I've explored and used many different psychotherapeutic and transpersonal healing modalities over the past two decades or so. Shamanic journeying continues to be the front-runner in bringing out the wicked problem-solving ingenuity and magical, multidimensional powers of my clients.
Consider what my 28 year old 1st year PhD student in Renewable Energy was taught and able to manifest in just two months. He grew up in a violent household and had prior therapy but no prior experience in this kind of healing work or journeying. He had always been drawn to books and circles around mysticism and healing, and is good at supporting and communicating to people.
He started his journey by imagining a peaceful place in nature, and landed in the woods next to his favorite waterfall. He dove into it and detected whale-like creatures, turquoise-blue prehistoric dinosaurs. He felt embraced by one, a sea dragon that became his most trusted guide. He felt a nudge to saddle and ride him. If he was too forceful and eager with a question, he was shaken up and got no answer. If he approached his guide in a more humble, appreciative, and receptive manner and lost his expectation of what he wanted to hear to feel secure and in control, he was able to go further.
He never realized how eager and intensely curious he was, even about his new guide: why it was shaped in this way, and turquoise blue. His guide showed him that it could be many colors— a shapeshifter—by pulsating. He realized that his need to categorize reality in a top-down manner had to do with being uncomfortable with mystery and the unknown.
All of a sudden, he remembered the sensation of a vault with thick walls around his heart and soul, and ended up in the middle of it, sitting in stillness while it was spinning around him and his dragon guide.
"The guide made it very clear that it's there to protect me. The vault is like a big donut, with shards in it like a fruit cake. All my energy centers are tingling and get more intense when I slow down the eagerness. It feels like we've landed in the center of where ever my energy comes from—when I view myself from far. We are sitting on it. It's a good place to visit, but not ground. Not now. "All in time" I get from it. We've flown away, very fast, and the vault is getting infinitesimally smaller.
I find myself sitting in a river and sinking into the ground. There is a hole big enough for my body, the space is perfectly shaped to support me and keep me upright. I'd always liked safe, small, compact spaces. This is where to ground. I'm sinking away from my guide. I see images of a beaver, eager-beaver, swimming around."
After he came out of his trance, he reported that the journey was intense, fun, and playful once he learned to flow with it. In that place, he felt much more at ease not knowing things but felt the anxiousness return when retracing his steps back to me and his ordinary life.
I distilled and designed this potent structure to the left to guard the porous energetic boundaries around our vulnerable creative source –– without diminishing our intuitive and empathic disposition. During the next 7 sessions, my client met and gathered a dream team of wisdom, protection, grounding, and nurturing, and guides and built a Soul Sanctuary around his WITHIN creative source, and connected it to powerful ABOVE and BELOW universal energies after climbing a steep artic mountain and dropping into the center of the earth. While doing this, he realized that one of his biggest losses as a child was needing to mold to a life that lacked soul. There was love but even love can lack soul if there was avoidance and disdain of the shadow.
Each of the following lessons were profound and got straight to the root of life-long patterns. The sea dragon guide turned out to be a mighty ruler of a kingdom. The vault that he felt trapped in was just a small section of a majestic castle, leaving my client humbled and in awe when given a tour. A wild furious little girl who had been misunderstood for thousands of years was given a ship by his underwater dragon, who'd been tracking its lost wanderings over the surface of the sea. Steering the ship gave her back her intuitive agency and a purposeful life, and made her very happy. A humming bird showed him the difference between anxious agitation vs highly energized but purpose-driven and joyfully aligned behavior.
A spider, which he despised when in the house, but respected when out in nature, showed him the bigger social picture and modern context around each of his imbalances. He was shown how to thread and walk lightly, slowly, and multidimensionally on the web, and less linearly and goal-directed than he'd drilled into his muscle memories as a hockey player when dealing with abuse, divorce, and chaos as a kid and teen. A trout showed him how to preserve his energy better, stay still but alert, hunt for insects swiftly and strategically, and let stuff that is not important flow downstream. His rock guides, forming a hollow stone seat in a river, showed him how to ground and soothe his body and nerves.
Two sessions ago, my client came in feeling frantic and enraged about a recent altercation.
"He's such a d*ck. I can't stand him. I started the ball rolling and requested a new mentor. All hell broke loose and I'm freaking out. I'm so worried now that I burned an important bridge," he said about his fall-out with his current mentor.
He was open to approaching the provocation with his mentor as a test, an opportunity to practice and integrate all that he'd learned. He thanked his trigger, who made him feel "lazy and entitled" just like his father and many other teachers and adults had done when they imposed their ideas on him and he resisted.
His ten year old younger self emerged, angrily waving a Pokemon-like fire ball around the perimeters of his energy field, feeling pushed to his limits and threatening to throw it at anyone who provoked him further. His spider guide took him in and spun a protective cocoon around him, which took his mind and body out of the traumatized, flooded zone.
His dragon guide stepped in and connected him to his true power and potential, which the boy didn't accept when it was offered by others. This was the first time he accepted it, "believed it in his body," and immediately calmed down. The dragon took the fireball and squashed it, and reminded him that there was a lot more of that in him if needed. It was too exhausting to be agitated and defensive all the time. The trout reminded him of the need to pick his battles wisely, and that this battle with his mentor may be one to let go down the stream.
My client's rock and river guides grounded and sealed all these lessons in his body, and after a few rounds of testing this by bringing his mentor's energy in the room, he felt free of the triggered feelings.
During our last meeting, my client suspected that he needed an external identity to help him gel and solidify all the transformations of recent weeks in a cohesive sense of self. His sea dragon took him to the castle up a series of stairs to a room with about a dozen doors. A fluttering, Tinkerbel waif-like guide appeared and brought in her magical touch.
These two guides showed him different realms, identities, and realities that existed under different assumptions.
Door 1: He saw himself at his desk late at night, yielding to frantic urgency, and wanting to do better than the rest. His desire to excel was motivated by a competitive drive and his self-worth was directly tied to where he placed on the totem pole, like the majority of his peers.
Door 2: He saw himself working collaboratively with his classmates, still wanting to excel but not at the expense of others. He intentionally shared and taught what he learned and knew, and enjoyed the interactions more so than cramming by himself. The only caveat: whenever he slowed down, the threat of falling behind and not doing enough triggered a sense of powerlessness and fears of losing control. This is what caused him to revert back to his old ways.
Door 3: A big paradigm shift occurred and my client realized that his compulsive, frantic control was only giving him a false sense of control. He entered a cockpit-like control center, like in a video game, and felt empowered in a way that aligned with his highest and best self. He was able to switch different skills on and off with gauges, and no longer felt reactive to the ongoing demands that he was bombarded with. He could make better and wiser choices.
Door 4: When he committed to a bottom-line stance of having fun no matter what he was doing, he felt very excited about the next door. His soul entered his body, and his ten year old said that this is what life was like for him all the time. He inspired and attracted others to him, living a life of serendipitous abundance. Rather than feeling at the mercy of his external environment and molding to the existing rules and roles within his field, he now felt capable of creating the reality that he desired, bringing in happiness, love, and cooperation where ever he went.
He retrieved his younger self who was delighted to be reunited with his adult self. Their integrated energy felt smooth, rich, and very fine, but when he retraced his steps back to the room, it dropped out of him as if hit by a brick wall. His younger self and soul felt too exposed and vulnerable to enter this cruder reality.
After he sat quietly for a few moments, his energy tentatively returned, as if getting used to what his body felt like as an adult. He agreed to focus on anchoring his energy more deeply in his body over the course of the week. I have no doubt that his guides will help him bridge the transitional gap, and fully ground him in his new identity and reality during our future work together.
Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, holistic psychologist, depth hypnosis practitioner, and shamanic healer from the Sacred Healing Well, is devoted to helping wisdom keepers, seekers, healers, and teachers dive deep into their self-healing potential and carve out their sacred dream paths in service of their dynamic whole self and the greater good.
Her debut memoir, Amazon Wisdom Keeper: A Psychologist's Memoir of Spiritual Awakening, is an eye-opening account of her spontaneous shamanic awakening and initiation during her graduate training in the mental health field. What gives her story an added twist is her ability to anchor into her rich cultural background and mystical upbringing near the edge of the Amazon rainforest when standing her ground, challenging indoctrinating double binds in her field, and placing all bets on her spiritual integrity, intuitive wisdom, and clarity—each one severely tested after escaping the chaotic aftermath of a military coup in her native Suriname and losing almost everything that she knew and loved at the age of 13.
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