Sometimes I get asked about my spiritual influences and traditions, as a way of understanding the what and how of my path. Whilst I’m happy to share about my background, I encourage viewing all traditions and modalities and approaches as storehouses of wisdom. There are truths to be found everywhere (although different truths are emphasised in different traditions). It isn’t the external form of the tradition that matters – the precise manner in which a ritual is done, or the particular tenants of the spiritual beliefs, for example – but the inner teachings that they reveal. The wholeness that you are brought into through those teachings and practice.
Here’s a collection of what I’ve found to be valuable, what I bring together in my Earth Medicine (that’s a non proprietary term, it’s just what I call the healing that’s come to me). What I drawn upon is what I’ve needed. What I’ve cobbled together is right for me, but it’s not right for everyone – and if what I’ve learned can be condensed into a single thing, it would be “Do what is right for you”.
(I’m sorry my ultimate truth is so prosaic!)
That said, here’s what makes up my cosmology, the important stuff, the content behind the form.
- Loving kindness: the essence of healing and awakening (even to the point of the semantic origin of the word ‘healing’) is to make whole. We can’t approach our own or others’ healing with divisiveness, as if we are waging war on aspects of ourself. The qualities we approach healing with are the most important ingredients in the healing soup. Let it be a soup of gentleness and kindness, most of all.
- Earth spirituality: a connection to and with ‘spirit’ through and with nature, and understanding that everything that exists is alive. Earth spirituality isn’t just a particular path (like hot yoga or angelic reiki or Zen Buddhism). It’s a deep truth that describes the basic physical and spiritual reality, of our interconnectedness with nature and all life. In the west, we’ve become somewhat detached from earth-spirituality consciousness, so to draw upon earth spirituality, even if in only a small way (walks in nature etc) is important for us in becoming whole.
- Body centred/somatic psychology: the understanding not just of the existence of a relationship between psyche and body (oh, digestion troubles – maybe there’s some anxiety), but the deep inter-relationship between the two. One of my teachers told us “Your biology is your psychology; your psychology is your biology”. Ultimately, there isn’t a separation between body and psyche. Including the physical body is so important – it isn’t necessary to know a whole bunch about the mechanisms, but in your self-work, the body has to be present. If it isn’t, then whatever we do remains in the conceptual spheres, ungrounded into our physical being, into the physical world and our lives.
- Childhood development psychology: this is often present in body-centred psychology, especially if it descends from Reichian therapy (which is based on Freudian stages of anal, oral, etc). It gives us a basic road map of the human condition and the different stages we go through as kids, and the needs we have. It points us towards what can and does go wrong, and how that then manifests as ‘stuff’ in our lives down the road. And what we need in order to heal from it at a psychological/emotional/spiritual level.
The answer for this kind of healing isn’t “MORE WHITE LIGHT!”. It’s things like, discovering the sense of inner freedom. Or feeling safe. Or feeling you can express your feelings. And more basic/generalised needs, such as for human contact. This is qualitatively a very different kind of healing to a generic and detached ‘spiritual healing’ approach to healing.
- Embracing the shadow: the Jungian meaning of shadow is that which is disowned about yourself. He said “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”. Going for light can be an important step as we discover who we are, and to gather strength for the inward journey, but ultimately, any path to healing must take us within, into the subterrain of psyche and soul.
- Healing the dualistic split: it’s common for some emotions and states to be judged as “negative” in the new age world. If I could change one thing about the modern spiritual scene, it would be this! Let’s come to a place of accepting and loving all parts of ourselves, even if they’re not very pretty by conventional standards. We must do this for the sake of our own healing/transformation, and also for if we want to help others, because some of what we need to look at and work with ain’t pretty by conventional new age standards (see the next point).
- Allowing and working with chaos, destruction and death: the words may conjure grim images, but death is surely part of life, and dying and destruction is a BIG part of the transformation process. It’s also a face of God, a pure and powerful expression of Spirit. If we only work with God/Spirit/Consciousness in its ‘nice’ attributes, our healing is incomplete. We need the energies of decomposition, ending, breaking down etc on our journeys, just as we need to exhale after filling our lungs. Our beings need the occasional thunderstorm or earthquake to clear away that which has accumulated that no longer serves us. So – sitting with what frightens us, and coming to a place of acceptance for what we know to be false, and for the form of our lives to change – this is needed just as much (if not more than!) as sitting in the light.
- Allowing and working with natural order harmony: the complementary force to the above :-). They really go together, and it doesn’t do us any good to only focus on one. They can even happen simultaneously, the destruction swirling one way and the re-ordering happening in its wake… For all the fancy teachings on high spiritual principles, to work with this principle I just let my mind touch lightly on images of nature (the fractal growth of plants, cellular division, the golden mean in shells and seeds, etc…) and on cellular/nucleic consciousness, and of the innate ‘ordering’ of biological life. And, inherent in that is also biological death and break down (and when that doesn’t happen, well, that’s what eventually makes a tumor). Death is nestled in life, and life is nestled in death.
- Working with spirit: obviously this can take many forms, and is unique to everyone. But at the end of the day, we can only go so far (not very!) under own steam; we are supported and guided by individual non-physical beings, and the greater forces of ‘Spirit’, along every step of the way. Both in a general sense, and also in specific moments, such as during healing experiences.
- Mystical seeking and devotion: a placing of oneself in the heart of the unknown, to permit yourself the constant dance between seemingly contradictory or ‘wrong’ sounding ideas and beliefs; to continuously place yourself and your soul and energy and path into the hands of greater fates and forces (which is where they are anyway, so why fight it? ;-)). A constant seeking to both see and understand, and to un-know, unlearn, and dwell in the mystery.
- Balancing action with surrender: our healing work requires both, but the surrender must come first, or the action will be derived from the thinking mind and personality. It’s in surrender that grace and the deepest healing happens; and it’s in action that we are co-creators with spirit, and can be also instruments of grace.
When your inner journey is attended to, you can be more useful as an instrument, because you don’t shy away from things, areas, energies or topics that seem ‘unspiritual’ or scary. The truth is that EVERYTHING is spiritual; everything is spirit, and is consciousness, and spirit seeks itself. If you’re scared to channel the maggots of decomposition, or are wary to dive into the energy of sexual abuse (and an aversion to both of those things is entirely understandable!) then that curtails the extent to which healing is possible, because it restricts the energetic experiences that you can interphase with and can bring through; it means the healing can only be in the form of lifting up into the light, not in the form of descending into the deepest cracks. (and actually, it’s the cracks that need our love; the light is already light enough)
- Patience: this is the quality that enables us to pass through the gateway from action to inaction, from doing to being, from control to surrender; and it’s also the means through which the spiritual forces, and also the internal psychological and spiritual conditions of the self/client(s), can ripen and mature. Our journey can’t be only on the vertical axis, it is also horizontal, through time. And patience is the boat that must take us forward through time. Can you imagine riding this journey in a boat of impatience? I shudder to think…!
- Judicious placing of the bridge: I try to be modest about this, because truly, it’s Spirit that heals, and not me or you. But there’s an art to being the bridge through which spiritual intervention can happen; a way of placing the bridge so that the most good can come about. Just as good hand placements can assist an otherwise utterly non-involved and detached healing, so does the internal connecting (with parts of your inner self, or the client/students’ inner self/selves) and the internal bridging between those delicate places in need of support, with the spiritual source of the support, help those parts receive it. It may look the same on the outside (beating a drum, doing a meditation, lying down for a self-healing etc) but as far as I’m concerned, using your human consciousness and awareness as a bridge makes a huge difference, and allows an experience to move from “nice” because you touch it from the outside, to “embodied” because it touches you from the inside.
This step is where all the psychological stuff is used and comes into its own.
So! That summarises to a large extent what I “believe in” and practice. Notice how little it’s in reference to specific practices (Toltec shamanism, Biodanza, the Reconnection healing etc)? I think it’s wonderful to go deep with a specific tradition, I much prefer a few wells (or one) dug deep, rather than many shallow wells. But the water we get from our wells, is truly universal, whether we call it aqua and collect it in a bucket or call it wasser and collect it in a pitcher. (granted, it can taste different and have different minerals depending on where we draw it from and what kind of container we use blah blah blah :-) )
All of the above (and some other things that didn’t cross my mind whilst writing this) are what, for me, form the framework and basis of Earth medicine, of an earth and heart centred non-dual compassionate inclusive spiritual path. The ‘doing’ practices – the specific traditions, modalities etc – then slot nicely into place; whether you practice Peruvian or Native American style Shamanism or Celtic mysticism or guided meditations or conscious dance or sound healing or energy healing or EFT or quantum tapping or channeling etc.
I wonder, what do YOU need for your wholeness? What are you aware of in yourself that needs some loving care, where you feel yourself at an edge? Which complementary parts of the whole do you overlook or have difficulties with? Maybe that is where you can take your next step.
With many blessings, Justin