Recently I was commenting with a friend on Livejournal about some aspects of shamanic work, and it came up for us both about keeping quiet with some of the things we See/experience in our Work. Sometimes those things can contradict what is generally accepted or acceptable among modern shamanic workers, and we keep quiet lest someone declare that it’s wrong. I also realized that for me, this attitude is somewhat internalized and keeps me from actually doing or trying different things, not just in trance work but in any sort of esoteric practice I might undertake.
This isn’t a healthy approach to spiritual work, in my opinion. When worry over other people’s opinions or failure come into the picture, it can quickly overshadow anything else happening in your practice. For me, it too often translates into my not continuing my practice, which is probably the worst possible response.
I know us hominid types are hard-wired for seeking both approval and success. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator and success also can mean surviving to see another day. But what do you do when you do not get this positive reinforcement? What do you do when you either fall on you face or have to handle people telling you just how you messed up?
First, on failure. I can easily sit here and say that if you tried and failed, at least you tried, and that is better than not trying at all. I could also tell you that people doing W/work for years or even decades, whether mundane or not, will still sometimes fail. The point is how you handle the failure, whether you get up and try again or stay in that space of feeling the failure. I also know far too well how it feels to be in that point of failure, wondering why you’re even making an effort to try and if there’s any point in continuing. All I can suggest is to learn from it. Does the technique work normally? Does it not? Is it time to try a new experiment, or maybe move on to a different practice entirely?
If you are in this position, my only suggestions (and I am certainly not exempt from my own advise) are to not make any rash decisions in the heat of the moment, gain some distance so as to get some more impartial perspective, and work from there. If you let missteps keep you from walking, your only option is to stay in the exact same place.
When the fear comes from a fear of being shunned, that is more difficult. Are these people whose opinions matter to you? Do you need to even share what you’re doing? Community can be a wonderful resource for support and knowing at least one other person has possibly tread this path before you. Is their reaction a knee-jerk? Is it coming from a place of concern for your well-being? This is one that is not as easily answered. I would hate to sound like a relativist and somehow have my words imply that if you’re doing something, it’s automatically OK. On the other hand, in my own Work I often find myself at the boundaries, which is not a regular space for people nor a comfortable one. Some of what I learn, I share, and is meant to be shared. A great deal of my work is private and at this point meant for me first and foremost. I find that it’s a balancing act (yes, another boundary image).
There are some things I do and believe that I hope to share, as I come to the first anniversary of this blog. (A year already? is it possible?) My hope is that I am able to share these things without either falling on my face or being shunned. Only time will tell.
Hopefully once this semester is over I can again resume regular practice and work past any fear that has been building up in my psyche. I hope the same for all of you reading as w