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Healing our fractured hearts, a shamanic look at a violent acts

Healing our fractured hearts, a shamanic look at a violent actsbyCathy Towle

My heart is breaking once again as we mourn the violent deaths of regular people in Nice, France, enjoying their lives, killed by a thug wanting to make his mark. I am faced with the same question that comes up every time this happens: Who can commit such an act of cruelty and hatred of human beings? Who does this kind of thing? And why do we feel so powerless in the face of it? When I examine my own life in view of this, I know that I am connected to all of it. A little piece of everything is inside me. I am one part of that vital whole. The acts of an other affect me because they are in me too. I might not want to see it, so it is pushed down into my shadow self for safekeeping. In order to understand and contribute to real change, I need to face that part of myself and take it out of hiding.

This kind of self-examination is spiritual. Itís reflective, and itís about honesty. Do I have hatred in my heart? Yes I do. I make excuses for it, or have a nice veneer, but it is there. It mostly escapes when I am driving in Brooklyn. Right? Other Brooklynites know what I mean. But silliness aside, I can admit that. I can admit that I have hatred, mistrust, fear and ignorance inside me. It does not rule me, it does not make me a bad person. Itís not a very big part of me at all. But it does affect me. It limits my relationships with other human beings in subtle and very prescient ways. It melds with the unconscious psyche that we all share. And if left unacknowledged, it pops out of the collective psyche into someone with the propensity for violence, and it wrecks havoc.

Now I am not saying we caused this, or any self-blamey stuff here. But I am saying that we are related to the problem. And being related to it opens up possibilities. Our darkest parts are holding hands with our creativity and brilliance. We have to go there to retrieve our way out. As a collective, if we are willing to delve into our darkness, we can change this. Itís in us to do so. Itís in us to love, itís in us to integrate and heal those wayward parts that need connecting and growth. Human beings are intrinsically flawed, and thatís our beauty. We all are in this together.

From a shamanic standpoint, anyone who is so disaffected by harming human life and disregards the value of their own life, has significant soul loss. They are out of alignment with their ancestors and the threads of connection that create community to hold them. Who was there to hold this man? What healing did he need? If we are not attending to our own healing, other people who are in big trouble hide among us unrecognized. It clouds the connections that keep us whole and flourishing and nourished. A person who understands and recognizes their own pain can see it in others and stand with them without fear. It doesnít mean that we can rescue them or even heal them. It does however open up a part of us to take responsibility for the well being of other humans. We can lessen the shame of mental illness and PTSD so that people can get the help they need.

We look to big solutions when facing terrorism: policy, policing, walls, regulations, fierce statements, war. Although itís important to take a strong stand, being tough back is not always the answer. Terrorism is based in resentments that, if honestly faced, are a larger societal problem. As a global society, we need to start caring about and understanding the cultures we deal with every day, especially religious and political differences and their histories. And contribute to the healing of these things, treating others the way we wish to be treated. Understanding the societal and mental illness that takes hold when people have mistrust, resentment and hatred will change policy, responses to terrorist acts, and how we hold others.

One thing I have learned from working with the spirits of those on the other side, is that they donít carry their resentments into the next world. While they might be prickly or grumpy or showing us their personality that they had on earth so who know who they are when we contact them, resentment and anger is just not there. They are free to heal, free to examine the overview of their lives. Regret sometimes comes through, and forgiveness. Mostly though itís love. Love that heals everything in itís wake. Love that awakens us to possibility. That love inspires me every day. It lets me know that I am held in my work. It lets me know that I matter. It lets me know that I am an intimate part of my community. It infuses me with gratitude and hope.

I know the spirit world welcomes those who died yesterday in the wake of senseless violence, with love and compassion. Those souls are there to comfort us and hold us and guide us to a new sense of sanity and wholeness if we let them. We have their support to enter the unconscious realms and heal our negativity and hatred. We need not be afraid. We can hold love and fear at the same time without letting fear rule us. The work lies ahead, but I have faith in humanity. I hope you find that too.

About the author:
Cathy Towle is medium, shamanic healer and sacred activist. She teaches people how to heal and re-imagine their lives working in harmony with the ancestors, guiding spirits and nature. Her consultative work at the United Nations supports indigenous perspective on international issues, especially around Climate Change and Eco-Spirituality. Tending to the land spirits and restoring right relations with the natural world in NYC, Cathy works from her home in Brooklyn, NY. You can read her spirituality column at or visit her blog at


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