In the shamanic realm of experience there is type of initiation called dismemberment. It is either voluntary or happens spontaneously. To give an example of initiation to shamanism itself, you could have a sudden crisis or illness that spurs you into initiation. A voluntary one would be taking a course and having a realization that you have shamanic potential. The dismemberments occur on your initial introduction to the path or as another step in loss and surrender. The reason I am taking this seeming diversion into some shamanic background is in case you have had this experience and want to understand it, or are inviting it into your life by journeying.
In the dismemberment it is classic in many cultures to journey to offer yourself to be torn apart spiritually in order to be reborn; in the realms of the dead there may be vultures and other birds of prey, hounds that tear apart your flesh and bones, owls and bats, crocodiles, monsters, all terrifying, and contributing to the feeling that you are losing your identity. If there is spontaneous dismemberment it could happen in a spirit journey as well, but unexpectedly, or suddenly in ordinary reality when you could have a sequence of things happen that have the same effect, taking apart who you think you are, limb by limb and having to let go of ego to die. Most people when they come through that kind of dismemberment have transformed their awareness of who they thought they were, and become more aware of the shamanic potential within, or how to work with a sense of self that is more whole and expanded, which includes a better alignment of body and soul.
This usually leads to better health, and deepening awareness of our interconnection with all beings and why we came to earth for this human experience. It can clear our way to fulfill the soul’s potential without so much baggage from the past.
Before the event a person may feel she is doing what she does well, but often the dismemberment gives her greater energy and clarity for carrying out the responsibility and gift of life. Shamanic energy can be approximately described from other practices and cultures, as chi, kundalini, life-force energy. There are cultural tags for all of those terms and within the shamanic cultures themselves that are beyond the known world of form, (although quantum physics seems, perhaps, to be cracking the code).
The potential of expression in shamanism is very, very diverse. All the world’s cultures and origins were shamanic to begin with so there are shamanic traditions everywhere, either still practiced or in the history and DNA of the people: what is emerging during modern times is contemporary shamanism which may not belong to one culture alone, but for practitioners who connect most deeply, not with the culture of their bloodline, but at a meta-level of access. An example of this is American-raised Eliot Cowan who is aligned at the soul level with, and now trained in, traditional Huichol culture of Mexico. There are other examples among our personal acquaintance, such as Theresa Thomas of Dagaara, Burkino Faso West Africa tradition, and Eileen O’Hare who practices Peruvian shamanism.
Recently I wrote about the gift of the barn falling down and my husband is calling it “David’s dismemberment”; we have also had recent dissolution of a group identity we participated in, and this makes the dismemberment more complete. Circumstances demand change and awareness on all levels; we are very affected when things materially change and causation reaches this level of density. We do understand that we are interconnected, so dismantling anything takes time and that the ego does not like this loss, but the spirit can be strong and can transform apparent death into rebirth.
This is very empowering, not on in the world immediately, as it takes time for the levels of density in this reality to be penetrated, but it means there is more potential than ever because of the space that has been created. Space is defined as a feminine aspect in Buddhism and form a masculine one, and whether that is how you want to identify it or not, the dance between the two is what takes place here on earth where form has been given such a major role that it is dismembering the earth itself. However, we believe that the spirit helpers are helping people to wake up, i.e. if they do not already know about the inner aspects of space and form, then they will need to see it on the outside in order to be reminded of our interconnectedness. Not everyone may become conscious immediately but that is our long term aspiration for ourselves and others.
And meanwhile as individuals each of us may get an opportunity to be dismembered in order to drop the ego’s identity with whatever it is holding back in terms of soul growth and spiritual development.
Both my partner and I have had lots of life experience and practice of letting go of what we thought something was, and have learned that although we are humans who get angry or sad just like anyone else, we also have our mantra of no shame and no blame to fall back on, and can reach into continued practice of surrender and clearing energetically when the unexpected happens, whether it is sudden or slow and painful in its unfoldment.
When we sundanced we used to speak of how that practice might break down our stubborn qualities and help us rely on genuine spiritual strength. It did, but we have had other opportunities to drop our attachments in preparing to drop the robe of embodiment when we die. The barn is particularly David’s kingdom, so he is doing “barn therapy” deciding what needs to be discarded and rebuilding something that suits his present needs, including an art studio. The process is tedious and sometimes has been dangerous because of the hanging beams and the weight of metal pieces on the roof, but there is already grass trying to grow in the part that had a dirt floor because now the light is getting in.
We are celebrating who we are as spirits having a bodily experience, and what we have been lent by the earth in a place that is a sanctuary blessed by a lake.The angels of Courage and Grace accompany us as we move into the new spaces of potential, and yet carry the continuity of the thread of learning right relationship to all beings. We have been together forty years and at our official wedding less than twenty years ago we married self to Self, self to one another and self to the earth and its community of beings, and that has not changed. However many dismemberment experiences have brought us to the next unknown, and connected us to the fate of many beings on the planet which have their earthly existence threatened or changed by outer circumstances. Our compassion has grown out of our experience and practice and we choose to create new beginnings, not with fear but with love.
For All Our Relations, Midsummer, June 2015