot influence the spiritual life within.  Many people in AA refer to this idea as the “98 Burn”, a statement made on page 98 of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book text which states “job or no job, wife or no wife…burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone.”  While our world may be shaken or everything seems to be crumbling down around us, we must acknowledge the god inside us, unfazed, smiling, and always willing to direct us towards the next step.  Stability, healing, and recovery depend not on what happens to us but on the reckoning and daily practice of honoring the divine life within. 

Stir

F3ECFA5C-D9E7-4D19-8F1C-3314E0AAD916

Periodically, I like to meditate on a couple of things that help restore and elicit a sense of gratitude.  It constitutes a period of contemplation evoking powerful emotions of joy and a state of thankfulness.  First, I think of a difficult or frightening moment in the past I eventually overcame.  I think of how, by great fortune, I was spared of the worst possible outcome of the event.  For example, I once slammed on the breaks right on time in traffic avoiding a fatal collision with an 18 wheeler.  Or I was called to cover a different unit on the day I was scheduled to see a patient who had been caught with a shank in his cell.  On both such occasions, I was spared and I didn’t have to be.  Many people die everyday from such unfortunate occurrences.  I like to think that the time I’m given beyond these moments are added bonuses that I should embrace and do as much as I can with the “complimentary hours.”  

The second thing I contemplate on is recalling all the people I’ve known, both directly and indirectly, who are battling or have battled serious life conditions such as terminal and chronic illnesses, addiction, severe mental health issues, homelessness, incarceration, abuse, and other forms of prolonged suffering.  I think of how if there is a universal good that exists in the world then perhaps these people serve a great purpose.  Perhaps, through divine wisdom they are the ones chosen to bear it for now so that I won’t have to.  

As macabre and dark as it can appear, surprisingly these two exercises cultivate a genuine kind of gratitude where the effects are  immediately felt.  Suddenly, the coffee tastes fresh, people become more loving, and the possibilities endless.  

Be Still

123F95F9-D757-4DD1-BA31-6BBC9D0D3358

Man envies every least deserving thing.  He strives and dies for the things that should always be allocated at the background of reality.  The promotion, the size of his home, his bank account, the attention given by others, where his kids go to school, where he dines and gathers- all take center stage and consume the pathway to his purpose. And nature which seeks to teach him how to live, how to be happy, is altogether ignored, kicked away like an orphan who incessantly begs for loose change and crumbs.  He seldom ponders the trees that show him how to weather the inevitable storms, to stand strong through the turbulence, to accept harmoniously the place it’s been given, and to fall gracefully when it is time.  It’s tragic that we often fall prey to the erroneous escapes of life’s struggles-the pill, the powder, the bottle, the dollar, the relationship, etc- through self medication and yet, often ignore the guiding example of nature.   Nature stands still, stoically, through both the pleasant moments and drudgery of existence.  It doesn’t rebel nor complain about what should or could be… it stands and exists in perfect harmony with what is and what has been given.  If you’ve run out of answers, if there’s no more ways to escape left in you, switch your focus to bringing nature and life center stage and lessen your priorities on those things that hinder.  

The Deep Path

7ADD645A-0458-4321-B256-11A622042AA3

We fall into trances…asking what seems to be broad existential questions regarding meaning and purpose.  A man in dire straits who engages in self reflection may at some point ask himself “why is this happening to me?”  If he would just remain still he would discover that he need not go far externally or into his mental faculties to find the answer.  Most times he snaps out of his contemplation due to desperation and attempts to find the answer from the outside, missing the chance of finding the answer right there in front of him. The answer he seeks can most times be found within his question.  So if he asks “why is this happening to me?”, the correct answer will likely be “why, this is happening to me!”  Though we may find it unlikely or even quite a strange response, it is one of the few answers that will prompt him to action.  Another matter to take note of is if the one asking the question already possesses the answer during or prior to asking, it is essentIal to ponder who is it that does the asking.  Surely, it is the same one who answers. This points to the strong likelihood that divine guidance resides inside man.  

The Paradox

9BB48C40-D0ED-49D3-8B76-078E79017C8C

We go through hell searching for God-the Ultimate Truth.  We scavenge through churches, synagogues, study halls, temples, and mosques.  We travel abroad, leaning on walls, meditating on mountains, and ceaselessly praying in chapels.  We are relentless in encountering The Infinite.  Yet, every sincere man knows God eludes him.  Not because He isn’t there, but because in the final analysis God dwells in the last place man cares to search- within himself.  

Little Buddhas

2029E778-1F73-4D1A-AA67-D6CF8D9DDA5F

The traumatized psyche of a child contains a silver lining.  With time, love, and treatment, as the child enters adulthood, he or she with great skill and finesse will have an exceptional capacity of reaching high transcendental states through meditation or prayer.  These wounded souls have acquired this ability through the mechanism of dissociation- a detachment of psychological and environmental surroundings used to protect itself against further trauma.  Since meditation also requires a practice of detaching from the ego or thinking mind, these children would have already experienced and understood what most of us seek…less outside distractions and a more intimate connection with our internal world.  Perhaps, a further look into this matter will initiate a shift in which children who have been damaged by trauma can be made into “little Buddhas.”  

2 Boys

D54277E1-D94F-49AB-A3EC-EC24773450E8

I love two boys dearly.  One of them I had to leave behind in order to give the other a better life.  One is a lighthearted, inquisitive, and affectionate soul.  The other, while quite loving, can be rebellious, fearful, self-destructive, hyper vigilant, and unstable.  One is my son.  The other my inner child.  I stood at a turning point where most men find themselves who are able to reflect and take inventory of personal defects and impediments to growth.  There I found all the hindrances and shortcomings embodied in my inner psychological youth.  It was here in the personification of my inner child that all sources of irrational beliefs lived.  I had to make a decision to part ways with the boy I had intimately known for decades.

The boy within men must be outgrown, tamed, or carefully integrated into adulthood if we are to properly function in the world.  However, when most men find themselves stuck at a crossroad, repeating destructive patterns, or unable to realize their full potential, most times they will find a restless inner child consuming and sabotaging their present realities.  The boy in us may manifest himself in the form of seeking power and control, general mistrust, and a debilitating apprehension to take on new challenges.  Many times, the boy will not adhere to manipulative tactics of persuasion or compromise.  The boy is adamant in getting what it wants and unless effectively confronted will destroy the man he inhabits.  In this case, the inner child must be subdued, bound, and given up for the liberation of a man’s psychological imprisonment.  It is no wonder that biblical stories such as “the binding of Issac” or the crucifixion of Christ resonate well with many of us.  A man must sacrifice faulty beliefs and dysfunctional familial patterns before he can receive the “blessing.”  Subconsciously, we understand that the most primitive and infantile aspects of our psyche must be (or at least one must be willing to) put to rest.  However, the stark difference lies in the fact that our inner child will not comply and lie quietly as Isaac or the Christian Messiah.  The binding, giving up, and the mourning of the inner boy (false and destructive beliefs) is a necessary process, a journey by which we eventually reach complete psychological and spiritual manhood.  

First Step

2BE94171-A189-45AB-A9E2-20641B0E23A3

Before you ask what’s wrong around you in any given situation, take the daring task of examining yourself, your beliefs, your values, your greatest fears and worries…We often find that these are the causes of most of our troubles.  The process of sincerely changing is like surgery.  You must go deep into yourself-beneath bone and marrow-and find those ideas that have been slowly eroding away at the possibility of reaching what you want to achieve.  The greatest victory is in keeping these invalid beliefs in plain sight and be fearlessly willing to battle them on a daily basis.  This is the path of awakening.  

%d bloggers like this: