Understanding the Role of Emotional Pain

So much about modern life seeks to dull and dispose of emotional pain, but this pain is both a teacher and an opportunity. We depend on struggle to feel that we exist at all. Struggle is what gives value to achievements and allows growth. Just as all life feeds of the death of something, all pain can feed joy and fulfillment. You wouldn’t want to read a story without any conflict or drama, in which the protagonist was always happy and content — neither would you really want to live such a life. Without struggle in your life story you are a hero of nothing.

And if you really were perfectly peaceful and content all the time, it would be as if life were living itself, without a need for your own effort to overcome anything. And in that case, it would be as if you didn’t exist at all, as if life would live on without you.

One of the worst bouts of depression I experience is not about crushing emotional pain so much as it is the overwhelming sense of emptiness and lack of feeling anything — a mental state in which nothing seems to matter. However, in emptiness lies the greatest potential. Where there is nothing, like a blank page, anything can be written. So it becomes clear to me that states of emptiness are opportunities to change up your life. If you can connect with your potential in these moments, the infinite potential to do absolutely anything you can imagine, you can find new ways to live, new perspectives, and find new ways to fulfill your soul.

All struggle is an opportunity. It is necessary to feel alive and it makes achievements valuable in the first place. When you are in emotional pain, it is an opportunity to discover what your soul truly needs and gives you a reason to make greater efforts, which lead to growth and feelings of success.

I maintain that emotional pain is a spiritual thing — emotions are immaterial, and thus part of the spirit world. If we examine our emotions and pain, instead of trying to quick-fix them, we can learn what we value, what false beliefs are fueling continued and painful mistakes, and how to live better. In this way emotional pain is an ally, it is a signal that something is wrong either in your thinking or your actions. Just as physical pain tells you about your body, emotional pain tells you about your soul, and signals a time for action — a time to make changes and shake things up.

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Spiritual Healing in Dreamcraft

wild turkey meeting

I have been working on a practical spiritual modality that I call “Dreamcraft”, and having covered the basics of my cosmology and beliefs, it is time to approach the critical subject of spiritual healing.

I speak from the perspective of someone who is healing from severe sexual/physical/emotional abuse in my childhood. Previously I had studied shamanism for several years but found that it didn’t support my own values. I believe that we each have the power to do the work and joy of spiritual healing ourselves, and so the idea of elite people doing the work for us (as in shamanic practice), just didn’t jive with me.

Spiritual healing, in my view, need not be as esoteric as you may think; indeed, it ought to be practical with results that you can truly notice and feel. My viewpoint is that to heal from past pain, we must build new “skin” over those soul wounds. What truly hurts is the soul, and it must be understood through soul discovery and spiritual exploration.

We all have access to our souls’ powers and spiritual senses, as the soul is ever-present and here with us right now. And our imagination is our greatest spiritual tool, as it is a direct sense of potential itself. Imagination shows us all that is possible, somehow and somewhere. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” This is something I embrace wholeheartedly: for I journey with my spirit to other times, other places, and other perspectives, as is the power of spirit to transcend these things — and I don’t worry about whether or not the experience is “real”. It is surely real in some way and that’s all I need to know. Even the Q’ero shamans of Peru, who claim a lineage going back to the Inca, like to playfully say that it doesn’t matter if spiritual experiences are imagined and made up entirely in your head, as our whole Earthbound reality is already “made up” by our minds.

I find that spirit exploration is a valuable practice for spiritual healing. Spirit exploration can be achieved in light meditation, or even a daydream — it need not require intense discipline, years of hermitage in a cave, or lengthy meditation in the lotus position. Close your eyes and explore, that’s what your spirit is meant to do. Get in touch with what your soul can sense. You may be surprised at how spontaneously things seem to happen — at times, you will feel that you aren’t actively imagining at all, but simply experiencing.

Where do you start in spirit exploration? This will be the topic of a later post, but you can visit your child-self, at different ages; you can meet other souls — like spirit guides — who may have something to tell you; and you can reach out to your higher self, the one who transcends time itself, for whom all lives and all time happen all at once, eternally and infinitely. The higher self is a concept of your ideal and infinite being, and getting to know this aspect of your soul will teach you things you didn’t even know about yourself now.

We should, I believe, be taught from an early age to explore our souls. What do our souls truly desire and need? Not material things, since soul is immaterial. What do our souls value? What truths do they live by? How do they see existence and how we ought to live? What are our souls’ powers and potential?

Another thing I believe we ought to be taught when we are young is to critically examine the things we believe — for when we are mistreated we learn to believe things about ourselves that aren’t true, and perhaps aren’t even logical. All belief is just perspective. If you have been taught to believe that you are ugly, unworthy of love, a bad person…you need to turn this around in order to heal. I like to use what I call “retrograde perspectives” to show myself other ways of seeing and thinking. For instance, you can go your whole life walking across the land…or maybe, just once, you could feel yourself “walking” by turning the Earth with your feet. You can imagine opposite ways of seeing just about anything. Retrograde perspectives show us new, imaginative ways to get out of “thought ruts” and cast out false beliefs that we carry from old wounds. If we don’t change our thinking, these false beliefs will continue to wound us, and the pain goes ever deeper.

Finally, healing from the past means making your present moment a good, safe place to be. For me, that meant cutting off contact with my whole family (and none, unfortunately, were worth forgiving — I believe forgiveness requires contriteness and/or apology and/or an intent not to continue hurting someone. Forgiveness and compassion are not concepts well-suited for atrocities and extreme behaviour). So one must consider the people that one surrounds themselves with, and the things one is doing in their present life. Are you working towards growth and healing? If you’re barely keeping your head above water, or if you are surrounded by drama, you won’t be able to heal — you need to create a firm foundation in the present first.

Story of Dandelions

I really love dandelions and they are special to me because of their beautiful life-cycle, and how their seeds fly in the wind. So I made a dandelion “painting” out of polymer clay in a pocket watch. It’s supposed to show the sprout (roots below) and and the nearly-done flower-head of an old dandelion plant. I also have little glass vials with real dandelion seeds inside, and Willow made me a polymer clay locket with a dandelion flower and leaves.

dandelion sprout pocket watch
dandelion flower locket with dandelion seeds

I’m also thinking of re-opening my Etsy store with a sharper focus on helping people connect with their idea of spirit, whether it’s through the animals they love (I make needle felted animals), or spiritual tools like rattles, or special jewelry. I’d like to call my store “Spirited Story”, which has two meanings. One intends to send the message, “May your life story be full of spirit,” and the other has to do with my own chosen name, Story, which the closest people in my life call me. 

So I dug out my calligraphy nibs and ink and had a go at feeling out the words. 

I don’t do a lot of calligraphy because I make such a mess of it!

Algonquin: Spirited Fun

We had a fabulous visit to Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario: our first trip so late in the year! I called out to the spirits of the land, saying I wanted to connect with, honour, and bless any animal that crossed my path. We were blessed with animal encounters: we moose, pine martens, an otter, wild turkeys, beavers, gray jays, and mink. There was a beautiful sunset too, and of course our mascot Poo (the traveling dragon) had to be in the photo.

Willow and Poo
pine marten at Mew Lake

A video of a pine marten in the Mew Lake garbage bin, and me feeding wild turkeys, with a song I created using loops in Studio One: 

the chickadees are so friendly!
the wild turkeys were friendly too

Thought Experiment Stories: Part One

“What do I want to do with my life?”

You avoid thinking these words most nights but the question remains, silently persistent, like a shadow you can’t outrun.

Maybe nothing mattered, anyway.

Maybe everything mattered.

Or both, at once.

“But what do I want to do?”

The question is bigger than you think at first. Who is “I”? What is “want” with regard to yourself? What is “life” and what constitutes “doing” something with it?

You realize you don’t even know who you are, or what you are, in the first place. 

“I don’t care!” you hiss at the shadow, the question in the corner of your mind.

But how do you know you don’t care, if you don’t even know who you are or what you care about?

“Nobody thinks about this stuff. I don’t need to. If it was so damn important…they’d teach it in school.”

But you can’t say you know anything if you don’t even know who you are.

And how do you know what you need if you don’t even know who you are?

You’re getting annoyed. It feels like arguing with someone particularly obtuse.

“I…” you say, falteringly, “I…am consciousness stuck in a body.”

You roll your eyes at yourself, because this, you figure, is the problem: impossible questions and answers that don’t get you anywhere.

Is consciousness not body? Is it material or something else?

Suddenly, like a light flooding a hallway, you feel there’s something to this, like there’s a chance you could actually get somewhere.  “No, I don’t think consciousness is material. It’s something else.”

Are non-material things limited by space? Do they really inhabit places? Is your consciousness stuck in your body?

“Maybe not. But if consciousness doesn’t really live in the body or the brain — if it isn’t even physical at all — then it doesn’t die and it doesn’t have to go anywhere.”

You frown at yourself because you’re just thinking out loud and no one’s allowed to come to their own conclusions like this. Maybe Einstein, when he did thought experiments, but not you.

Still, you can’t help it. It’s like instinct, or some kind of gut-logic. Nobody told you to believe this but it’s what makes sense.

What are you thinking?

“Consciousness doesn’t care if there’s a body or not, so death really doesn’t change a damn thing. It’s like the afterlife is already here — right now — and there’s something going on, something that’s not physical. It’s who I am, at least partly…and I want to pay attention to it.”   

And for the first time in years, perhaps since you were a child jumping off benches half-believing you could fly, you felt encouraged to think — to imagine — to take the universe head-on.

Why not?