New Age spirituality is filled with endless catchphrases related to manifesting what you want or telling people to change their life with these 5 easy steps. We find two-second cutesy soundbites are all over Facebook and Instagram, where the authors dumb down deep spiritual insights into marketing quotes that are worthy to be added to a hallmark card. It’s all well-intentioned, but it turns many people off. It comes across as superficial and fake. It fits with our fast-paced culture, which is so focused on instant gratification. We want our enlightenment served on a golden platter. It’s all missing the balance and sensibility that we need in order to go deeper inside of ourselves and actually do the work that we need to do in order to grow and evolve.
The internet can be an incredible way to connect with people all over the world. But when we go online to brag about a ceremony or spiritual experience, we need to question our intentions. This has made me hesitate to write anything about my own healing. At what point does sharing become bragging? Are you only going to a spiritual retreat to post a selfie of yourself meditating as soon as you are back online, and then counting the likes?
Studies show that social media use is linked to depression and low self-esteem. Selfies are now linked to death, as people tragically die while being on vacation and trying to get that perfect shot over a cliff. I use social media just like everyone else, and I try to use it consciously and maintain a balance.
There is value in connecting with others online, although it’s more important to stay true to ourselves. When we rely on social media to validate a spiritual experience, we’re just looking for external validation. That’s skipping the inner work. At what point does it become exploitative? It’s been two years and I’m still integrating so much of the healing work I did with the plants. I can’t help but question those who think they are an expert after only one ceremony or one plant dieta.
Nowadays it seems that the quality of a good yoga teacher is solely based on having pretty Instagram photos, posting a glamorous photo in downward dog while on vacation. The same thing is happening with “shamanism”. The other day I was flipping through a spiritual magazine and the ads were pure comedy. You can start a new career by becoming a “certified life-circle-celebrant”. Or you can call an 800 number and talk to a psychic shamanic guru. You can sign up for an online esoteric school that promises to share all the ancient mysteries of the world with you and other special chosen ones — -all yours once you pay the tuition fee of thousands of dollars.
It seems we often look for the easy way out, for someone else to tell us what to do or how to solve our problems. I know because I’m just as guilty of struggling to trust myself and looking for outside advice. The key, of course, is to develop and trust your own intuition. I find that when I don’t trust my own intuition it inevitably comes back and bites me in the ass. This seems to be a lesson that I need to learn again and again. And it’s when I don’t trust my intuition that I learn the most. Often when I get myself into challenging situations, I can look back and remember that I had that gut feeling of knowingness, which I subsequently ignored. So when you get that gut feeling in your stomach, trust it.
If you go to an intuitive reader, keep in mind that it takes years to fully develop intuitive abilities and learn how to use them. A good intuitive should respect boundaries, give feedback with empathy and only give feedback when it’s asked for. They should be aware of their own personal biases. A good healer doesn’t need to brag, lure people into working with them, or aggressively market themselves.
A huge red flag is one that I have encountered time and time again: when someone tells you that you “need” to work with them, that you “need” to take their class, that only they can help you, that you need to get over your “fears” of working with them. I’ve heard these lines a lot. It’s manipulative and disempowering, and it comes from the ego of the healer. But the real danger is that if you are feeling lost on your path and looking for guidance, it can feel like a positive sign or even a genuine offer of help. Some healers may even have good intentions when they say these things. But when a healer makes you dependent on them, they are stripping you of your personal power.
We are all human and no one is perfect, but it can feel disingenuous when a healer preaches at you at how to live your life, yet they don’t live by their own words. As a foreigner living in Peru, it can also be easy to get tangled up in money drama, healers charging exorbitant prices, or guilting you into giving more money in exchange for being your friend.
Does the offer to help, come from love, or is there another incentive? Is this person speaking with integrity, honesty, and love? How do they treat people? And since I don’t always understand everything that is spoken in Spanish, so I have to trust how I feel.
With all this being said, I feel very lucky and incredibly grateful for all the people I’ve met, and the mentors I’ve found in Peru. Yet the mentors I work with are not from Peru. If you come to Peru and only want to work with a Peruvian healer, that’s what you will find. The teachers I know are not flashy, and they are not out there trying to grab your attention and convince you to learn from them. They don’t need to aggressively advertise and cheapen their image.
They have both told me, repeatedly, that I need to figure things out on my own. I still learn from them, but there is no textbook or syllabus. The true inner work has got to be done alone. I fought with this for a long time before it really hit me, the truth of what they were saying and what an amazing gift it is…to be set free. It took another healer telling me how much I needed them before I fully understood and felt how disempowering these words are.
When I felt alone and vulnerable, and when I was betrayed and lied to, this was all part of my learning, and I can only say thank you. I’m not sick anymore, and every challenge I faced was part of my healing. I now understand that you don’t know a good teacher until you’ve met a fake one. You can’t understand light until you’ve experienced darkness. I ended up learning just as much from all the negative experiences, although it was difficult to see it at the time.
Sometimes the woman selling fruit with a smile is the teaching I need at the moment, other times it’s seeing someone mistreat a person or animal to understand that this is not who I want to emulate.
SHAMANIC SINGING COURSE: GO DEEP WITH THE MEDICINES OF THE JUNGLE
HUACHUMA: HEALING MEDICINE FOR MODERN TIMES
Cover Photo: Scott Montgomery
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