To walk down a true shamanic path, it means to connect regularly to external spiritual help/guidance. This involves having a relationship with a spiritual teacher, helping spirit, spirit guide, or a power animal. It takes time and practice to be able to hear/listen to these helpers, and it is a relationship to cultivate. It is a choice to work with helping spirits, and there are many benefits to doing so. Many people may feel called to “walk the path of a Shaman” but then end up not asking for help in the right way, using their own power and in turn becoming sick. If we are able to engage in these relationships, we can do what we came here to do in a way that is good for all living things – not just for ourselves. We can discover what’s in the way, helping uncover the authenticity that is burning within us, waiting for us to live our life purpose – the God given reason why we were born here on this Earth.
To have a viable shamanic practice means to have the discipline to strengthening that relationship through physical reality intention and practices. It can get sloppy if we do not set up the right parameters for asking for help, and our intentions become dilute, losing our focus easily. If we don’t commit to a practice, then our efforts or attempts at a relationship will be as superficial as a Facebook friendship, liking each other’s things and not knowing the depth of what the other has to offer. This is an intentional relationship, and it is best to have Ayni (sacred reciprocity) in mind instead of walking into this relationship, demanding what you want. What makes a practice shamanic is to connect and engage with these helping spirits in a mutually beneficial way. When you first meet a person at a party and introduce yourself, then intentionally pour out the contents of your deepest fear and ask for help getting your life back together. Most people would refer you to a good therapist if that were the case. Same goes for relationships we establish with our helping spirits. Relationships take time to develop, and (in the beginning) really concentrating on yourself and one spirit connection are crucial to deepening your practice.
When first trying to make “contact” with spirit guides, it can be confusing, and many people mistake any spirit as “theirs” if they have a moving experience that was particularly spiritual. This is where discernment comes in handy, asking the right questions and not assuming. Mary Shutan covers this in her wonderful post about relationships with helping spirits as well as in this interview with Christina Pratt. There are many ways to get in touch with a spirit, and with varying degrees of success based off of the strengths of the individual. Everybody is different, and we all experience reality and non-ordinary reality through our physical and extrasensory senses. For every physical reality sense, there is a extrasensory sense that our energetic body has.
One of the ways that we can begin to discern is with the technique of Shamanic Journeying. It’s a wonderful tool to add to our toolbox, and it is easy to begin honing this skill. It can take discipline to become good at it, and creating an altar practice is very helpful to solidify your practice. Here are some helpful podcasts to help support some basics of living energetically well from a Podcast called Why Shamanism Now:
- Energy Body Hygiene: First steps in beginning cultivation of your energetic body
- I bounced off of this topic and created a journey track associated with this
- Energy Cultivation: These are the basics of living well, and essential no matter what spiritual path you walk
- Creating Sacred Space: This goes over the importance of building altars/shrines as the focal point of a practice
Daily practice is something that will help strengthen your relationships in spirit because if you clearly discern what is your energetic baggage and are able to release that which is not yours – you can clearly hear the messages that you are asking to receive. This is also helpful in our physical reality relationships, because if you’re too stressed about what’s going on at work, perhaps you end up projecting some of your stress onto your partner at home – not hearing what it is they’re trying to share because your experience is colored by outside influences and thus affecting your ability to be fully present. If we are not clear with ourselves, how can we expect to establish a healthy intimate working relationship with a helping spirit?
This can be a catch 22 – where do we start? Do we focus on ourselves? Do we focus on this external relationship? Many of us know we are a piece of work (Goddess knows I am one) – but the question is how do we move forward with it?
We can combine some of the tools and techniques and overlap these things. There is no right answer or right formula that fits all sizes/experiences. Perhaps for some it’s a daily practice of yoga, complimented by calling in and sitting in meditation with a helping spirit. There’s no cookie cutter answer, but there is something that helped a stubborn person like me:
Just jump in and do it
I had to blunder through a lot of my own growing experiences, but I know one thing for sure – things became a lot more clear and easier with the assistance of a helping spirit instead of being stubborn and doing it myself. It’s very similar to flowing down the river of life in a canoe with a guide instead of swimming down it by yourself. Some people may be great swimmers, but others might easily be swept away by the current instead of going somewhere of their choosing.
Now, what is this whole helping spirit thing? How do I get one, you say?
One of the easier paths is to explore this with the concept of Shamanic Journeying. You can journey directly to spirit and ask for a guide. If you are in the Northern Virginia area and would like to join a journey group, the Bi-Weekly Shamanic Journey group meets every other week. It tends to be a lot easier for people to journey together in groups, because the energy of the circle offers innate energetic protection that tends to be stronger then just an individual intention. If you are not in the Northern Virginia area, we are just launching the distance Journey Group so you can still join no matter what location you are in. For those that would like to try for a go-at-your-own-pace course, there is the at home Shamanic Journeying outline.
The next step after that is learning to frame your intention. Journeying is a question driven activity, and if your focus is scattered, it will be hard to concentrate – especially if you don’t have a focused intention. A good first journey question for any beginner is to ask, “I would like to meet my non-egoic connection to source at this time”. For more experienced journeyers, it would be good to provide clarity on what type of helping spirit you have.
Egoic and Non-Egoic Helping Spirits
This topic has come up many times in the Journey Group. So much so that I have integrated it into the Shamanic Journeying Basics class that I teach. This concept was brought to me by one of my Shamanic teachers, Mary Tyrtle Rooker and her colleague Mary Courtis PhD. When delving into the realms of non-ordinary reality, it is good to have discernment of the types of helping spirits you run across.
There are two main types of helping spirits you will run across, and many will have a varying degree of a blend. The two types are egoic (ethnocentric) and non-egoic (fully compassionate). Neither one is “better” then the other, and it is healthy to work with a blend.
Egoic spirits are pretty much the same as you or I. They have an ego, an identity, and they have their preferences. They are helpful to receive advice from, however their perspective can be influenced – including being lied and fooled to (thus relaying potentially flawed information to you). In many traditional shamanic/indigenous cultures, it is actually taboo to share your helping spirit. One of the reasons for this is that if the identity of your helping spirit is known, it could potentially be stolen, tricked, or manipulated.
Non-Egoic helping spirits are directly connected to source, are fully compassionate, and cannot be lied to. They view everything as a lesson, and have the ability to give you the universal truth. Variations of Non-Egoic spirits can also be known as the Higher Self, Ascended Masters, or a True Self. However, they can be tricky to work with because they view everything as a lesson. If you have a pattern that is deeply ingrained in you, and you ask certain questions based on assumption, they can give you an answer that can easily be misinterpreted into what you want to hear.
Non-Egoic helping spirits are a wonderful guide for a beginner helping spirit. They tend to be a little more difficult to work with then an Egoic spirit, but that is because you have to frame your questions with focused intention. This can really help with discipline in the long run, and also help improve your discernment even before you get into the journey space (because crafting a question is sometimes a process in and of itself). That being said, there is nothing wrong with working with Egoic spirits. Truth be told, I work with about 80% Egoic spirits in my practice. With Non-Egoic spirits, it’s easier for beginners because they don’t have to tend a relationship as much as they would an Egoic spirit. With Egoic spirits, it’s very common to leave out offerings on your back porch, or to visit a power spot once monthly during a hike in order to strengthen your relationship to that helping spirit. With Non-Egoic spirits, they are completely focused on your personal development, because your Soul’s personal development helps the greater web of life – so therefore just your attention on that relationship and working with the helping spirit is enough to strengthen the bond. Egoic spirits are great for “specializing” in a certain area of personal development that you would like to focus on, but it is great practice to still maintain good relationship with your Non-Egoic in order to ask the question, “What will I learn from this helping spirit” and see if their lessons they offer align with you and your intentions.
Layers of Complexity
If you are a beginner, skip this part unless you want your brain to hurt. With the distinguishment between Egoic and Non-Egoic helping spirits, here is where we get to the blend of the two. For every Egoic helping spirit, there is a Non-Egoic or a “True Self” that is connected to it. This is hard for some people to grasp, but think of it this way. It can be hard for one consciousness to be represented in just one presentation, so therefore you can view an aspect of this greater consciousness with an interface that is cultivated just for you and your strengths. An Egoic helping spirit is simply a facet of a larger consciousness, and we must remember that in a shamanic cosmology, we are all one.
Where we can run into problems, is if an Egoic helping spirit becomes disconnected from the Higher Self. Yes, sometimes spirits need shamanic healing just as much as a human. They can experience trauma that separates them from the greater collective or web of life. When this happens, and one interacts with one of these helping spirits without conscious awareness of this severed connection to source – they can receive answers that can reflect wounds or shadows of the pristine information a helping spirit connected to source would receive. This can stunt personal development and keep you running in circles, when otherwise you could be receiving great strides in self awareness rather then perpetuating wounds in a multitude of degrees.
Biggest example that I can think of, is that Archangel Michael is a popular spirit guide with a large Non-Egoic connection. However, middle world Archangel Michael was the helping spirit behind leading the Inquisition in the late 1400’s with his flaming sword and righteous demeanor. This goes to show you that the questions you ask are directly correlated to the lessons you choose to learn. And when you are only focused on certain areas, without keeping the balance of the whole in mind, what you actually could be doing is perpetuating a state of imbalance because the questions you are asking are coming from a state of imbalance. Which is why maintaining good energetic hygiene and personal development are critical in choosing the experiences you wish to learn.
For each Egoic spirit, they can have a certain degree of themselves that is connected to the Non-Egoic spirit. It can be a sliding scale of how much one spirit that is connected to source. Usually if you have in your awareness to ask for a pristine connection to source, you will end up with a great start to interacting with Spirit and high degree of self actualization through a Non-Egoic guide. When you deepen your practice and ask for more help, it’s very possible you will enter into the realm of interacting with more Egoic spirits. As your experiences build, remain true and don’t forget your connection to your Non-Egoic. They will always show up in your practice (even if you consciously forget) with a stark realization that’s similar to having a bucket of ice water dumped on you.
Now… we have this picture of Egoic and Non-Egoic spirits in our mind. How do we apply this to Shamanic Journeying? If you are a beginner, journeying with the question, “I would like to meet my Non-Egoic connection to source at this time” is a great way to begin. Allow the journey to unfold before you, and don’t force it. Allow it to happen. For those that are more experienced and the points above has brought up some questioning within you, still do a separate journey with the intention of, “I would like to meet my Non-Egoic connection to source at this time”. Don’t question the spirit help you already have, but instead just enter into Non-Ordinary reality and allow your Non-Egoic guide to step forward. If you’ve journeyed a few times and have gotten a guide or two, it’s very probable that the helping spirit you receive is one that you’ve already worked with. Just be open to what you receive, and if you need help discerning, that’s what a community or a Journey Group is for! If you live in a non-local area and need help setting up a Journey Group of your own, feel free to reach out for guidance via email or phone.
So now… What are you waiting for?! Get cracking! We got a world to clean up! And it all starts with our own personal journey.
To highlight the main points of this blog post, here are the bullet points:
- Maintain good energetic hygiene
- Having some form of daily practice is very helpful in practicing clarity/discernment
- Keep working and inviting your helping spirits into your daily life
- Remember to ask for help
- Keep at it, even if you mess up. When you mess up, you have permission to ask “What went wrong”
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If this post resonates with you, but you find it hard to create a lasting change, read this helpful blog post.