Shamanism isn’t a magic bullet-or-Healing is hard as hell

updated 5/3

What is an important part of you that you choose to project, protect and portray? Can you sit with yourself and try to understand why it is important to you and whether or not you are presenting it with integrity? Does the identity you feel you perform match your inner sense of self? These are all questions that I have used to help guide me down my healing path over the past few years. What I found at the root of so much of my identity were amassed cultural stories that I didn’t agree with, or beliefs that formed at a young age during unhealthy relationships or behaviors that were modeled for me that were incongruent with my life path.

While this process of self growth and discovery has been a gradual one that has ebbed and flowed over the years the energy of change really crescendoed once I moved back to Michigan this past summer. It was gut wrenching and scary to come to the realization that who I was on the ‘inside’ did not always live in harmony with the me I so often chose to present to people…and there were real life repercussions for admitting that I was living out-of-rhythm with my self. For nearly a year I stood and watched as relationships that I treasure crumbled away beneath my feet, as dreams that I had called into existence turned out to be mirages leading me to a deeper truth and as my relationship with money burned down in a fiery wreck.

What strikes me most about this healing process is the feeling of inevitability that came with it. The stories that I had created for my self couldn’t hold up for shit once I turned to acknowledge my truth and power. What began as a gradual process of shedding and peeling away the parts of my life which no longer served me eventually launched me through a threshold that made it impossible for me not to align my life with my inner truths. And it hurt and I couldn’t stop it. And I prayed and the pain didn’t go away. And I fought it and nothing changed, or I pretended to ignore it and the problems got worse–no, I could not stop it from hurting until I had learned my lessons and earned my way past ‘Go’. And I had to do this after having adorned myself with the titles of ‘Integrative Healer’, ‘Shamanic Practitioner’, ‘Reiki Master’–one who knows how to heal. You see, healing is an incredibly uncomfortable process and I believe that it always will be, even for those of us who have chosen to anchor healing communities. When you break your arm and the bone is set and fusing back together, it hurts. When you go through growth spurts as a child you feel the pain associated with that growth. When your teeth poke through your gums as a child, it sucks real bad and all you can do is wait until they all poke through–I think you get my point. The pain that results from growth (healing) makes exceptions for no one.

Healing is hard as hell and no one in the dominant culture seems to be coming close to admitting that. Instead, healing is defined as a magic bullet–one prescription or steroid or surgery or crystal or shaman or psychologist that can make it the pain go away without the struggle, without the pain. This story is rampant not just in western biomedicine but also in holistic healing, modern religions, and New Age spirituality and I really had to examine the identity that was forming for me around ‘healer’ and ‘shamanic practitioner’ or ‘Reiki Master’. It is just as misleading to believe that all you need one trip to the shamanic practitioner in order to heal decades of relationship trauma as it is to believe that taking depression medication will help the same issue.

More often than not I experience my medicine as being the catalyst for an intense period of personal healing than it is a spiritual orgasm that shakes away all ills. For clients or members of the journey groups I lead my role is to help break through the illusion that is preventing them from walking their healing path. Their job is to walk that healing path until it reaches its logical conclusion, and let me tell you folks that conclusion is often surprising. Sure, the sage and songs and altar can be entertaining, even endearing to some, but to me they are tools to help folks to see their true self. I provide the space for individuals to see themselves in this new way because those are the tools that have helped me to see my self. Because it is part of my healing path to bring my vulnerability to the surface and transform with you. My medicine invites you to heal in-pain together with me and watch with wonder when beautiful gifts begin to emerge out of the deepest, darkest, hardest to reach places and ripple out to benefit not just you but the whole world. Healing is hard as hell and it so often hurts, so we might as well do it together with ALL things and sing some songs and send some prayers. The bliss and the joy that arises from the healing process does so after the labor pains. The tears we shed when we release are tinged with the memories of the struggles we endured to get to the point of release.

About Andy

M.A. Integrative Health, Reiki Master, Shamanic Practitioner, Wellness Coach Andy earned his Master’s degree in Integrative Health at the California Institute of Integral Studies in May, 2013. He is a certified Wellness Coach, Shamanic Practitioner, and Reiki Master teacher. He has studied with some of the Bay Area’s premier teachers and focuses his healing approach on helping others connect with their true life path with the assistance of helping spirits, guides, and nature. Andy is also passionate about assisting others in developing their spirituality and using it as a wellness tool. He brings a unique combination of skills to each of his sessions, focusing all of his healing techniques on providing an empathetic space through which clients can safely go inward and feel empowered to facilitate change in their lives. Whether it is through a connection to nature and helping spirits, experiencing Reiki for the first time, or creating a wellness plan to achieve your personal and spiritual goals, Andy is happy to serve his community. View all posts by Andy

5 responses to “Shamanism isn’t a magic bullet-or-Healing is hard as hell

  • saraannon

    The idea of a painless life is the path of the addict willing to try anything (spiritual practice included) to avoid feelings. I find it interesting that it takes a certain amount of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) to kick the biochemistry of long-term memory into gear. Anxiety and anticipation have remarkably similar biochemical footprints- the difference is in the name we call it and the attitude we take. There is a lot more learning and a lot less suffering if we take that first adrenaline shiver as a call to keep our heads up and pay attention. I live with intense chronic pain, so am speaking from experience.

    • Andy

      Thank you for your comment, Sara. I think that there is a lot to what you said about ‘the difference is in the name we call it and the attitude we take’. It takes time to change the way we perceive and relate to pain. Thank you for sharing your experience with it. I wish you continued strength and grace as you walk your path 🙂

  • anahata

    Thank you Andy. I really needed to read this today. I have began my personal path of healing through shamanic practices recently, and have took the plunge pretty hard, jumping quickly to deep work. This has been a very difficult experience. It is comforting and refreshing to see the no bullsh*t perspective of healing and to know that that this is supposed to be hard. What great transformation could come from effortlessness and without facing all the darkness and pain that has built up within us over the span of our lives?

    • Andy

      What a great message to receive–and on my birthday no less! I am happy to hear that you have found yourself on the healing path. When we connect with our courage and look ourselves squarely in the face tremendous growth occurs! Enjoy the ride 🙂

      • anahata

        Oh great! 🙂 Well happy Birthday! Yes, courage is needed for the this ride! I am enjoying your articles. Thank you.

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