07 Oct Shamanic Energy Medicine for Treating Trauma and Other Contemporary Afflictions, Part 3: Rings of Consciousness, Shamanic Journeying and Multigenerational Imprints on Consciousness
In this third blog of the series on Shamanic Energy Medicine for Treating Trauma and Other Contemporary Afflictions, I go more deeply into the perspectives behind and tools used for working with clients presenting with symptoms of PTSD, depression or anxiety. This builds upon the second blog in which I built a foundation for understanding shamanic energy medicine by drawing on several decades of research on the transgenerational transmision of trauma and the emerging science of epigenetics.
Transgenerational transmission of trauma is ever-present in work with clients using shamanic techniques. In western psychology, it also has emerged since the 80s as a factor in a client’s symptoms, particularly if their parents suffered a major traumatic stressor, such as the Nazi death camps. Recently, scientists are finding that a traumatic event can have an impact on gene makeup which can then be passed on to the offspring of the parents and even further down the family line.
In this blog, I am going to tackle a shamanic understanding of consciousness and the layers of consciousness relevant to the impact of trauma transgenerationally. Human consciousness is a deep and complicated topic which has been argued for more than a hundred years by philosophers, scientists, medical doctors, anthropologists, literary writers, and many others. I don’t wish to take sides or make a rigorous academic case here. Nor do I want to take on the whole of human consciousness. I consider that subject to be so vast as to virtually unfathomable.
However, my experience engaging with my clients’ and my surface symptoms of PTSD and in their underlying manifestation in Deep Self coupled with decades of interdisciplinary research on violence has led me to have some rudimentary understanding of the content of consciousness related to how trauma impacts us collectively and individually through time and space through the Human Energy Field (HEF). I am convinced that the dark matter of violence is imprinted in human consciousness in a particular pathway or energy stream into which we as individuals and groups become entrained both consciously and unconsciously.
Rings of Consciousness and Ancestral Experience
I define the consciousness of an individual to be all that is held within an aware or awake state and which expands outward and inward from there in concentric circles into a stream of infinite possibilities, probabilities, awareness and pure energy. Thus, consciousness contains every thing both known and unknown, tangible and intangible. We are not aware of the whole of consciousness when we are awake, but we can develop ways to learn more about it and even to use elements of consciousness through mapping and practice.
One way to understand this is when we lie on our backs and look up into the nighttime sky. In our bodies and from the point of view of our awake, conscious state we are tiny, single point of focus projected outward and upward into a great expanse which has no beginning, middle or end and which is mysterious and unknown. As we gaze upward, we might at first experience ourselves as separate from what is above us and then, gradually or instantaneously, momentarily lose a sense of self and dissolve into that vast infinity. When we rest in normal, everyday awareness, consciousness is described in terms of what is outside ourselves and yet at any moment, we can loosen this physically-oriented point of focus and experience ourselves as far greater and more mysterious than we ever imagined.
If we instead project our gaze inward into the deep self, we encounter a similar phenomenon: what is inside and beyond our normal, every day sense impressions is like a vast and infinite universe within which our singularity as a human being in physical body within linear time can be experienced as separate or which can also dissolve into infinity in progressive layers of expression and experience. Both inner and outer, from the point of view of the conscious self, are cloaked in mystery, but can nevertheless be explored through the focusing of intent. When we are able to do this, we begin to understand that even concepts of “inner” and “outer” are merely organizing principles created through cognition by the need to move within, through and around the infinite Living Universal Consciousness (LUC) from the physical, concrete dimensions on “upward” or “inward” towards an all-encompassing oneness.
Within the LUC, there are streams of energy carrying the experiences and imprints of every expression possible within the whole of this ever-expanding, creative matrix of consciousness. The more we as individuals and groups activate and engage along certain pathways of experience and expression in our actions in the physical world, the deeper these energy streams become, much in the same way we understand how a river wears through land until it forms a deep canyon.
So it is that within this infinite and creative matrix, we can follow a very clear map into the dark matter (DM) of all human experience of violence from its grosser to its most subtle manifestations. This is but one energy stream in the whole of the LUC. We can just as easily follow an energy stream of light matter (LM) in which every human experience of love, compassion and concord can be found and magnetized. Indeed, when working to heal traumatic imprints in a client, we must also reach into the pathways of LM to replace and entrain her energy into a new pathway of expression. But first, we must become familiar with the map outward/inward in concentric, ever-widening Rings of Trauma Consciousness (ROTC) containing the imprints of DM from personal to ancestral on outward to collective experience. I map these rings as follows:
- ROTC #1: The awake, daytime domain of consciousness: physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, stories, conscious memories of the recent and distant past (both our own, our family’s, community’s, group’s, nation’s, etc…) of traumatic events. This level tracks with the the level of consciousness which provides us with the ability to navigate the physical world–to see, feel, sense, and know what is outside around you. Here we most actively and consciously use the 5 grosser senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch, although more subtle versions of these senses are also engaged, often unconsciously. In this ROTC when dealing with the impact of trauma, cognition is dominant.
The next 8 layers are nested in the subconscious and, depending on what is presenting in a client’s life and emotions, may be just barely beneath surface awareness or deeply buried. In these ROCs, feeling and intuition are dominant:
- ROTC #2: The unprocessed material of our own past and present, including unfelt emotions, experiences, memories, whether joyful, neutral or traumatic, and deep-seated beliefs.
- ROTC #3: Where our own experiences and memories, both conscious and unconscious, link into and arise out of those of our ancestors, including unacknowledge and unfelt emotions, experiences, memories, whether joyful, neutral or traumatic, and deep-seated beliefs which strongly determine the choices we make in our lives.
- ROTC #4: Where our ancestors’ experiences, memories and emotions link into and arise out of those of our clan, tribe, community, culture, nation, race, or group, depending on the societal and geographic understandings of identity and history. These two hold beliefs which strongly determine the choices we make both individually and collectively.
- ROTC #5: Where our own experiences connect through the ancestral and group experience into the entirety of collective human experience through time.
- ROTC #6: Where our own and all human experience intersects and engages with the energetic matrices of the non-human realms: plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms, planetary, solar, and lunar energies, powers of nature (wind, rain, thunder, snow, lightning, etc.), and of the ever-expanding, intricate, innumerable, and infinite manifestations in the universe (stars, solar systems, galaxies, and beyond).
- ROTC #7: Where all experience and manifestation is expressed in what Carl Jung called archetypal or mythic expressions, such as the Great Mother or Gaia represented across cultures in various forms and personas.
- ROTC #8: The realm of oneness in which all experience dissolves into pure light and energy.
In journeying into the subconscious, and entering into each of these rings, we can access memories, experiences, beliefs, and feelings from past lives. I like to add for those who are skeptical of reincarnation that we can work with whatever comes forward in our journeying and presents itself as a “past life” as arising out of the ROTCs #3, 4 or 5. For instance, once I had an experience in an energy healing session of the death of a French Holy Warrior on a field of battle during the Crusades. In terms of integrating this process into my present self, it could as easily have been a memory imprint in my consciousness from one of my blood ancestors (ROC #3). Or it could have been a story arising out of the collective memories of my ancestors who lived in that time period, but who were not themselves warriors ROC #4). Or it could have arisen out of an experience in the deep wells of collective human experience (ROC #5). It does not really matter how we view it through our cognition. What matters is the energetic process of shamanic healing in which we have removed the life-depleting imprint of the experience and retrieved its life-enhancing energy, meaning and untapped gift. For within every human experience, whether in the stream of DM or LM, there are always the seeds of life, love and power.
So it was that when the healing session was over, I rose from the table free from the physical and emotional pain I came with. I stayed pain-free for many weeks afterwards. The gift, or life-enhancing energy from that experience was three-fold: 1) I came away with an understanding of my chronic pain as a physical manifestation of a deep belief in my own “sinfulness” and irredeemability due to my own human illusions and mistakes; 2) Through active engagement with the dying warrior on the healing table, I rose to the challenge to forgive him and, by extension, my self; 3) I faced death with presence and love and thus contributed to an innate and developing power within me to be a compassionate witness to human suffering and mistakes–a quality which would serve me well in later years as a university teacher on the topics of violence and racism and as an energy healer. The movement of and unhooking from the energetic constellation of this old story so deeply imbedded in the western, Christian worldview and thus rooted as a constellated energy in my own Luminous Body by virtue of being raised as a young child in the Episcopal Church and my ancestors themselves having a long roots in Protestant Christianity, enabled me to move forward from that day on with a greater sense of self-confidence, purpose and empowerment in my life. This would be an ongoing process over years of healing work which I discuss in depth in my shamanic memoir.
It is important to point out that the ROTCs I have mapped here do not constitute the totality of human consciousness, nor the totality of the holographic matrix within and beyond human experience and expression. There are layers upon layers, dimensions upon dimensions beyond conceptualization and even imagination–beyond our human capacity to access, much less understand. This is the Great Mystery, as Native Americans express it. These 8 ROTCs are simply the map of one energy stream or path within what is vast, complex, and mysterious. Human beings can enter into this LUC with a variety of intentions and goals and travel along other pathways to find other domains of consciousness and experience. So it is that a physicist could use journeying or some related version of accessing the LUC to find answers to his questions and hypotheses about the nature of reality. I am sure there are maps which could be devised–have been followed–by human beings seeking to know things beyond what is consciously accessible. Albert Einstein himself inferred as much when he spoke about how he came to understand the theory of relativity.
The Soul Wound and the Rings of Trauma Consciousness
Shamanic writers describe the effects of a deep trauma as leaving a “soul wound”. When we speak of the soul, we invoke the very wholeness of a person–his light, love and truth–a state of purity and connection within and outside oneself. When our innate wholeness and light is invaded and left unrepaired, it leaves a gaping hole–and thus, a lack of wholeness–in us. This is the very definition of trauma. There is a profound loss which then continues to operate consciously and unconsciously within a person.
The simplest way to understand this is to imagine what would happen to a child who is sexually molested by her parent. A child is utterly dependent on the parent on every level–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Children who have yet to be untouched by the troubles of our world have such a beautiful, joyful and light energy.
If a child is then invaded by a parent, her very wholeness and sense of connection to not only a safe and loving parent, but a safe and loving world is undermined. In response, some essential part or parts of self would disappear. What would be left could manifest in myriad ways in that child’s and then adult’s life: a lack of trust in her own body, in authority figures, in nurturing, and intimate physical connection, among others. Coupled with this loss of trust would arise a conscious or unconscious belief about self and the world: “Better to not trust the body”, “I must give away my body in order to be loved”, “To be loved is shameful,” “I must shut down sexual feelings,” “I do not deserve to have my body boundaries respected,” and so on. There are many possible permutations of belief which could arise out of an experience of incest. These losses then manifest in life-depleting physical and emotional symptoms, as well as in persistently non-life-enhancing experiences. Here we see the symptoms of a soul wound–a profound loss of wholeness.
In the second blog of this series, I mentioned the research of Diane Russell into the lifelong impact of incest in women. She found that there is a shockingly high level of victims of child sexual abuse who then become victims of sexual assault later in life. This is but one, more serious example of how a childhood soul loss might manifest in negative ways later in life. In order to understand how and why this happens, we can reach to the concept of the soul and how it links into how the ROTC holds all experiences of incest.
The concept of the soul speaks to the dimension of our consciousness which holds within it everything described in the Rings of Trauma Consciousness. Our soul is the connective tissue between individual, personal experience and history to the ever-expanding matrix of the LUC from our blood ancestors to the entirety of the human community on outward to infinity and oneness. Every human being carries within himself both personal as well as collective history and experience. Therefore, a single act of incest in one boy’s life intersects in the matrix of the ROTC to every other person who has experienced incest within his own family and outward to the human family, as a whole. We can also assume that the perpetrator, as well, has suffered a soul loss or is acting out a soul loss within the ROTCs even if he has not himself been a victim of incest. This truth reveals the profundity and power of a wounding to the soul of a single individual as it ripples outward through the ROTCs to connect into and to thus affect ultimately every other human being. This is why I invoke the expression “heal yourself, heal the world.” Because the unhealed, unresolved woundings of a single individual can manifest downstream in the ancestral line and even in unrelated individuals through the dark matter of our collective human consciousness. In the same way, when we seek healing and transformation of what appears to be our personal wounding, it reverberates outward to energize the potential for healing the imbalance within our own family lineage and beyond into the very fabric of human consciousness which holds the imprints of every act of incest across time and space.
When exploring consciousness in service of a client’s or even a community’s healing, as we navigate all these levels, from awake to subconscious, we encounter the experiences and memories of our immediate family outward to ancestors long dead. In our aware, awake state, these might have been passed down overtly as stories and memories. In a trance or sleep state, these and other ancestral experiences may emerge in the form of dreams, unexplained sensations, feelings and emotions. So it can be that in shamanic practice, a client may present with a story or a set of symptoms which seem to have no logical reference point in her own or her immediate family’s experience or which simply seems to be grossly exaggerated. When we connect into the deeper ROTCS through journeying, we may uncover an event or experience in an ancestor’s life going back sometimes uncountable generations. Or we may find that there is a particular pattern–such as addiction, for instance–which can be traced back many generations, even to the moment the addiction took hold in the family linage.
Whereas in conventional western psychological approaches, there is a focus on an individual’s history going back perhaps only one or possibly 2 generations (if someone is so lucky as to know more than small bits of information that far back), in shamanic energy medicine, we acknowledge the potential transgenerational impact on a single human life going back hundreds, even thousands of years. When we consider the complex history of human beings even just in the past 6000 years, we can imagine a vast inventory of potential experiences, memories, feelings, and stories which a single individual might hold within his or her own consciousness down even to his/her own DNA. We can link all of this into the larger entity of the soul. When there are woundings from all the ROTCs due to a chronic inability to release and heal their imprints within a single generation, then the potential for such events to happen in one individual is exponentially greater. The same is true for soul woundings among whole groups when there has been genocide and ongoing acts of oppression, discrimination and violence.
Shamanic Journeying to Map Rings of Trauma Consciousness
Now that I have laid out a picture of both consciousness and the Rings of Trauma Consciousness relevant to healing imprints of transgenerational wounds , let me define ” shamanic journeying” as a way to explore these domains. Many well-known shamanic writers and practitioners have extensively discussed this topic. Sandra Ingerman writes in Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self (1991): “When shamans ‘journey’, they are being transported not outwardly around the face of the earth, but inwardly…they move into an altered state of consciousness in which they experience realities outside our normal perception.” When we consciously enter into a trance state, what Michael Harner calls a “shamanic state of consciousness” (SSC), we extend our normal, everyday awareness beyond the confines of linear time and ordinary physical reality. In essence, we enter into a form of awareness in which we move and act within a space-time continuum, the LUC, which is holographic, noncausal and nonlinear.
It is important to note here that accessing information through means of entering into altered states has always been a part of our collective, human inheritance. More recently, Native American medicine people have been a source of information about this capability and its use in service of understanding the state, condition and contributions of the non-human domains to the planet (plants, animals, weather, etc.) and to healing. The old Lakota Holy Man, Fools Crow put it like this in a conversation with his friend, Thomas Mails: “‘I have not been given anything that others can’t have. My ancestors were all taught how to have sacred dreams. In these dreams all kinds of strange and beautiful things would happen, things that never could take place in ordinary life….I should tell you that I call my dreaming by another name. I call it ‘visioning”” (Mails, Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power, 1991, 74-75).
If we are a person who dreams regularly, we would recognize in part what this feels like: the rules of the physical world do not apply. We can experience past, present and future simultaneously. In this state of being, sometimes called the “imaginal”, perception is driven more by an innate knowing, sensing and feeling or by symbol and story. If we “see”, it appears as an image on a movie screen; if we “hear”, we hear inside our heads–called “inner hearing and seeing”. Fools Crow again speaks of this capacity: “‘When we see with our mind we do not understand people or situations by their appearances. A person might not be beautiful on the outside, but will be a beautiful person on the inside. And when we serve as bones for Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers, we learn to see things in a new and magical light, to look at people and situations in different ways. Visioning is learning to let the Powers show you things through their eyes'” (Mails, 76).
The “Powers” and “Helpers” are the spirits who work with and guide him as he uses what he calls his “concentration tools” to see more deeply into a problem. I will speak in a later blog in this series about the shamanic understanding of spirits, powers and helpers. What is important for purposes of understanding journeying is to glean from Fools Crow’s discussion of how he sees “ordinary” things becoming “extraordinary” (in his words) and imagines “things that can not be seen by the physical eye….I can feel and see things most others miss. Pictures come into my mind, and soon I can find new approaches and ways to change everything around me” (Mails, 77). Fools Crow’s “tools”, as he called them, to activate this capacity included putting on a blindfold to block out light and ordinary sense perceptions.
Harner talks about ways to activate SCC–through rhythmic sound (drumming, rattling). Many cultures have also used sacred plant medicines, such as Ayahuasca or San Pedro. However, there are many other ways this state can be triggered, such as through a guided meditation, hypnosis, or by opening up into active imagination–calling up an inner image or sound and then following a thread of associations. Psychics, or intuitive readers will use tea leaves, cards, automatic writing, and other tools to bypass ordinary perception and enter into the dream state known in shamanic circles as journeying.
Where we “travel” or what we perceive once this more subtle lens of perception opens is strongly determined by personal affinities, training and intention. A healing practitioner may come to the table with an affinity with a particular domain of consciousness. For instance, someone may feel a strong connection with the consciousness of plants or animals. I myself have had a strong affinity with tapping into the DM of trauma and violence.
No matter what our proclivity, to become an effective practitioner in service of healing, we must find or learn a map of the imaginal domains with which we seek to engage. Without a point of focus, when we journey into the holographic matrix of reality, we risk entering into what could appear as chaos, flux, movement, and change. It is also important that our own mind, emotions and energies are clear and balanced. We must know ourselves intimately and deeply in order to ensure that when we journey on behalf of another, we are not being buffeted about by our own fears, ego-driven agendas or unacknowledged emotions and beliefs. This is why Fools Crow talked extensively with Mails about “cleaning his energy” so he could become a “hollow bone.”
Once we do have this level of clarity and are familiar with the map which will serve our intention to heal human suffering, when we journey on behalf of a client or a group, we know the pathway to the information sought. Or the information sought will be able to find us. It does not matter if it is one way or the other; the point is that as our energy follows intent, so intent will call in energy. The end result is what is felt, seen, heard, know, sensed, perceived, and then how it is used in service of the client’s healing.
It also does not matter if we believe in a god, creator, “powers” or spirits. For Fools Crow, steeped in the Lakota worldview and traditions, these connections mattered greatly and he actively invoked them for the work. In my experience working with clients and students who come to the table with a variety of beliefs and values, from atheistic to Christian, or New Age to Muslim, what matters is the clear intention to help, to heal, to love. So, if we use whistling, art, tarot cards, drumming, incense, singing, praying, or any other way to bypass the rational mind and seek deeper knowledge–if we call on Jesus, Mother Earth, Angels, Buddhas, our Higher Self, God or any other being, or if we simply call on the goodness of love–all that matters is that we do our work with compassion and a clear intention to have a positive impact. We can then enter into a light trance and perceive things not otherwise available to us when we are operating in our ordinary, day-to-day awareness.
Giving Validity to the Imaginal and the Journey for a Client’s Healing
In western scientific discourse, the imaginal, or imagination, is considered to be “unreal”– much as we say children play at “make-believe”. In the same vein, the realm of dreaming, a close cousin of the state we enter in journeying, is portrayed in the dominant western worldview as merely “psychological”–a result of a neurobiological process which results in feelings, images, and sensings. In that framework, what we experience in such states are interpreted psychologically as “symbolic”, but nevertheless still not “real”. This very positivist, materialist view of the rich range of human perception has shut out a large spectrum of awareness and consciousness through which human beings have for millennia accessed knowledge about themselves and the world. It also assumes that the symbolic dimension of human experience is of lesser importance than the concrete, physical domain. Such a worldview is deeply impoverishing and cuts us off from the potential to heal the deepest hurts held in the consciousness of humanity and the planet, as a whole.
In the western shamanic worldview, the imaginal is as real, tangible and relevant as anything in physical reality and even more so. It is alive, potent and meaningful. We deliberately enter into these states of awareness in order to gather information and to effect powerful change processes in the consciousness of a client. It is important to understand that this is not a one-way process; the client’s consent and participation in the healing work is extremely important to the end result. Practitioners have ways to ensure that such consent is assured not only on conscious levels, but on unconscious ones. This is built into the ethics of the practice.
So it is that when a client comes to us with a wish to address negative emotional patterns such as depression, anxiety, impaired relationships, addictions, symptoms of PTSD, or simply a feeling of being “stuck” in her life, we use her story, emotions and bodily sensations as a point of entry into the ROCs through journeying. When I work with clients, at first I “journey” without sound or any obvious tool. This is because after years of practice, I simultaneously hold two points of awareness: one in ROTC #1 in which I am listening deeply to the client and following her narrative, and one in which I am already using the story to enter into the pathways of the less visible dark matter of the ROTCs.
In this phase of journeying, my body works much like a tuning fork. I can feel a client’s unexpressed emotions and physical sensations as she speaks. These sense impressions then act as triggers opening up into a level of perception beyond and beneath the cognitive. I will then begin to get snippets of information through inner seeing, hearing, sensing, or intuitive knowing. Some of this may be personal to her life or may touch into other layers of the ROTCs. In western psychotherapy, a practitioner’s use of her own body and feelings is referred to as “projective identification.” Therefore, what I do at this level of client engagement is not outside what is considered normal practice in some psychological treatment modalities. Following my training in psychodrama, I call it “body doubling.”
But energy medicine is not only “talk” therapy. Once the client has given voice to the story and all her concerns, worries and wishes, we then must engage directly with the Luminous Body (LB) of the client to probe even deeper and thus to remove the constellation of the dark matter–experiences, emotions, sensations, and beliefs which are the underlying source of imbalance. The next step is for me to assist the client in feeling into her own body so as to locate where the dark matter feels most activated or stuck.
For instance, my client–let’s call her Mary–may come in speaking of a conflict with her boss which she relates to an old pattern she can trace back to her abusive father. I ask her to bring her awareness to her body and to find the location of the energy imprint of the past and present. Mary says, “It’s in my stomach.” I reply, “Give me some adjectives to describe it.” I do this in order to bring Mary from the cognitive telling of the story into bodily–and thus energetic–experience. Mary says, “Hot, hard, black.” Bodily sensations and symptoms are intimately interconnected into the LB. Hence, it is extremely important to make these connections as we enter into the deeper levels of her personal consciousness and thus into the ROTCs related to her childhood trauma and its symptoms in present-day conflict.
I then need to connect the dots from the story and the body to emotion and feeling: “What emotions are present in that hot, hard, black place in your body?” Mary says, “Anger, frustration, sadness.” I allow her to sit for a moment feeling all of this–the physical sensations and the emotions. I, too, am feeling and sensing what Mary is as I continue to swim in the stream of dark matter. I am also getting other information through inner seeing, hearing and knowing. This process has also already activated and opened up the client’s LB and the affected chakras so that a releasing can occur. At this point, I have Mary choose a stone from my medicine bundle, or mesa, which she feels most strongly drawn to as a healing ally. I then instruct her to imagine she is imprinting the stone with three long, strong breaths all these stories, energies, emotions, and sensations into the stone.
Once the stone is imprinted, the client lies down fully dressed on a massage table. In the spirit of the indigenous sources for the western shamanic healing tradition in which I have been trained, I use a variety of tools to cleanse the LB of heavy energies, including my hands, feathers, bells, rattles, incense, and sprayed, scented water. I am not going to talk here in more detail about this dimension of shamanic energy medicine because I am focusing in this blog on journeying and the ROTCs. What does happen as I engage more directly with my own hands and actions in the client’s LB is that my journeying into the ROTCs goes slightly deeper. As I come across dark matter in the LB of the client, I continue to receive more information from the ROTCs through an intensifying of emotions, inner sounds and images, sense impressions, and knowings within myself. Often the client, too, is experiencing a great deal on all of these levels. Sometimes, however, she sinks into a light and peaceful trance state. Much depends on the client’s level of personal, energetic and bodily awareness and on where she is in his healing journey.
At a certain point, the surface manifestations of the dark matter in the LB is sufficiently cleared and it is time to journey more deeply to explore the ROTCs and to eventually remove the energetic constellation of trauma anchored deep within.
I use a journeying technique taught by Alberto Villoldo in which we “travel” using rattling to activate the imaginal. In this process, we imagine going into a “Lowerworld” to explore the “Chamber of Wounds.” The Lowerworld is essentially our subconscious–that which is held beneath conscious awareness and intent. In shamanic parlance, the Lowerworld is also where we find anything related to trauma: this includes the events and experiences of harm, as well as parts of self (“soul parts”) which have retreated out of conscious awareness. The idea of a lowerworld relates to the western psychological concept of the shadow–all contents of a person’s psyche which are linked in some way to what is unknown, unowned, and unhealed. This is the home of dark matter and where we engage with the ROTCs.
Once Mary is on the table and I have cleared the surface manifestations of imbalance in her LB, I then start to rattle. While in the early years after my training in the Four Winds Society Healing the Light Body School, I used to track using the imaginal map provided by Villoldo of the 4 Chambers: the Chamber of Wounds, Soul Contracts, Grace, and Gifts. However, as time went on and building on my prior training and research on trauma, the map I followed unfolded as the ROTCs.
Already during my intake with Mary and then in clearing her LB, I have received impressions of deeper imprints: I feel in my own body a vibration and see an image of what is causing it: Mary’s father is bullying her. He shakes his fist threateningly in the air and his face is in her face as he backs Mary to the wall. I feel fear. As I rattle, the scene I have already glimpsed emerges in greater relief. But what I see is not focused on the actions of the father, but of Mary cringing with her hands over her eyes. Her back is against a grey wall. I am being shown a kind of negative imprint of a feeling state carried in Mary’s psyche as a result of years of bullying and abuse by her father which has then manifested in her tendency to get into work or intimate relationships with bullies. Here I am engaging with ROTC #2: Mary’s personal history.
As I journey, I rotate a 12-sided Vogel crystal held over Mary’s solar plexus to “extract” the scene. These types of crystals are well-known for their ability to draw out constellated energy–the dark matter of trauma–out of the LB. Eventually, the crystal has done its work and the scene evaporates. I then visualize luminous cords shooting out further into the past and with my intention, I ask to be shown deeper imprints causing this current wounding. As I “run” along these cords with my own consciousness, I begin to see scattered images of a man physically beating a woman. A story comes to me of the man taking out his frustration with his own abusive boss on his wife. I sense that they may be Mary’s grand or great-grandparents; there seems to be a history of domestic abuse and a pattern of anger at work going back 1 or 2 generations. However, prior to Mary’s and her parents’ lives, the abuse was physical, whereas Mary has told me the abuse she suffered from her father was emotional. I continue to use the Vogal crystal to extract these energies as I journey.
At a certain point, I feel a shift in the energy. I am no longer seeing scenes of individuals, but sense a strong, magnetic pull on my crystal and my own feelings. I know at this moment that I have finally reached into the deepest stream of the ROTCs: I have gone beyond 1 or 2 generations and am pulling into the crystal the dark matter of domestic abuse going back hundreds of years like a great stream of darkness. I see fleeting images and feel many intense emotions felt by both victim and perpetrator: anger, fear, sadness, guilt, grief. I feel the stream intensify and deepen as I take a leap into the archetypal, collective experience of slavery and misogyny.
As I feel these energies, they are being pulled into the Vogel crystal through Mary’s solar plexus. During all of this time, her face has become flushed and there is a subtle tremor in her body. Her breathing becomes more intense. Finally, I feel the dark stream dissipate. Eventually, there is a feeling of emptiness or stillness. I draw back the crystal, keep on rattling and wait. Mary’s body has simultaneously quieted down and her breathing has become more regular.
There is more work to be done from here which I will discuss in my next blog in the series. But for the purpose of wrapping up here, I will go to the debriefing with Mary.
Violence and abuse within families, whether subtle or overt, is often shrouded in secrecy. This can be a result of a conscious decision on the part of parents and grandparents to “put the past behind” them or to “protect” their children from suffering. Due to this secrecy, domestic violence is often long forgotten–considered a shameful memory to be forgotten as quickly as possible so that life can go on. For example, I only learned in my 40s through a random conversation with my sister about our mother’s mental illness that there existed a divorce certificate, presumably belonging to our great-grandmother, dating back to the late 1800s. The reason for the divorce stated on the document was: “severe physical abuse.” Until then, I had never heard about any violence or divorce in our family. It did not take much imagination to understand that with divorce being a very taboo and hence rare occurrence in the United States, it was likely the violence suffered by our female ancestor was severe. It then took only a few steps from there to conceive of the suffering inflicted on our great-grandmother and how it may have then been passed on unintentionally to our grandmother on down to our mother. Hidden pain, unresolved hurts and unspoken secrets manifest in a constellated energies–dark matter–within the family line until someone is able to resolve it. Symptoms of the imbalance will appear and reappear from one generation to the next until resolution is found through awareness and healing.
There are deeper dimensions of healing the dark matter embedded in the Rings of Trauma Consciousness and how they appear as life-depleting patterns in individuals and families and how they are resolved through clearing the LB and journeying to extract them from the ancestral line and beyond. There are further discussions on how consciousness and journeying can be mapped to western understandings about mental illness and treatment. These will be topics for subsequent editions of Shamanic Energy Medicine for Treating Trauma and Other Contemporary Afflictions.
For now, I will return to the story of my encounter with the Holy Warrior on the field of battle and how that one experience in an energy healing was to inform my engagement with and understanding of the dark matter of violence within the ROTC. There is so much violence in our world today–and so much violence going back into history–that human consciousness in this time is steeped in its bloody stream. So much so that most people would say without a second thought that “violence is inevitable.”
While we may be lucky enough to avoid manifesting the dark matter of our species’ violent history due to which genetic imprints are activated in our life experience and what streams of ancestral experience we draw upon in our lifetime, we may also be–as I myself have been–one of those individuals who end up swimming in the streams of the ROTC in our families and even for our communities and humanity, as a whole. There are deep mysteries in how and why this happens to one person and not to another; how and why these patterns may skip a generation or may only affect one sibling among several.
In my family, there was a very conscious concern about violence and oppression. My parents were active supporters of the Civil Rights Movement. In his later professional career, my father worked as the Equal Employment/Affirmative Action Officer for Campbell Soup Company. Therefore, I was raised from the time I was a child to consider deeply how and why human beings do violence to one another. On some level, too, my family was unconsciously working out their own history–known and unknown, remembered consciously or not– of their ancestors. It was I who then was led through my own symptoms of PTSD from growing up with a mentally ill and sadly abusive mother to tap into the dark matter of our ancestral lineage.
The Holy Warrior appeared to me at the beginning of my intensive journey to heal from these personal traumas. Given my parents’ active interest in history and social justice movements, it was not a large leap to connect my personal experience to historical trauma. This is the cognitive level of my story where my own sense of guilt instilled by my mother into me for being a less than perfect daughter. In a meeting with a psychotherapist specializing in trauma, she said to me, “You are a poster child for sublimation.” Indeed from the standpoint of western psychology, I could have transferred my own unacknowledged and unmetabolized feelings of unworthiness into a story of a Holy Warrior dying on a field of battle and regretting as he breathed his last breath all the mistakes he had made in his life.
Yet as a shamanic energy healer and as a human being who has herself entered deeply into the realm of the imaginal, I strongly assert that there is more reality in “imagination” than we may care to yet admit. And that there is deeper and more meaningful transformation and healing of our contemporary ailments–PTSD, depression, anxiety–than western psychology can offer.
Stay tuned for Part 4 of Shamanic Energy Medicine for Treating Trauma and Other Contemporary Afflictions this winter!
To find the earlier blogs in the series, go to: