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Spiritual Emergency, Awakening, and Tribe of the Modern Mystic
A component of shamanism that makes it different from other esoteric paths is servitude to a community. How one defines community can be as unique as the shamanist, herself. When I began my Masters work in 2010, learning what community I serve was a key focus. From my admissions essay through my thesis, I aligned my work with creating the Tribe of the Modern Mystic. I donít know how it dawned on me, as Iíd spent 12 years creating and sustaining The Saferoom Project, a peer support nonprofit for adult survivors of child sexual assault. Iíd also devoted 12 years to deepening my shamanic path, personally and in working with others. I fully expected my formation of community to comprise some facet of assault survivors, though no matter how much I devoted to that work, I was pulled to mentoring intuitives in spiritual emergency. No matter how I put out the intention for working with survivors to be my community, the clients and students who darkened my doorway were budding seers and healers, every day people reeling from some experience of the wyrd that left them wholly changed and oppressively alone in their transition.
Talking Stick, Tribe of the Modern Mystic, Soul Intent ArtsBut I didnít want that to be my community.
The first time I heard the phrase ďspiritual emergencyĒ was from my therapist in 1994. It had just been added as a diagnosis in the DSM-IV the year before. The day we met she told me that she could help me with symptoms of dis-ease in my lifeĖdepression, low self-confidence, PTSD, though she said flat out that she felt my distress was of a spiritual nature. She explained spiritual crisis as an awakening, in which the soul or consciousness is expanding more rapidly than the emotions or psyche can process. I canít express what a unicorn she was, in the mental health care profession back then, able to make that statement with certainty. I spent just under 3 years working with her, experiencing great improvement of my symptoms, though the day we terminated, wholly affirmed that I was still experiencing spiritual crisis. Within two weeks of that last session I committed to deeper teaching on my shamanic path, had a soul retrieval, and felt relief from crisis for the first time in my life.
I didnít want to walk back through that. To explore my capabilities in helping others assimilate spiritual crisis into soulful awakening required me to re-examine my rootless beginnings as an intuitive. It would force me to recall decades of knowing I was different in a way that defied vocabulary, the endless frustration and depression around feeling called to something that had no boundaries or guidelines, the loneliness of a solitary path, and the fear of many inexplicable phenomena that were part of my norm. I didnít want to walk back through any of those things or the feelings they stirred. Yet in greeting the stories of others, mine re-emerged as a strong shamanic narrative, encouraging others to stay the course and affirming that they werenít alone. Along with reviewing my history of spiritual emergency came unexpected emotional snarls tangling my abusive childhood once again with my spiritual path, even if only that both were occurring at the same time, that despite trauma from those different sources, the pain felt the same.
I also began to see patterns of those struggling into awakened life coping with mental illness, separation from lifelong beliefs about self, religion, and cosmology, and a resounding lack of support from loved ones during this intensely jarring time. Their therapists didnít understand, and neither their clergy, community, or other caregivers. I found myself at the center of a gathering of people who badly needed support in an area that, like it or not, I was providing. Yet, in those tenuous relationships, I realized they needed more, just as I needed more. They needed to hear it from someone besides me, more frequently than their routine trip to the local shaman, from a voice that could be engaged as needed, from others who understand what they were going through. An isolated hour with someone who utterly understands you canít sustain next to weeks, months of inundation from others who donít, and likely canít. Most of them never spoke of the supernatural events in their lives to anyone but me. They entrusted me with their most precious secrets. How in the world would I create community when we had all been so ostracized in our personal lives that we couldnít even speak our truths unless we thought only the Divine was listening?
In indigenous cultures, this dialogue would likely never happen. Not that they donít experience spiritual emergency. They doĖitís called initiation. Itís called enlightenment, because they understand that enlightenment isnít a sudden, dazzling solution to all of your problems. It cracks you open from the inside and requires you to rewire, start over, and do nothing the same. Shamanic cultures wouldnít have this dialogue because they are born into their communities. They come into the world with the support system to witness, honor, bless, and grow their wild, intuitive selves from day 1. Such is not so clear in the west.
Iíve been on my healing path since I was six years old. From the age of seventeen I began my shamanic path. At twenty-seven I began working with others as a facilitator of healing. I realize now, as with all spiritual truths, the shaman doesnít find the community, the community finds the shaman.
If you feel a need for such support not only of your experience, but in the development of your mystical life, learn more about the Tribe of the Modern Mystic. My lifeís work, my heartsong, and my compassion welcome you.
Originally published at Intentional Insights.
About the author:
Kelley is an author and modern shaman living in North Carolina. A lifelong intuitive, she has worked with a local and international client base as a shaman since 2000. Her bestselling memoir, Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma chronicles her pivotal step into the role of shaman. She is Reiki Master, an ordained interfaith minister, and she honors the path of the modern Druid. Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts, LLC, and she is vigorously involved with the worlds in and around her.
Since 2004, she has written the blog Intentional Insights Ė Questions and Answers from Within, is a contributing writer on modern animism and shamanism for The Huffington Post, and is a contributing book reviewer for SageWoman and The Beltane Pages.