On shamanic practice

©2021 Michael Raven

At risk of beating a dead horse, I’ll preface this post by mentioning that I’ve been diagnosed with a form of chronic depression known as dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder. It is considered to be a mild, potentially chronic disease and, in my case, it generally is. I occasionally dip deeper into depression, which is what is currently happening for me — for the past six to nine months. I’ve gotten various treatments for the dysthymia, from therapy to medication or both and have found all of the options presented to range from ineffective (most therapy, ineffective drugs that are not even designed for dysthymia (e.g., Zoloft), to too horrifying to consider (EST and lithium, both of which I adamantly refused), to potentially effective, but with unsavory side-effects (libido- and creativity-killing medications).

Needless to say, this last downward spiral finally hit a peak recently (beginning as early as mid-July to this past weekend, it is hard to say for sure when the peak actually hit). I have made an appointment with a therapist at the end of this week, and have done some looking around at some other alternative options.

There, that’s enough of a preface, one would think.

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One of the things I asked some people who might know people who know people about such things is where I might find a shamanic practitioner to consider doing some soulwork with to see if it is more effective than the standard cognitive therapy I’ve tried out in the past — not so much as a replacement, but as a supportive tool. Unsurprisingly, I’ve come up empty-handed on the matter and I barfed at the prices being charged by the folks who have gone to the effort to sell their services. If you know me at all, I may be sympathetic to the idea that one needs to make a living, but I am always skeptical of people who charge premium (instead of token) fees for such things when there are no bodies that recognize such approaches to license or otherwise assure quality. Insurance will, of course, refuse to pay for shamanic services and, while I am not destitute, I assuredly can’t drop $500-1000 for a series of sessions to do soulwork on the chance that will help me identify and correct the thing that ails me since I was in my early 20s.

While I was waiting for responses from people I know, I delved back into the abyss of books that approach such matters. Most of them have too much mysticism attached to the concepts they are trying to sell at terrible prices, sounding less grounded in meaningful concepts than they are in woo-woo new-ageism and justifications for using psychedelic drugs.

I have stumbled onto one series of books repeatedly, authored by a gentleman named Paul Frances, which always piqued my interest, but I have typically looked for a cultural tie-in (Celtic, Norse) — of which his books seemed to lack. So I passed them over as part of my purchases into such matters, usually wanting to maximize my purchase by having subject and cultural reference point tied together in a single text.

This time I looked a little closer after still coming up empty-handed with something tied to the cultural traditions (aside from Native American beliefs) I was most interested. This time, I found value in the non-specific approach and ended up looking into Paul’s webpage for his “college” for study, trying to grok his approach without actually reading his books and I was intrigued by the low-cost approaches to his coursework offerings. Additionally, the topics for the courses seemed mostly in alignment with my own unaffiliated system of beliefs. His six-session classes are priced on par with community some education classes (how to cook, making X art project, 6 weeks of archery lessons) around here (just over $100-$150) for each session. As I thought about it, I realized that I couldn’t be the only person looking for such services and… if his approach was effective in addressing my own issues, the costs involved in being able to help other people in a similar manner seemed nominal.

The idea intrigued: assuming I could “heal myself”, I could get more information in order to get some kind of “accreditation” through the coursework and help other people. And, to boot, I could be one of those jerkwad disruptive people who charged real token fees for my time, or work on “in kind” barter — a trademark of how I approach anything that I consider to be a “spiritual” service (see Reverence and horror–). These guys charging upwards of $250/session would be furious with me if such a thing occurred.

But, that’s getting ahead of myself.

What I need to do first is get my own head screwed on right — and I think shamanic practice might have a complementary impact on my regular therapy.

Sold on the idea, I bought his first two books to see how they aligned with my own experimentation in shamanic journeying over the years. Amazingly, they are not only in alignment, but his non-cultural approach is actually very refreshing to behold. Unadorned with all the tapestry of manufactured or potentially misleading information, the material is quite easy to digest without insulting one’s intelligence so far. Granted, I am only in the beginning stages of the first book, but I am literally finding nothing that makes me raise and eyebrow, or wholly toss the book aside in disgust.

Believe me, this test is rarely passed with the bulk of the books in this genre of non-fiction (which is misleading in of itself many times, as some of these books are entire fabrications sewn together from the cloth of the writer’s imagination).

While I’m not going to get too excited this early in the game, I am increasingly interested in the idea of pursuing this goal. One of my regrets in my life is feeling like I haven’t been very good about leaving a more positive legacy for when I pass into the next realm. If I can get my own shit together and, in a verifiable manner, help out other people — I think I might be able to leave something behind that I could be proud of having been a part of.

I had originally planned to delve into the ideas of animism and panpsychism as well in this post, but it fit less as the post got longer. I’ll probably approach those ideas in a later post. Back to reading and considering my next steps, both with my own therapy and what, if any, path I might want to pursue along these lines.

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