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The Invisible Wound

Updated on August 3, 2009

The Shaman

Is it Real?

Our western society has taught us that if you can’t see it, touch it, weigh it and measure it - it’s not real. Is it any wonder that we seem to have such difficulty in validating the worth, or even the existence of the less material aspects of our being, namely our spirit, our vital forces, our very soul?

Many of us would argue that these are the most essential parts of our Self; the wellspring from which our life experience arises, and that in denying their “realness”, we cut ourselves off from the very source of our Being. What greater, more damaging and limiting wound can there be?

This wound - this Invisible Wound of disconnection and dis-integration - appears not only in each of us as individuals, but in our society as a whole. It is the wound of separation, of alienation from our essential and primordial Self. It constantly reminds us, at a level so deep that we can rarely hear its voice in our conscious thoughts, that we are alone. This aloneness permeates our life, and drives us to seek the solace of momentary and often unhealthy blurring of our sense of separation. We seek a sense of illusory completeness, through casual sex, recreational drugs or empty religion. But none of these attempts even begins to heal the wound. They are merely bandages for the soul. The wound remains.

The signs of this wound are everywhere. The symptoms run from existential malaise to superficial frivolity; from chronic depression to manic addictions. All these arise from the disenfranchised self running toward an ever receding mirage on the horizon, seeking to fill the sense of emptiness within. This vast emptiness comes in turn from the lack of real connection to anything or anyone, including our own true Self.

I know that I have lived with this wound all my life, and I believe that all of us experience it to some degree. My own life work has been about healing this wound, and about helping others to heal as well. I can think of no better term for this work than shamanism, or perhaps NeoShamanism.

The work of the Shaman of old was to remind HIr people of their connections - with each other; with their ancestors; with the earth; and, with their own spirit. This is the work we so badly need today as well.

Finding New Roots

If you examine the pretechnological societies in which the traditional shaman continues to work today, you will find a culture rich in its own connectedness with the universe as it knows it. They have a wealth of mythic content that expresses the world to them in a way that makes them an integral part of all that is.

How many of us go through life feeling as if we are missing a rule book to tell us what to expect, what to do and how to do it? In a very real sense, these other cultures have their own rule books. They have rituals, stories, traditions and expectations that clearly delineate what life is all about and how they fit into it, both as individuals and as a people.

Granted, much of the beauty and harmony of these cultures has been destroyed through the inevitable contact with modern “civilization”, but enough remains to give us a picture of what could be.

It is a mistake to believe that we, as acculturated members of modern society, can ever return to the way of being that we can still see glimpses of in these pretechnological remnants. We do not have the necessary roots of feeling and knowledge, the web of belonging, into which they are born.

However, we do have something that they lack. We have minds trained to work in a rational manner, processing and interpreting information. We have access to an incredible abundance of knowledge, culture and life experience. And, as a whole, we have a greater sense of individual freedom and personal sovereignty than ever before in human history. In short, we live in a world that is, in some ways, much larger than the myth.

These blessings of modern civilization withhold from us the bliss of sinking into a sense of oneness with our ancestors, but they can also propel us forward to discover a new way of connecting; a way to heal the Invisible Wound.

Now we need to be able to create a new web, woven from the substance of our lives, that welcomes us back into a balanced relationship with our Self and our universe.

For this task, I believe we need to rediscover, or perhaps even recreate, the role of the shaman. No other word seems to speak so clearly of the work of healing and integration that awaits us. This work is beyond psychotherapy. It is more than a sorting out of our neurotic reactions to our spiritual wounds. Likewise, if we are to be true to our evolutionary course, there is no religion which can adequately honor our separateness while offering us a union that goes beyond the loss of self into Self.

The shaman can, through discovering for HIrself the root of HIr own being, help us to explore these roots in each of us. However, because we have come so far, it is ultimately up to each of us to heal ourselves. This is perhaps the defining factor of the NeoShaman: The healer who helps us to heal ourselves.

Weaving a New Web

How can we, today, heal this wound, giving ourselves back the freedom to explore what it means to be human? What are the needs that we are trying to address? They are much the same needs that humankind has experienced for all time. The need for belonging to something greater than the limited self, a connection with the wholeness of creation.

The process begins with finding our center; discovering the innermost core of Self upon which all the rest of the ego has been built. This can be done through the practice of Stillness or meditation. Once the mental clutter of the ego is cleared away, the stillness of center is revealed. This still center is the doorway through which we may rediscover our connectedness with the rest of our world.

Initially this stillness can lead to an even greater sense of isolation as the structure of the ego cries out in fear of its own annihilation. Often one experiences strong resistance, coupled with an intense fear of imminent death or doom. This is the ego struggling for survival. Let it go.

The ego tells us that the only way to find what we need is to look for it outside; to find the “right” person and merge into a blissful symbiosis, just like it was with mom.

It’s not that the ego is lying to us. It truly believes that it is alone, for it doesn't realize that it is merely a mask worn by the Self as it looks into this world. Our egos are patterned after the world they see, and our world has been a place of separation and disintegration. Is it any wonder that the ego fears that this is its ultimate fate?

But, however authentic the ego’s fears might be, the assumptions it draws are patently wrong. This is NOT what we need to do in order to be happy. Our life experience has already taught most of us this by now. What DOES work is going inside and discovering the place where we are all One.

This is where we can begin to explore real connectedness. On the inner planes, this is done by connecting with non-ordinary entities. On the outer planes, by practicing stillness with like-minded people. Both these avenues, when worked together, help to provide us with a sense that the universe is a place which welcomes us and celebrates our presence within it. Through this work, we can also develop our own “reality map”; the mythic grasp of a cosmos which we can comprehend through realizing its mysteries. Most importantly, we can heal the wound that separates us from Self and community.

This article only brushes the surface of this issue. My hope is that there are many others who share a similar vision of healing; and an appreciation of some of the deepest roots of human healing, through a rediscovery of the work of the shaman. This work awakens within us the ability to heal, both ourselves and others. And with this healing comes a deeper understanding of what it means to be fully human.

For More Information

If shamanic journeying is of interest to you, then you might enjoy my book about shamanism, "Dance of Stones - a Shamanic Road Trip".

This moving and transformative road trip traces the growing friendship of a modern shaman and his companion as they explore the seductive world of synchronicity and spirits. Set aside the backdrop of ancient European sacred monuments, the self revealing narrative invites the reader to join in the spontaneous adventures of a modern shaman.

The book is spiced with practical exercises at the end of each chapter.


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