Both science and shamanism affirm that, fundamentally, everything is energy. So, as humans, we eat dense energy like, say, broccoli, and Nutella. And we eat less dense energy that is available to us, like, say, envy, and beauty.
Science speaks of the Big Bang as a colossal event that happened at some point backwards on a timeline. Science also speaks of the echo of the Big Bang that is still present, as background radiation, that can be measured now. The Big Bang is still being digested. Shamanism looks at past lives and ancestral energies in a similar way: as human beings, we continue to digest, in present time, the energies of the past that echo into our present.
Right now our species is digesting a tremendous amount of old energy - from our own current lives, from past lives and from ancestors' lives - all at the same time. These are all what I'll call "horizontal" energies. Ancestral and past life energies can be seen as horizontally entering our backbone from a distance behind us. The anxiety, fear, anger and grief of daily life can be seen as horizontally entering us from the front and sides.
The reason why life is so intense right now is that we've reached a major point of our species' evolution where these things must be digested in order for us to jump up and live in the next form. Spirit has tossed open the energy center where these old energies have been stored undigested for a long time, and they are all now rushing out. Well, no wonder you're exhausted; no wonder your stomach hurts, and your bowels are funkified.
We spend almost all of our time trying to control or re-shape these horizontal energies. Complaining and lamenting are small prayers pleading with some power, somewhere, to take control and change things. Judging, pontificating, and predicting are our egos' way of claiming to have some control over things. We spend great energy on social media, sending out energetic pulses of our fear and arrogance into the horizontal world, trying to take control of something that we will never control. We are simply too small. We re only little human beings. The only force that can control the whirlwind we are in is Spirit. Social media is a great boomerang. Whatever you send out will fly horizontally, collect more of the same energy, and bring it right back to you to eat – more of the same to digest!
So, some will navigate these daily energies by spending energy on lamenting or pontificating. Some will go into hiding in one way or another. Some will turn to various forms of violence. Some will die – they will step back into the echo, to wait things out.
If you want to navigate in another way, it requires having spiritual practices that balance the obsession with the horizontal dimension with practices that activate the vertical dimension available to you. The vertical dimension reaches both upwards and downwards, and you may, if you wish, call them the Great Father (or "great immensity" if you have that lingering mistrust of the Masculine than pervades our world) and Great Mother (or, maybe "the great composter of all.").
Here is a simple practice that springs from my shamanic training.
- Close your eyes, take a few breaths, and visualize the image I've offered: The echo-energies from past lives and ancestors flowing from a line into your back. (We most often judge this energy as "bad" – the bad karma of past lives and illness of ancestors. But remember that this line also pours the wisdom and strength from past lives and ancestors into your backbone.)
- And then visualize the other horizontal energies of this world – the vitriol, anger, confusion, helplessness, and grief that whirl around you, and that you also send out. This is a picture of what is already happening to each of us. There is also wisdom and strength pouring in from this horizontal world.
- Then, visualize the vertical dimension opening, both upward to the great immensity and downward into the great composter. You may see it as a line of energy coming form infinity, down through your head, body, feet, and into the earth.
- Visualize the ancestral and past life energies pouring into you. The wisdom and strength can stay in your body. The toxic or useless energies flow down through your feet and deep into the compost.
- Do the same with the horizontal energies of daily life. All forms of fear go down, into the earth-compost, to be gleefully welcomed by the Great Mother, who is so happy to eat and digest this. Why is she happy to receive it? Because it gives her fuel out of which she makes new life.
- Do this part of the exercise for as long as it takes, sending this energy deeply into the earth.
When you feel ready, place your attention in the upward direction.
- Give up any desire to control the world and anyone in it. Hand that desire over to the Spirit, the Singer of New Songs, the Immensity, the Quantum Field. Say the words outload: "Spirit, I give you my desire to control the world, and all the ways I act out that desire. Please take this desire from me." It is the desire to control that generates the fear, confusion, frustration, anger, violence and exhaustion.
- Ask the Great Father to download new vision, new love, new compassion, new stories into you.
- (You can work with the Great Mother to do this also, but for the purposes of this exercise, I'm describing in this way. And in truth, if you resist working with the Great Father out of old pain with men or the patriarchy, this is something to ask to be digested as well. )
- When you feel done with this, visualize yourself inside a radiant cerulean blue octahedron (an eight sided pyramid) which becomes a protective energy field.
- Fill that space with three powerful energies: love, awe and gratitude. Call these energies in, one by one. Visualize them filling this space that surrounds you. They empower the three lines that feed into and out of the human being: the horizontal line from back to front, the horizontal line from side to side, and the vertical line from below to above. Send love, awe and gratitude as energy in each of these directions to feed the world you are standing in.
I hope this practice helps you navigate the world with more strength and less fear.
For a deeper dive into the Octahedron, check out this piece by Jose Stevens.
For a deeper exploration of how humans waste energy, check out this brief video by the great Buddhist teacher, Alan Watts.
For an insightful dive into how to move beyond "redemptive violence," check out this piece by Charles Eisenstein.