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Shamanism isn't a Magic Bullet

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 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 simply could not hold up 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 the author:
Andy Groggel lives and dreams outside of Grand Rapids Michigan. He continues to anchor a shamanic community in his home state while working full time in the non-profit sector. He is available for private and Skype sessions, nature walks, or simply as a resource to ask a question to.


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