The Ball

by Ross Bishop

Imagine a small dark ball. This is the world of your inner child. Years ago, her world was very limited. It consisted of herself, her parents, siblings and possibly grandparents. At that age, the rest of the world just isn’t that important. Although a child’s world should be one of play, fantasy and joy, many children’s worlds are unfortunately filled with pain, disappointment, judgment, criticism, emotional abandonment and rejection. And for some others, their ball can be a realm of pure hell.

The beliefs you hold about yourself, about others and the world were shaped by what happened in your ball. And it is important to remember that everything that happened there was controlled by your parents. And, although you were profoundly affected by what took place, you had little real influence over those events. However, like all children, when things went wrong, you assumed that what happened was either your fault or that you deserved it.

Today the dark ball of your childhood exists inside a much larger white ball – the one of your life. This larger ball is made up of loving, caring people who know and care about you and many others who don’t know you but if anything, are largely indifferent. There are a few troubled people out there and some who would condemn and criticize you, but hopefully you avoid them.

Your inner child is not likely to see your big ball very clearly. She’s locked away in her dark ball, reluctant to show herself because she feels wounded, inadequate and afraid. She will assume that your larger world will simply be an extension of her world with all its difficulties and problems.

She will assume that people in your world will reject and emotionally abandon her as the people in her world did. Making things worse, because she was anxious and afraid, when she made earlier forays out into your world, things did not go well. So, regardless of what you tell her, she has proof that the world is inherently threatening. Besides, there are enough fools out there that she can point to them and say, “See! The place really is unsafe!” If you happened to be one of the rare people who grew up in a loving and nurturing environment, she will feel better about venturing out into the world.

The two of you have probably created an accommodation where you trade on mutual needs and fears. She shuts you down when you go out too far, you drag her along when there is something you really want to do. It is a difficult and painful accommodation. But, it does not have to be that way! However, until she begins to heal from the pain and misunderstandings she carries from childhood, she will be reluctant to challenge the assumptions she made back then, because she will still see herself as defective.

She will not understand that her childhood experiences were shaped by the fears and anxieties of her parents. Your folks did the best they could, but in all likelihood, their unresolved fears and anxieties interfered with their ability to unconditionally love you. A child is unable to understand things like that. And a child’s self image is fragile and can be devastated by a parent’s dysfunctional behavior. She assumed that their withholding love was because she was undeserving, unworthy or in some other way, defective. Making things worse, she was alone and powerless.

It might help you to understand that this wasn’t just your life. These experiences are virtually universal. And when you find something that cuts across nationality, race, ethnicity and culture to affect virtually everyone on the planet, you realize that something far more significant is going on. I don’t have space to go there here but you might find this article to be helpful (http://rossbishop.com/blog/2012/12/13/why-are-you-here/).

When I do a workshop, we talk about our childhoods. And there is a moment in every session, and you can literally feel the “pop” in the room when it happens, when people realize that, “Other people are telling my story!” We are not as unique as we think. And we have much more in common than we realize, when we can get past our fears to talk about it. (http://rossbishop.com/blog/2012/04/08/understanding-life/).

You may not realize this, but you can be the doorway out of her dilemma. You stand with one foot in each world. You can see her fears and where they came from. Even though you may not understand your parent’s motivation, you can see their anxieties and behavior. You can see more clearly that she could what happened and that it wasn’t her fault.

You will be able to show her what was really going on back then. And you can help her to realize that her parents did love her, but when it came to parenting, their fears and anxieties got in the way. You can also help her to understand that what happened wasn’t because of inadequacy on her part (as she presently believes). What happened simply wasn’t her fault! Your parents were the way they were before you came and they were likely to be that way after you left. She did not, could not, dictate their choices and behaviors.

There is one other thing you can do for her. You can give her the love she never received, and that she so desperately needs! You can create a loving relationship with her, instead of the somewhat antagonistic one you probably have today. This is very important! Tell her that from now on, no matter what happens, your love will be there for her (but you’ve got to really mean it!). Some people are unsure they can do that. I ask them to look at the love they give their dogs, kids or grandchildren. You can do it. Not doing it is a choice.

Why should you do this? Simply because she is the source of your power. Compassion and its flip side, emotion, are the domain of the child. Put a three year old in the middle of a room and he’ll fill it with joy, anger, frustration, whatever. You’d probably have a difficult time doing that. Feel exhausted most days? You’re doing your life in opposition to her, and running on your battery. You disconnected from your vitalizing energy years ago because the pain she was in was overwhelming.

Dealing with a wounded inner self can be very difficult. The inner pain can be considerable. My childhood was pretty painful. I could not have gone back through all that pain and muck by myself.

I tried conventional psychotherapy for years and it just did not go deep enough to allow me to deal with my core issues. Therapists got me to change some of my behaviors, and although this was helpful, it did not go deeply enough to address my core issues. I found that the shamanic journey process, under the guidance of a caring shaman, gave me a way to work with and heal my inner woundedness. I won’t lie to you, it wasn’t easy or fun, but my life today is filled with joy and sunlight instead of the pain and suffering it once was.

There are many different healing modalities available today. I have tried most of them, and I have not found anything that goes as deeply as shamanism – humankind’s oldest healing tradition. The practice would not have remained viable for over 200 centuries if it did not speak to something innate in the human soul. A word of caution: there is no certification process for shaman. I have heard of people who did a weekend workshop and then set up a healing practice! Learning to do this work is difficult and challenging. If you are considering working with someone, make sure they have been properly trained. In addition, look for someone who has been to hell and back in their own life and in their training. They’ll be able to hold the space for you.

copyright Blue Lotus Press 2013

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What follows is an absolutely shameless commercial for three of the apprentices I have trained. If you are looking for help, they are all extremely capable!

Beth Terrence lives in Annapolis. She can be reached at (​443) 223-0848. Her web site is: http://www.bethterrence.com/

Selena Whittle lives near Portland, OR in Salem. She can be reached at: (503) 908-1550. Her web site is: http://restorethesoul.com/about/detail/Selena-Whittle-M-S-1

Allison Lasky lives in Santa Fe. She can be reached at: (505)984-8733. Her web site is: http://www.allisonlasky.com/

There Will Be More School Shootings

by Ross Bishop

The Intersection of Social Failure

Sandy hook

Airplanes they say, crash because of multiple systems failures. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora and Virginia Tech all represent significant multiple failures in the ways we regulate weapons and in our approaches to troubled people. The sad thing is that these tragedies are only the tip of a rather large iceberg. These problems have been screaming for resolution for a long time, and as is so often the case in America, it takes a catastrophe to bring them to our attention.

Limiting the availability of assault weapons and high capacity magazines is an essential part of the solution, but it is not the total answer. There are actually five important areas that intersect to create mass shooting tragedies, and each adds an element that ultimately together leads to disaster. These areas are: the way we view and treat troubled people, the sad failure of our mental health system, restrictions in the law, the availability of assault weapons and the nature of the dysfunction that drives mass killers.

There are answers to each of these aspects. Some will be expensive and others will require changes in our way of thinking. But since most of the changes will have to come through the political process, we can expect the special interests to be busy protecting their private agendas. However, one thing is absolutely assured – unless we do something substantial and soon, we’ll be having funerals for more a lot more innocent schoolchildren.

This is a complicated matter that touches on personal privacy issues, the right to own firearms, the power of the state vs individual freedom – especially as it relates to the confinement of angry, but not mentally ill people, the limits of police power, unlawful search and seizure and of course, the right of children to go to school or the mall without the threat of being killed.

The underlying fabric to this dilemma is the way we view and treat troubled people. We shun them, we fear them. They are the pariahs of society and we treat them like they used to treat the lepers in the Old Testament. Even with our enlightened modern perspective, we still try to sweep troubled people under the rug – or into alleys and freeway underpasses. A big part of our resolving this issue will have to do with us finding compassion in our hearts for these suffering people.

When it comes to the allocation of social resources, the emotionally troubled are always at the bottom of the barrel and the first to have funding cut when money gets tight. Over the past three years, conservatives in Congress have cut $4.3 billion from the federal mental health budget.

Our present mental health system has failed for two primary reasons – a lack of funding for facilities and resources and the inability of psychology to meaningfully help troubled people.

There was a time when we had large state mental hospitals. They were truly awful places, expensive warehouses for the mentally ill that offered little prospect for patients to ever get better. It was found that smaller, community-based mental health facilities could produce some results, so Congress shut off funding for big state hospitals – and then never bothered to provide money for community based health care. Also, people didn’t want mental health clinics in their neighborhoods, so faced with tight budgets and local opposition, the politicians folded.

Troubled people were simply turned out into the street to fend for themselves. In the public brouhaha after the horrible Virginia Tech shootings, gaping holes were exposed in the state of Virginia’s mental health system. The conservative Virginia legislature, traditionally opposed to any public funding for health care, allocated $43 million toward the state’s mental health system. A year later, when the media had gone away, the same legislature cut the state’s mental health budget by $50 million.

Troubled people don’t have a political lobby. There is no one to protest when mental health budgets are slashed and resources are eliminated. Plus, as I said, mental health care is always one of the first targets of budget cutting conservatives who are concerned about the expansion of socialized medicine. Political conservatives seem to possess antipathy towards the treatment of troubled people. Psychologists are typically viewed as fuzzy thinking liberals who want to help troubled people by providing socialized medicine.

When you read expert opinions and media accounts of shooters, keep a few things in mind: Mental illness has fairly specific diagnoses. And taken as a group, mentally ill people are no more violent than you are. There are a lot of people walking around who you might call “nuts” in street vernacular, who do not fit into the defined categories of mental illness.

There is a small percentage of mentally ill people, and we are not talking about large numbers here – specifically those with severe and untreated symptoms of schizophrenia with psychosis, major depression or bi-polar disorder, who are about twice as likely to be violent. Psychiatrists have created a category of illness called Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is sort of a catch-all for antisocial behavior.

People who have schizophrenia and substance-use issues do pose an even greater risk. They have a nine times higher risk of being violent. The association is especially marked in regards to homicide. People with schizophrenia are nearly 20 times as likely to kill as people unaffected by the disease. But, these are largely individual killings. Mass shooters are rarely substance abusers. And we should carefully distinguish between typical murderers, (remembering that any murder is a horrible thing!) and the special category of mass killers, because there are important differences.

We make a serious error when we categorically label mass killers as mentally ill. Mental illness is certainly an important consideration, but the mentally ill account for less than half of all multiple victim shootings. Of the 60 most recent mass shooters, acute paranoia, delusions, and depression were rampant among them, but only 38 of them displayed signs of mental health problems (not necessarily mental illness), prior to the killings.

Actually, there are even far fewer mentally ill involved if we only consider the “big” events. The large group of shooters, and we are only talking about 60 men out of a population of 35,000,000 young men, consists of troubled people who are not technically mentally ill, but who pose a serious threat because of their towering rage. Of the three major and many smaller gun tragedies in the nation in 2012, only one of the perpetrators seems to have been mentally ill. The others were just angry, feeling that they were right and everybody else was wrong. They see other people as responsible for their problems. They externalize blame, scapegoating groups or individuals – family, co-workers, neighbors — for whatever is wrong in their lives.

Violence is neither a diagnosis nor is it a disease, and ours remains a violent society. If you read the news, people kill each other every day, by the hundreds – in Afghanistan, New York and East LA, and very few of these people are mentally ill. A military officer who kills masses of people with a Predator drone may be many things, but he is not mentally ill. A drug dealer seeking to avenge a bad drug deal is little different from the mass shooter who seeks revenge for the abuses he feels have been done to him. These killers have been profiled by Paul Mullen, an esteemed Australian forensic psychologist:

They’re almost all male, there is one exception. They’re young. They tend to be in their 20s. They are typically social isolates. They very rarely have close friends or confidants. They almost never have an intimate relationship, although they sometimes have had brief relationships, which have usually failed.(1)

Interestingly, they’re not like many offenders, they don’t tend to have problems with alcohol and drugs. They’re certainly not impulsive, quite the reverse. These are rather rigid, obsessional individuals who plan everything extremely carefully. And most of these massacres have been planned for days, weeks, sometimes months ahead.

The other thing about them is that they are angry and resentful at the world, they blame the world for not having recognised their qualities, for having mistreated them and misused them. Resentment is central to their personalities.

They spend their time ruminating on all those past slights and offences. And they begin to develop a hatred for the whole world.

Perhaps most important of all, these people are on a project to suicide. They go out there to die, and they go out to die literally in what they see as a blaze of glory. They are seeking a sort of personal vindication through fame or, more precisely, infamy.

To summarize: although direct research is somewhat limited because shooters usually commit suicide, they do operate from an almost stereotypical pattern. The shooter kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons. He has no escape plan and expects to be killed during the incident. The killer is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs of being persecuted or grossly mistreated. He is driven by fantasies of revenge.

These killers are calculating and delusional, but most often not mentally ill. If you met one, you’d think they were odd, but their behavior would not alert you to what they were planning. They can be episodic, so people who spend time with them such as parents, friends and teachers will know that something is wrong, but that can be said for many people, and trying to pick out a potential shooter from the millions troubled, frustrated and disenfranchised people is a daunting task to say the least.

But what is a teacher or parent to do? Several of the recent crop of mass killers could easily have been helped by a residential facility, but even though their problems had been identified, there was simply no program or facility to help them, and no mechanism in place to allow them to be legally referred out for help. So the concerns of teachers, family members and even therapists fell into an abyss in the system with as we now know, tragic consequences!

Most often a teacher or parent’s only resource is to call the police, but the police can only respond to a direct, immanent, violent threat. This puts the subject, if he looses his rigid composure (which is uncommon), into a criminal justice system that is neither equipped or prepared to deal with him.

There are almost no resources to help troubled people – no housing, no supervision, no guidance, counseling or vocational training. A callous political calculation has been made that killings such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook are a cheaper alternative than to create community based mental health clinics and the billions of dollars and large infrastructure that would require.

Shooters do not see themselves as troubled but rather as victims, so these angry young men vehemently resist taking medications, being confined or receiving treatment. Many of the drugs they are prescribed have truly awful side effects (including violent behavior), further complicating an already difficult situation. These men are smart but their dysfunction is likely to have already brought them up against teachers, the police and psychiatrists, and they will have learned how to play the system to avoid being confined.

The lack of community support makes the well-meaning teacher or parent who seeks help for a subject, a target for the subject’s smoldering rage. And as we have sadly seen, these men can lash out with incredibly destructive rage or in a most interesting modern twist, lawsuits! Most parents are also unwilling to see their sons as troubled because that reflects back on them as parenting failures.

A critical element in the discussion of mass shooters obviously involves guns and their accessibility. There is a group of people in our society who fear that the government might try and take away their freedoms. These are usually men who feel personally powerless. And for people who feel powerless, like a victimized shooter or an NRA member, an assault rifle can be the great equalizer.

The need of these men to defend themselves against a fantasied governmental incursion has led them to create an open market for assault style weapons that regrettably, can easily get into the wrong hands (either legally or illegally). The fear of these “Defenders of Freedom” puts the rest of us at grave risk. Eighty percent of the perpetrators of the 62 most recent mass shootings obtained their weapons legally.

Gushow

Besides, home security can easily be accomplished by less aggressive weapons. And as far as protection from a governmental incursion is concerned, if you consider the premise of armed civilians going up against the might of the Army with its tanks, trained troops and helicopter gunships, the whole concept becomes pretty ridiculous. But, in one sense the NRA is right, guns are only the instruments of mayhem. But, the pivotal factor that the NRA conveniently chooses to ignore is that a rage filled person with a Bushmaster assault rifle is massively more deadly and dangerous than one without. Mass killers don’t use knives or baseball bats. Assault weapons have been perfected as instruments of death and they are incredibly effective at doing it! And that is why we must get them and high capacity magazines off the street!

The NRA, controlled and funded by gun manufacturers, purposefully and unconscionably, fuels their member’s fears, as it attempts to gain support for its private agenda, which is a society where everyone carries guns – essentially a throwback to the violent Wild West of the 1880′s.

The other aspect of the weapons discussion has to do with their sheer availability. There are over 350,000,000 guns in America and anyone who wants a gun can easily get one. You can go to any city in America and in 48 hours purchase enough guns and ammunition (including heavy weapons), to equip a small army.

gun  show

America is violent country. Our homicide rates are SEVEN TIMES higher than rates in the other high-income countries. More than half of all murders are committed with guns. Our firearm homicide rates are TWENTY TIMES higher. For youths fifteen to twenty-four years old, firearm homicide rates in America are FORTY THREE TIMES higher than in other countries.(1)

Another issue in this discussion, and what has until now been a sacred cow, is the failure of psychotherapy to heal people. The simple truth is that psychotherapy and drugs just don’t work very well. But, since they have been the only game in town and they come from the esteemed medical profession, politicians give them approval because of the way the legal system esteems psychiatry, (which even amongst practicing psychotherapists is a standing joke!) The alternative is to warehouse troubled people like we do criminals – who we also don’t seem to know how to help.

Shamanism (and you must accept my bias here) has a remarkable record of helping emotionally troubled people to heal, but it is a foreign concept from “backward” tribal cultures, difficult to teach in university classrooms and is spiritually and not medically or “scientifically” based. Besides, there are relatively few really qualified shaman around. So, even though the psychotherapy car already has several flat tires, we continue to try and drive it down the road.

The law doesn’t help much in dealing with troubled people either. The courts are understandably, exceedingly touchy about confining someone against their will without a certification of mental illness. And as I said, most mass killers do not meet the the mental illness requirement. Acts of mass murder are so heinous that it is difficult to attribute them to normal people, but shooters are merely the extreme fringe of a culture that engages in deadly violence every day. In America hundreds of people are killed every single day. I don’t personally agree with the psychiatric categorizations of mental illness, but these are the rules that the law and the courts have chosen to adopt.

When a troubled person attracts attention, the police are usually called. But the only resource a police officer has is jail, and that’s only going to be for a short time. Sometimes they can pawn the troubled person off to a shelter. If a seriously troubled person comes for therapy, unless he or she represents an imminent and immediate threat to themselves or to others, the system effectively forbids the therapist from doing anything beyond counseling. Even if the subject is a ticking time bomb, unless he or she expresses an active desire to cause harm, therapists, the police, teachers, the clergy and even the courts are denied any real resource for intervention.

And when a person does present an active threat, they can only be hospitalized for 72 hours before being committed as mentally ill, if they actually happen to be so, and if there is a bed available, which these days is rare. A colleague of mine in Virginia had a potentially violent client, checked with the state and found 70 other violent people already waiting in line. By the end of the day, this violent and potentially explosive man was back on the street. The only consolation for mental health professionals is the miracle that more killings aren’t happening every day!

I would like to end by making a few suggestions. These are not complete answers, but they would go a very long way toward mitigating the current situation:

GUNS
Since an assault weapon cannot be used for hunting, and personal defense can be easily accomplished by other means, it is time that society took a stand and joined the rest of the civilized world to establish bans on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Further, the purposefully designed loopholes in the present reporting system for weapons sales such as unregulated private and gun show sales must be closed. Unfortunately, having the government maintain a list of gun owners feeds right into the paranoia that makes NRA members want assault weapons in the first place!

IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL SHOOTERS
In a many cases, troubled people can be identified before things go bad. I have mentioned having a referral system based on observations from therapists, law enforcement officers, clergy, teachers and even family members. It would be simple to backstop these referrals with a qualified professional so that errors would be minimized.

There are tests that could help identify people who are likely to need help in the future. It would be possible to test all sixteen to twenty year olds for a host of issues. This could cull out most, but unfortunately not all, of the people likely to be future shooters.

But, there is no sense identifying these people if we are not going to provide the resources to help them. The names of people meeting critical criteria could be denied access to firearms. Civil libertarians will not like it, but under the circumstances, it would seem to be a reasonable limitation of personal freedom. Access to this list could be selectively given to parents, teachers, the clergy, therapists, the courts and law enforcement officers.

RESOURCES
There is a desperate need for community based, residential facilities for troubled people. These facilities must be sufficiently funded and staffed so that the needs of patients could be addressed and the reasonable concerns of neighbors mitigated. This would provide a badly needed resource for parents, therapists, law enforcement officers, the clergy, the courts and educators who, with some changes in the law, could refer out troubled people with protection from retribution and lawsuits. This represents a very large expenditure, probably the equivalent cost of an aircraft carrier or a few nuclear missiles.

PSYCHOTHERAPY
Psychotherapy has emphasized cognitive behavioral health for years. Cognitions and behaviors are measurable, observable. And to some extent, altering thoughts and behaviors does help MANAGE emotional issues. But in only rare cases does it HEAL them. This leaves open room for relapse when the person is subjected to challenging circumstances.

There are other healing methods like shamanism that have an established history of providing exactly the healing that troubled shooters require. These approaches can reach the cause of the underlying problems and address them. It is time to begin looking into some of these alternate approaches.

THE LAW
Confining someone against their will who is not mentally ill and who already feels victimized by the world is going to pose a nightmare for the courts and legislators. Where do you draw the line? What about errors in diagnosis? And there will be some. This matter is subjective and emotionally loaded, presenting land mines for the legal system.
As I said, this is a complex issue with many moving parts.

Solutions will require changes in the concerns some politicians have about socialized medicine and our present legal prohibitions around personal privacy. Creating community based mental health clinics will be expensive. But most importantly, what needs to change are the views, fear and ostracism we hold towards troubled people.We need to find our compassion for them. Societies do not die in a cataclysm, that is only the final event in a series of unresolved social issues that cause the social fabric to decay. To delay, to not provide care for the many troubled people who live amongst us, is to only invite more school shootings, and the painful thing about that is what it says about a society that is unwilling to respond to the cries of its neediest people. Perhaps the Mayans were right after all.

 

(1) To clarify Mullen’s point: Interviews tell us that mass shooters are not exactly loners. They do not seek isolation, and have “friends,” but their social experience is marked by a history of struggling to connect. They experience rejection by their peers or they draw back from potential friendships, assuming they’ll be rejected if they try. They believe they are perceived as unimportant and insignificant. Many mass shooters, rather than wanting to be alone, end up that way because they cannot maintain a connection.

(2) (http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/WhitePaper102512_CGPR.pdf)

 Copyright 2013 Ross Bishop

What is Shamanism?

by Ross Bishop

People are curious about Shamanism. Although the term is becoming more widely used today, there is a lot of confusion about what it is. Shamanism is not a cultural phenomenon. It reaches beyond acculturation into the core of the individual and works there, regardless of a person’s background, culture, training or beliefs. That is why it has been successfully practiced for so many years in vastly different cultures spread all over the planet.

First, Shaman are many things, but most of what they do is to help people to heal. The shadow is the domain where the Shaman does his work because that is where the physical, emotional and psychic difficulties people experience originate. For example, the Western view is that we become ill through a failure of the body. The Shaman recognizes illness as a warning, and a serious one, that a person has not been paying attention to the disharmonies in his or her life. For a Shaman, it is God’s way of asking people to pay more attention to something they have been reluctant to look at. The Shaman will work in many ways to help the individual return his or her life to a place of harmony and balance.

In order to achieve healing the Shaman uses many healing tools. In the West, what we know as music originated as the Shaman’s song. What we know as dance, theater and art all began with Shamanic healing rituals. Jewelry came from the Shamanic practice of using the healing energy in certain stones. Medicine, religion and the arts all evolved directly from Shamanic practice. Although they have become secularized, the universal appeal of the arts is in the “magic” of these practices to heal. All of these forms have a common root in the sacred healing arts of the Shaman. Shaman did not create politics, lawyers, the military and bankers (these were the domain of the tribal chiefs).

©2004 Blue Lotus Press. 
Reproduction is permitted with attribution.

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Healing

by Ross Bishop

In the Western world, healing is a lot like plumbing repair. You fix what is broken. A bad heart is simply a bad heart and you deal with it. And we have developed some simply phenomenal techniques and technologies for doing that.

In more traditional societies the healing process requires that in addition to dealing with the immediate problem, one also must also address the cause of the failure. In tribal belief systems the body is having trouble because of an underlying emotional or psychic cause and both must be addressed if the individual is to heal.

In shamanic practice, what is called “soul loss” is considered to be the source of emotional or physical disturbance. Soul loss can occur from shock or trauma or more typically from habitually refusing to listen to the guidance of the gods or spirits. When presented with cancer, arthritis or heart disease, a shaman will look for the emotional or psychic disturbance which has resulted in an emotional or physical “breakdown.” The shaman knows that unless these originating causes are addressed, the disturbance within the client’s system will simply either reoccur or manifest elsewhere in another form.

People who know nothing of shamanic practices will often speak of feeling a hole in their spirit. If this separated part is not “retrieved,” the person is then vulnerable to both spiritual and physical assault.

Navaho medicine woman Annie Kahn describes illness as “the habit of excluding,” which disturbs our natural harmony. She says, “To heal, one must . . . accept. This very act causes healing.” Similarly, the Iroquois believe that disease results from the conflict created when the soul’s needs are not being met. They believe that the soul becomes resentful when ignored, and then creates difficulties for the individual.

The soul’s perspective is, of course, God’s perspective. So, to the Iroquois, disease is the result of us turning away from God. In a similar vein, the Mayans see disease as the result of the gods being disturbed by a person’s behavior or attitude. The misalignment of man’s spiritual nature as the source of physical or emotional trouble is a theme found often in the beliefs of indigenous cultures.

Carl Jung wrote, “When the God is not acknowledged, egomania develops, and out of this mania comes sickness.” It has taken many years, but even some Western physicians are beginning to see thingsfrom a larger perspective. Jean Achterberg, a professor of psychology and physical medicine writes, “It is becoming increasingly clear, that what the shamans refer to as soul loss – that is, injury to the inviolate core which is the essence of a person’s being – does manifest as despair, immunological damage, cancer, and a host of other very serious disorders.”

So, your blood pressure may be high, your cholesterol count may be worrisome, your joints may be stiff or one of your arteries may be weakening, but to traditional healers the heart disease, arthritis, stroke or cancer which could manifest from these things are regrettable, but natural extensions of originating psychic or emotional disturbance.

In ancient belief systems, this is where the concept of sacrifice became important. To the ancients, including our Greek and Roman predecessors, “healing” meant to do service to the gods, or in other words, to make a sacrifice so that one would bring into conscious awareness one’s misalignment with the Universal. Sacrifice in its essence then, means making sacred that which has been profaned, i.e., to learn to love that to which one has been closed. In making life sacred, the toxicity of human hubris is drawn out from people as they heal the wounds created by their ego-driven fear. In fact, the origin of our word “gift” comes from a Germanic word meaning that which is toxic to the profane.

In making each act, every moment sacred, life itself becomes sacred. People are then brought back to their essential connection to the universe. Sacrifice becomes an act of contrition, a way to resolve karma. To cure a ‘disease’ is to heal the spiritual body, which has lost touch with the rest of the universe. Unfortunately, the concept of sacrifice became corrupted in some societies and has been further exploited in our modern understanding by Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for sensationalism.

When Jesus healed the sick it was through forgiveness, not through the manipulation of the body. In Christian theology, the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, is described as the creative, healing and renewing presence of God, which must be reintroduced into a disharmonious system in order to heal it.

In my other writings I address The Universal Rule, which is to: LOVE EVERYTHING. That which we do not love, we profane. And, it is that profanity which can make us ill. In the ancient tradition, it is that which we do not love to which we need to make sacrifice, i.e., to make sacred in order that we may heal.

A corollary to the Universal Rule is Walker’s Rule, which states that, “Anything you do not love will become a lesson.” Using Walker’s Rule, we see the implications for healing spelled out in the tribal philosophies mentioned earlier. Whether it is “the habit of excluding,” “soul loss,” or “the unmet soul,” illness is the natural result of turning away from our God-self.

Close your heart and you will feel discomfort – physical and/or emotional discomfort. That’s Walker’s rule in operation. Persist, and the contraction will create pain and eventually disease. The Universe is obliged to let you know when you close your heart. That is the purpose of contraction, pain and disease, each operating to awaken at a deeper level of awareness.

We generally think of closing our hearts in relation to other people, but the person we close our hearts to the most is ourselves. As Bartholomew put it, “If you had a friend who treated you the way you treat yourself, you’d get another friend!”

So the process of healing begins with the love of self. And I know it’s the umpteenth time you’ve heard that message, and as simple as it is to say, I also know that it can be a difficult thing to do. What I want to reinforce is that in addressing this issue you also address the core reason you came to earth. You are here to make a conscious connection with your God-self and the most vital part of that process is learning to love and accept yourself.

Learning to love yourself can be problematic and is far too complex a subject to deal with in these few paragraphs, but my two books, Healing The Shadow and Truth were specifically written to address the issues related to self love. But for the moment, it will help you a great deal to become aware of what you do not love.

If you will consciously try to practice the Universal Rule to LOVE EVERYTHING, you will begin to see where there are soft spots in your process. Scan your life and practice loving everything in it. Watch for “blips” or rough spots that indicate a problem. Now turn your attention to yourself. What do you think of yourself? Any lack of love there? AS you do this you will become aware of places where you hold back, where you do not love, where you are reluctant to open your heart. This is valuable information, because it is around these contractions that disease can form if they are left unattended.

If you want to take this further, and I hope you will, you can deal with those issues by learning the Shamanic Journey and Tangible Truth processes taught in my books and CD’s. I’m sorry to sound like a commercial, but there is just no way to teach these techniques in a short article. The positive message is that you can do something about the negative views you hold of yourself. Having better health is an important reason, and so is the opportunity to have a happier life.

I will leave you with a thought from my friend Don Robertson:

“What if each waking moment could be used to reveal the love that I am?”

Namiste`

©2004 Blue Lotus Press. 
Reproduction is permitted with attribution.

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Shamanism – Traditional Healing

by Ross Bishop

One of the intriguing things about traditional healing is that its practice is remarkably similar no matter where you go. Traditional healers from different disciplines can often work together because after thousands of years of refinement they have independently distilled the healing process to its essential and most effective essence. Regardless of race, culture or geography, when it comes down to fear and anxiety, we really are, it turns out, all the same.

At the foundation of traditional healing is the shared belief that the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and environmental realms are all interconnected by a vital life force with a divine or spiritual origin. Called “chi” in the Orient, “prana” in India or “kan ku” by the Maya, this life force is found everywhere and in everything. In the belief of traditional peoples, this life force binds The Universe together into a great interconnected whole. Everything is connected to and has an impact upon, everything else.

Practitioners of traditional healing, called shaman, believe that the natural or harmonious flow of chi or prana plays a vital role in the health and well being of not only people, but of everything else too. Affect any part and you impact the whole – for good or for ill. Shaman know that the optimal health for anything – people, oceans, trees or mountains – only occurs when there is balance and harmony. They have  also established that disease is the result of imbalance in the flow of chi. The shaman seeks to balance and maintain the flow of energies not only within the individual but between the individual and the rest of the Universe.

Western medicine accepts some aspects of the traditional philosophy, but because concepts like life force, prayer or ceremony fall outside the way science views the world, Western doctors and researchers have difficulty accepting these ideas. Some physicians dismiss traditional healing as mere superstition, an unfortunate error that unnecessarily prolongs the suffering of their patients.

While Western medicine’s interest is primarily on the function and repair of the body, the shaman’s essential focus is to bring the person’s spirit back into harmony. The shaman knows that the presenting problem or disease, while important and requiring treatment, is also the byproduct of deeper disharmony.

So, while addressing the presenting problem, the shaman will also concentrate on the the spiritual/psychological disharmony that caused it. The shaman will work with the beliefs and fears that pulled the individual off center in the first place.

The shaman will focus on the origins of the debilitating emotions – what shaman refer to as “soul loss” – from (usually childhood) trauma that created the beliefs that are driving the presenting difficulty. He or she will then work with the individual to become more at peace with the world and with whatever God or creator god or nature spirits the person believes in.

If you were to speak with the patients in the waiting room of a Western physician or in the surgical ward of a hospital, you will find people clinging to beliefs, doubts and fears that have kept them in a state of disharmony for years. So, according to traditional belief, although the people’s hearts may be at risk or their livers might be failing, these diseases are the result of a lifetime of emotions like anger, fear, depression or despair that have not been adequately addressed. This leads to the creation of significant stress, and Western doctors are just beginning to appreciate the devastating impact stress has over time on the body/mind/spirit.

Herbal remedies are a very important part of traditional practice, but these are used very differently than in Western medicine. In traditional healing the energy of the plant is brought into the process in a spiritual context. The shaman will have developed an intimate relationship with the plants.

Shaman talk with (as opposed to just talking to) plants. He or she will have literally slept with the plants, dreamed with them and asked to know them. This is a refined and faith-filled practice of meeting plant energy in a realm where the human psyche and the archetypal energy of the plant can connect.

The shaman will maintain an active dialogue with the plants to receive information about using them and to call upon the plant energy for its assistance in healing. In an interesting turnaround, some shaman are chosen by certain plants and the two then develop a very special working relationship. This connection can be of real benefit, especially in challenging situations.

Probably the most significant difference between traditional and Western healing practices is the role of prayer. There is a profoundly powerful energy available through prayer that connects the shaman with the immense restorative energies of The Universe. It is the most powerful resource a healer has. We are not talking about ordinary church prayer here, but a deeply meditative, almost trance like state where the physical and spiritual worlds join.

In the Mayan tradition, prayers are offered through ceremony to Junab K’uj (God’s Spirit) and to the Yuumtsiloób (gods) as a request for assistance to the healer in his or her work. Whether spoken in ceremony or in silent meditation, this kind of prayer opens a channel for healing and aids in bringing balance to the patient’s kan ku or life force. Mayan healers believe that prayer directs the healing energy where it is needed.

Many/(most?) Western doctors maintain intellectual distance from spirituality and dismiss prayer and ceremony as “superstition.” Although Western researchers do acknowledge “spontaneous” healing or “the placebo effect,” they insult the concept by premising that “nothing,” i.e. “placebo” is influencing the outcome. Yet, even without the benefit of ceremony, in trials for antidepressants for example, “placebo” does almost as well in treating depression as pharmaceuticals do.

Additionally, medical files are filled with millions of documented examples of “spontaneous” healing, and although most doctors will acknowledge the profound affect the intentionality of the patient has in healing, the medical profession steadfastly resists incorporating patient intentionality as a significant part of the treatment process. Similarly, although shaman are meticulous about the clarity of intention and their purpose, few Western doctors will accept that the attitude and belief of the physician play a significant role in the patient’s healing.

As just a simple example of the impact of even the simplest of prayers, I will point to the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto. If you are not familiar with Emoto’s work, he takes water and separates it into two batches. One batch has prayers said over it while the other batch remains unaffected. Dr. Emoto then makes ice crystals from each batch, and the difference in the two is simply stunning, speaking volumes to the impact of prayer, even simple prayer, on the physical universe:

This is an ice crystal made of water from the Fujiwara dam in Tokyo.

This is a crystal made from the same water after Buddhist prayers were said over it.

In the Mayan (and other) tradition(s), the blessing of water is of the utmost importance, especially to the Ix’men (female healers) because of the connection blessed water has with Ix-chel, the Mayan Moon Goddess of medicine.

We must remember that we are about three fourths water, and that every water molecule in our bodies (if not every molecule period) responds to our moods and emotions as we see from Dr. Emoto’s ice crystals.

Sadly we have not yet found a way to scientifically document the impact of prayer on solid objects and body tissue, but the empirical evidence of thousands of years of traditional healing practice is, in and of of itself, rather overwhelming.

There continue to be significant differences between Western and traditional healing practices, and it is my hope that someday the two disciplines will be brought together for the benefit of all of humankind. There is great truth and benefit in each approach. I remind my students that in China acupuncturists still do surgery when the situation requires it.

St. Theresa’s Prayer

May today there be peace within you.
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities available to you.
May you use the gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
May this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

 

Copyright©2010 Blue Lotus Press

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Entities

by Ross Bishop

Throughout history, few subjects have aroused the fear, fascination and terror that entities have. Our folk history is filled with tales of ghouls, goblins, evil spirits, bewitchings, demonic possession, devils, spells, ghosts, angels, curses, the occult, demons, miracles and magic. Our lore about entities is also replete with ignorance, fear mongering, hyperbole of unimaginable proportions, enough lies to fill the Vatican, and manipulation for political and religious ends that has no equal. What we can say with certainty is that a few individuals have learned to work successfully with these beings and that no one fully understands the subject.

Our word demon comes from the Greek word daimon, which referred to beings with special powers that could place themselves between people and the gods. Homer wrote frequently of daimons. He said, “A sick man pining away is one upon whom an evil spirit has gazed.” Socrates and Aeschylus both thought that insane people were under the influence of daimons, and Plato believed that daimons sometimes obsessed mortals. In the Qur’an, the prophet Mohammed revealed that Jinn, (earthbound spirits) were real, and that they were formed of holy fire (energy). He maintained that they were moral, but that they could also be mischievous and troublesome.

Lets take a look beneath the surface to see what is going on. If you are in a natural state of consciousness, your thoughts will flow naturally and freely. The space both within and around you will be in harmony. If however, you become afraid, contract and lock yourself up, you will create a disharmony – a disturbance in The Universe. And The Universe will push on that disharmony in an effort to resolve it. Think about how others react when you are out of line, for example, or, how you react when someone does something unkind. Those responses are some of the ways The Universe seeks to correct imbalances.

We are not often in a position to respond appropriately to an offense, especially when we are young. When a child is overwhelmed with pain, fear or anxiety and has no real recourse for resolution through her caretakers (most often the caretakers are the ones creating the problem), the traumatized and vulnerable child will make an agreement to accept an entity’s “protection.”

Entities are single-minded in purpose. They seek to protect the child by creating psychological distance between the child and a perceived threat. Like otherworldly beings, entities possess no overt power in this realm. What the entity does is to amplify the child’s existing feelings of fear and then through a number of ploys, encourage the child to avoid potentially difficult situations. The entity will encourage the child to withdraw, repress her feelings, rationalize pain or deny or not remember what happened. The entity will numb the child to her feelings, dull her memory, urge her to deny what is happening, get her to blame herself, devalue her worthiness or through a hundred other schemes, encourage the child to pull back from life. The child has already been conditioned to act in this manner, and the presence of the entity simply intensifies her reaction.

The behavior the entity seeks to elicit is similar to what the ego does. When you collapse feelings into yourself, you tighten your entire system. You go numb. You do not feel. However having an entity is like having an ego on steroids. The manifestations can range all the way from simple anxiety and mental rigidity to personality disorder, dementia, schizophrenia or paranoia. The entity offers separation from pain in much the same way that alcohol or heroin does. Drugs don’t make problems go away – we just don’t feel them for a while. That is what an entity does, without the drugs.

We are often not aware of an entity’s presence because we are so accustomed to it, but its influence can be most profound. Entities operate through influencing and amplifying the thoughts and emotions of their host. Entities do not have the power or malevolence attributed to them throughout history or in the movies. I do not believe that they are evil, per se; in fact, they seem to have no moral convictions at all. But, just because they are not the scary beings depicted by Hollywood or in folk tales, entities can have terrible effect on a fearful or hate-filled human mind, especially when the entity will encourages the child to project his or her pain out onto the world through rage or other dysfunctional behavior.

When you explode out at someone else, the smoke and thunder obscures the pain in your core. But the goal is still the same: to create a feeling of separation from a threat. Striking back is simply a bonus. These are not behaviors that resolve situations. They exist for the sole purpose of creating a sense of separation or false power, and they have little regard for the mayhem left in their wake.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the entity/child relationship is that the entity cultivates and expands the feelings of unlovability and unworthiness the child already holds. It does this so that the child will not take risks and subject herself to additional emotional abuse. If the child can be convinced that she is not as good as other people, for example, then she will not be inclined to expose herself to potential rejection. This is a shortsighted strategy, but it is unfortunately, very effective, and the long-term implications can be devastating. Yet, in the moment, with few other options available, it works.

In the shamanic journey environment, entities mostly appear as dark, tar-like blobs or shadow clouds around the inner child. You can also sometimes see them around the people you call into the journey space. When you tell an entity to manifest in its true form, most of the time you will see a conscious tar-like mass with eyes. Entities have different eye colors. The most common eye color is red, but yellow, green, white and black are not unknown. These are subtle differences and not of concern to us here.

Sometimes entities will take the form of spiders, snakes, scorpions, bats and even the occasional dragon, underlying our general dislike of bugs and reptiles and the enduring presence of dragons in fairy tales. Sometimes entities will appear two dimensional and “cartoon-like,” or as people we know or figures from our memory. The relationship with entities ranges from simply having an entity reside in our shadow, something that is fairly common, to full-blown entity possession, which is more rare.

What entities bring into every situation is perfectly matched to the needs of the wounded child. The entity provides a sense of sanctuary at a painful and uncertain moment. Unfortunately, once the pattern of behaviors is established, the child, later adult, will continue to react to life in this way because these defenses do work, at least temporarily, and have given a feeling of protection to a vulnerable psyche. They will also have led to the creation of a set of personal beliefs that can be virtually impervious to outside influence. Life may be miserable, and the external circumstances may no longer warrant this level of protective response, but the pattern has been established, and it is safe and familiar. It also reflects the way the person has come to see herself and the world based on The Misunderstanding, which I explain at length in my book, Journey to Enlightenment.

The vast majority of convicts imprisoned for violent offenses, both men and women, report being physically and emotionally abused as children. (The percentages for women by the way are much higher.) Violent criminals report that their abuse was severe. Psychiatrists have tried for years to help violent criminals change their behaviors with the disappointing outcome that prison recidivism rates remain astronomical. From the Shamanic perspective, psychiatrists have not been addressing the real problems. And this is something we all should be far more concerned about because of the terrible price this behavior exacts on society, whether through crime, terrorism or war.

We do not appreciate the cost to society of our dysfunctional families, and although sexual abuse, drug use and physical abuse are more common in low-income environments, it is not isolated there by any means. The mass school shootings at Columbine, Nickel Mines, PA and the killings at Virginia Tech were all done by middle class young men.

There are ongoing discussions about whether entities are actually separate beings or extensions of the human consciousness, and there are good arguments for each point of view. But the disagreement is largely academic. Is this the perfection of God’s system or simply the soul’s vast conscious awareness? Each of us is much greater than our waking consciousness, so it is possible that entities are “just us” in some expanded form.

What is important to me, is that entities act in limited and predictable ways, and that we know how to deal with them, whatever their status or origin. Entities present themselves as separate beings with a limited consciousness and can be effectively dealt with as such, so I treat them as such. After all, there are teachers like Ramana Maharshi who maintain that life itself was a “waking dream,” developed out of our vast consciousness.[1] So perhaps entities are just imagined characters in “our waking dream.”

Earlier, I spoke of possession. In a normal entity relationship, the entity has access and can influence the thinking of the wounded child. However, if the trauma suffered by the child is severe enough, the child will sometimes simply surrender control of her emotional self over to the entity. This is a condition traditionally known as “possession.” With possession, the person is still there, but speaking with her is like addressing a hollow shell with a bomb inside it. The behavior of the inner child will be erratic, sometimes rageful and mean. If you look into the eyes of a possessed inner child, they will flash or in the alternative, appear like the blackness of infinity. This tells us that the trauma to the child was serious and that it will require a more dedicated effort to straighten things out.

If a person’s healing process requires it, an entity can also masquerade as a light being or wise spirit, purporting to share wisdom, exposing the person’s naiveté and desire to avoid addressing her inner pain. This can lead to no end of confusion, frustration and consternation. Looking at it energetically, the entity’s masquerade is a poor imitation of the real thing, but to a person unfamiliar with these matters, the charade can be convincing. This is why dialoguing with an entity is never helpful. Entities sometimes work in pairs, by the way, one protecting the other. One will create a distraction when the other’s connection to the inner child is threatened.

Your relationship with your entities is thousands of years old, reaching back through many lifetimes. The pain you experienced in your present childhood is familiar. The events will be different, but the feelings and dynamics will be old. Remember, you have been working with these issues for a long time. And, no, you have not failed. Look around you. The rest of us are doing about as well as you are.

So the question remains, what do you do if you have an entity? I address this subject at length in my books Healing The Shadow, Journey to Enlightenment and in the “Shamanic Journey CD,” which are all available on the books & CD’s page. It’s too involved a topic to address in this space.

I am frequently asked about protection from entities. People are looking for spells, or potions or some way to avoid. There is a problem with the concept. The “vulnerability” to an entity comes because of the pain carried by your inner child. So having an entity is really an “inside job.” So protection from an entity means telling part of yourself that it is unworthy, which is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Doing something external can help to focus your intention, but without the support of your inner self, it will not last long. There are rituals and spells that can help by creating conditions in your energy field that make it difficult for entities to enter, but they are far from foolproof. If you want a real solution, go to the source of the problem and heal the pain carried by your inner child.

Copyright 2010 Blue Lotus Press


[1] Ramana Maharshi, Talks With Ramana Maharshi (Inner Directions, 2000).

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