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How a Shamanic Spiritual Approach Helps with Mass Tragedies

A line from a TV show long past keeps echoing in my mind today -- The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. Indeed. Last night. This month. This year. Too crowded is the world beyond, whatever metaphor your belief system employs. And we risk becoming numb, perhaps as an autonomic emotional reflex mechanism. In our consciousness are the cries that caring souls feel and it's important for the collective healing of the world's pain to have a healthy way to cope first before finding solutions and taking action.

Now, angels don't really show up in the ancient traditions of the Native North American spiritualities. So what I think of in this context is the Lakota phrase of Mitakuye Oyasin -- all my relations or all are related -- and the Ancestors who have gone before.

For me, it is the Old Ones, the Ancestors, who are weeping that their descendants have not yet learned the ways of peace and tolerance for all our relations. It is the Ancestors and the living elders of the nations who know that there is no victory in violence and no achievement in anger run amok.

And it is the Ancestors who speak to me now about ways to cope with the confusion of incomprehensible acts and the fear and heartache left behind for all our relations to sort out.

A Shamanic Prescription for Creating Energies for Peace

The Ancestors remind us that we have an individual relationship with The Great Mystery, which some personify as the Creator, and that each of us can seek the council of this source of all wisdom on our own. They suggest removing ourselves to the quiet of a private place in nature if possible, to commune with our spirit guides.

Gathering with other humans when our hearts are so filled with shock, sorrow, and frustration, can heighten the worst impulses in human nature the Ancestors warn. The natural wondering of who or what is to blame too easily merges into us versus them thinking, which then too often escalates into calls for judgment and justice. In such a dynamic, the voice of the Great Spirit is drowned out by the pain and anger of the group.

So the Ancestors say, seek your own unique connection, your own direct input from the Great Spirit until your heart is certain in its resolve for the way of peace, and your feet are committed to walking that path. Only afterwards will it be useful to gather with others for the shared comforts of mourning and healing.

Solitary Prayer Rituals

To prepare for such solitary seeking of wisdom, the Ancestors recommend making prayer ties and encircling your private place with them if you can do so. Chant prayers for peace and wise action as you make the prayer ties and when you place them around the space.

Alternatively, simply drop loose tobacco around the perimeter of your private place of prayer as an offering to the spirits of the Earth, and as you do so ask or chant for connection with the spirits of Peace.

If you can't be out in nature, withdraw to a room where you can have some solitude. Use a smudge stick to cleanse yourself and the space. Call on your guardian spirit guides of the directions to further protect yourself and the space. then open your heartmind to the receiving wisdom from the UpperWorld of your shamanic teachers or from the Great Spirit.

The Ancestors say to repeat your solitary ritual for as many days as needed until you feel able to walk forward towards peace with a clear heart.

Psychospiritual Coping

The shamanic approach will work for many, and some of us may need something more. To strengthen your ability to cope with what is becoming a frequent occurrence, the former therapist in me recommends:

  • engaging in some spiritual ritual once or twice a day

  • staying in touch with the flow of your emotions

  • journaling about your emotions

  • reading something uplifting

  • giving yourself enough rest and relaxation time

  • keeping yourself well nourished and hydrated

  • blessing the difficult people in your life and parting from them

  • carrying a touchstone that reminds you to connect with Spirit

  • surrounding yourself with spiritually aligned, positive people

One of my favorite coping methods in addition to the shamanic practices given above is to light candles, and write what may not pass for poetry... I call it fingertip prayer.

What will you do?


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