As a long-time shamanic practitioner and ceremony facilitator, I am often asked how I got into what I do. It’s quite an interesting story, and I’ve written a memoir called Machete Woman which answers this question and more. The TL;DR version is that I didn’t go looking for it; it came looking for me.
Another very common request I get from people is to help them find and develop their own spiritual paths. This constitutes a good lot of my work. Some just want to get to know their guides, while others come to their first ceremony retreat weekend and then ask to be my apprentice.
Obviously, there is a vast difference between these two points, but in all spiritual paths there are common elements that can be addressed.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to call the desired path X.
Why do you want to do X?
“I feel like I’m supposed to be some kind of spiritual guide, but I don’t know what I want to do.” Is this you? If so, this is a great place to start.
If we were sitting together in a spiritual development session, I would be asking you questions, taking you through some exercises and then journaling what comes up.
Probably one of the first things we would address would be the why. Why do you feel that being a guide is something you’re supposed to do? This is an important question.
From my experience, many of us who walk this weird and wonderful road didn’t necessarily go looking for it. For some, it may start as an insistent longing, while others get a bag thrown over their heads and dragged into the shadow worlds. Still others may have started with S and kept following the yellow brick road along to T, U, V and W before finally landing on X.
Each of us has our own unique gifts to share, so if before we incarnate we chose to be some kind of healer or guide in this life, then at some point we will get directed to the starting gate.
In other words, it’s not usually something that you suddenly decide you want to do because it’s cool. Being a true leader with vision and integrity is lot harder than most people realize. With very few exceptions, being a spiritual guide will not make you rich and famous. Those that try to go into it for the imagined wealth and prestige will eventually be unmasked and sent packing.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
When I was studying high ceremonial magic many years ago, one of the books I read was The Middle Pillar Ritual by Israel Regardie. For anyone who is interested in ritual magical practices, Dr. Regardie’s writings are essential reading. In the book I mentioned, he talks about the need to really know the self before engaging in any kind of energetic work.
When I first read this excellent book, I questioned why he would seem to suggest that some kind of psychoanalysis was required before working with magic. He believed that analytical psychology and magic are really two halves of one system. Some twenty-odd years later, I have found this to be true. This is doubly applicable if one is going to be working with substances that alter reality and produce visions.
Another reason to work on yourself first is that you don’t want to be spewing your own shadow stuff onto your clients. If you are doing any kind of work that involves energetic transfer, such as hands on healing, you absolutely don’t want to be mixing your crap with theirs. You need to face your shadow side many times over and learn how to harness it before you even try to help anyone else with theirs.
As you work on yourself, preferably with a knowledgeable teacher, you will inevitably have self doubts.
“I think I’m making this up.”
“Um, I’m not sure I’m getting anything.”
“Well I did get something, but it doesn’t make sense to me.”
Sound familiar? We all go through this phase. If you’re going to be a spiritual guide, then you cannot doubt yourself. You need to work to get a strong connection to your spirit crew and then learn to trust what they bring through to you.
There are ways of learning to foment this trust and they all take time. It is an absolutely crucial ability that one must have as we are not the ones who do the work: we are but conduits for the divine. If our conduit is full of crap, the truth cannot come through.
Being a teacher or a guide is not something that you do on your off hours. In most cases, depending on what you want to do, it’s a lifetime commitment. Are you so busy with work and family life that you can only squeeze in an hour or two of spirituality each week? That’s fine; you have to be honest about your commitments. You may need to wait until you have more time free to dedicate to your chosen path.
True spiritual development doesn’t come overnight: it takes years, even lifetimes. If you want to become someone who leads medicine ceremonies, for example, know that it’s much more than just sitting behind an altar and handing out a cup of liquid and playing or singing particular songs.
In my lineage, the apprenticeship lasts about 4 or 5 years. Why so long? In addition to learning the various healing methods, much of the work is working on yourself. Yep, there’s that thing again. And boy, does your stuff come up to be worked on! It’s not pretty at all! But you have to deal with this crap so you don’t send it out into the room full of people with whom you’re energetically connected. Can you make the commitment to spend days, weeks, months and years with your teachers in order to develop your path?
Let’s be honest; training isn’t cheap. There seems to be this misconception that teachers or healers must give their spiritual gifts away for free or else some higher power will come down and take them away. This is a load of nonsense, and nowadays is usually spouted by people who are looking to get something for nothing.
Every spiritual teacher, guru, master, you name it, has to clothe and feed themselves and their families, keep a roof over their heads and deal with life’s expenses, so this means cash. During my jungle apprenticeships I have financed expeditions, paid for travelling expenses — not just for myself, but also for my teachers and any helpers, bought gifts for tribal leaders and so on. Not everyone is seeking such a difficult path as mine, but I think you get the idea.
This is where you do your research. Is the person you want to learn from really experienced in their path? Ask them what their training was like. A true master has literally gone through the deepest underworlds and learned how to come back into the light. Don’t insult them by complaining that they are too expensive. They can take years off your training and produce astounding results. That old adage applies here of you get what you pay for.
How much are you willing to give for life-changing work?
What do you want to do? Can you see yourself in any particular position? During one of my early training periods, a teacher asked me these questions.
“I want to be a healer!” I declared enthusiastically, expecting some kind of smile and head nod of approval.
“Yes, but what kind of healer? There are many types and paths. You have to have some idea of where you want to go before you can start on your journey.”
That flummoxed me. It never occurred to me that there were different types of healers. I had thought that one simply became this magical person and the path would just sort itself out. Sure, that path will fork and turn over the years, but you have to have a starting point.
Handling the difficult stuff
Being a spiritual guide is not always pretty. While genuine shamanic techniques can offer great healing, I have found it useful to continue my education in order to help work with the challenges that inevitably arise. The more tools you have in your toolkit, the more you will have to offer.
Being a spiritual guide is not just about calling in angels and higher vibrations. You may be working with someone who carries deep wounds or other things, and you must know how to handle what arises.
Here are three examples taken from my own work:
- Let’s say you are running a plant medicine ceremony and someone starts audibly making some kind of whiny animal sound that becomes a nasty demonic growl. What do you do? You’d better have very clear second sight and a strong connection with your spirit guides because simply telling them to sit up straight and breathe deeply isn’t going to cut it in this case. This is serious business.
- Or maybe you are sitting with someone who really wants to develop their psychic abilities but keeps hitting some kind of block. What will you do if the veil lifts and they suddenly recall a horrible traumatic event from their past that they’d kept buried for years? Do you know how to diffuse a panic attack?
- What if your client has an undiagnosed mental illness? Will you be able to recognize the difference between psychosis and psychic experiences?
The bottom line here is that if you want to open doors into other dimensions, you had better know how to walk safely in those worlds, and how to close the door firmly when you’re done.
I wish you all the best as you embark upon your wonderful journey. Please feel free to reach out to me if you are interested in getting a good start to your spiritual training. I’ve developed programs for many people over the years. What can I do for you?