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Shamanic Initiation and the Legacy of Suffering

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icymist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-01-11 04:09 AM
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Shamanic Initiation and the Legacy of Suffering
"It isn't the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it's how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer."
-- Pema Chdrn

Suffering has long been associated with the shamanic process. Our studies of ancient shamanic cultures indicate that tribal shamans were often chosen based on how they overcame personal adversity as witnessed by their tribe. Thus, after surviving their soul's initiation to emerge as a spiritual conduit to their communities, shamans were bestowed with the power to help their communities. This concept has been carried through many histories and cultures as "the wounded healer," and has been lauded as the singular most pivotal step onto the path of shamanism, even into modern practice.

Contemporary shamanic paths are a mixed bag at best. Indigenous cultures of unbroken shamanic lineage brought their process for moving through initiations and subsequent recognition of the shaman into the present. Those of western ilk generally don't have a time-tested framework through which to address "spiritual crises" -- modern terminology applied to the age-old state as presented to the world by Stanislav Grof in his groundbreaking 1989 text "Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis". The closest cultural nod of acceptance to the process of the contemporary wounded healer was the inclusion of "spiritual emergency" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) in 1993, as a "Religious or Spiritual Problem," under which "Shamanic Crisis" is listed. It's a clinical representation of a spiritual event, but I guess it's better than nothing? What we still largely lack is a culturally accepted methodology of how to deal with spiritual experiences that fall outside our common bounds of ecstasy or trauma. We definitely don't acknowledge when someone's spiritual crisis is the opening to a higher calling.
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