The journey with Sacred Plant Medicine, when used as part of a spiritual practice, brings us to new awarenesses that we can either choose to embrace or reject. Should we choose to reject these awarenesses, (now that Pandora’s box is open), we will be granted the opportunity to learn those lessons over and over again, both inside and outside of the ceremonies.
Sacred Plant Medicines will amplify all that we are, without prejudice. Through this amplifying process, all initiates hopefully learn more about who they are, as it serves to bring these Jungian elements that are in the "darkness" out into the "light". This will certainly happen both inside and outside of the ceremony and will affect initiates in many different ways. As Jack Kornfield puts it, after the ecstacy, must come the laundry. This is the nitty gritty stuff that is integration.
In any specific lifetime, the great learnings a soul may acquire could be that of: self awareness and how to be and act alone, how to be in relationship with another in harmony, how to find your voice and to accept and express your beauty, how to have structure and to keep order, how to be spontaneous and to live with child-like abandon, how to be self sufficient and yet charitable to others in need, how to be gentle and strong at the same time, and even, how to die with grace.
I know now that my greatest learning in this lifetime has been that of mercy and forgiveness. And in order to be able to help others with this, I needed to endure level after level of personal pain in order to truly grasp the pain of the world and to go through the process of learning how to unravel that pain and to forgive those who have intentionally hurt, abused and tried to destroy me, just because I was available. A major part of that healing journey for me was gaining the kind of compassion I never imagined I was capable of feeling.
How could I ever know how to forgive, really forgive, truly forgive, unless I had been given many different opportunities to forgive a variety of abuse, betrayal and maltreatment? And while I do not condone this treatment as a "means to an end", in hind sight, it has certainly taught me a lot through personal experience. This brings to mind the story of Buddha and how he had to forge a path out into the world to see the true nature of what it was to be human and to suffer, beyond the protective walls of his Father’s palace. And it was through his personal journey and experience that a legacy was born. Victor Frankel said it well, “What is to give light must endure burning.”
A Journey of Forgiveness and Surrender
In my years of working with Sacred Plant Medicine, I know that these teacher plants brought me face to face with my ingrained inability to forgive and to surrender.
To begin with, surrender was not something that sat well with me. surrender felt like I was supposed to give my power away. And give it away I did, much to my own detriment. So the idea of embracing this concept left me quivering at the memories of layered traumas stored in my cells and nervous system. And for years I tried to figure out what forgiveness actually meant. Did it mean wiping the slate clean? Forgiving AND forgetting? After repeated attempts to forgive and surrender, and after countless painful experiences of having my boundaries and heart ripped to shreds by the unscrupulous, I gave up believing wholeheartedly that taking the high road (turning the other cheek) and doing the right thing meant allowing people (that I intuitively knew were bad news) to trample all over me (repeatedly).
"Boundaries were part of my journey to self-love. How to remain open-hearted in this insane world of the dangerously unhealed!? This was all part of gaining compassion for myself". A story I will share in time.
Even so, with boundaries in place, I do not take pleasure in seeing the suffering of others who have abused their power and taken advantage of me or others. Acquiring compassion means that we can still feel compassion for those who have hurt or abused us.
All healers, medicine facilitators and therapists alike will know on some level the famous expression “healer, heal thyself”. And yet so many embark on a path of healing others well before they are truly ready. “No foul no shame” as the I-Ching mystic Bobbi Klein always says. This is actually a natural part of the healing process, as I will continue to explain below.
And if you have any aspirations to become a healer or to work with the Sacred Plant Medicines, please keep reading. Boundaries as I have learned, are imperative. However, true forgiveness that is free from the desire for retribution (along with all unprocessed rage) is just as important. And as part of my own journey I have had to learn now how to stop engaging with other healers, facilitators and therapists whom I sense have still not transformed their rage into compassion.
I admit that it took me some years to move through the bulk of my initial healing journey of forgiveness. There were some definite phases I had to go through in order to fully apply what I was being taught by my Sacred Medicine experiences, and by life itself.
I am constantly reminded of these points when working with my Integration clients and also just through living with human beings who will inevitably (in their ignorance) do hurtful things. Andrew Boyd aptly coined the phrase “The agony of being connected to everything in the Universe”. And those who embark on a deep spiritual path (especially with Sacred Plant Medicine) will understand that it can at times feel like a bandaid of protective numbness is being ripped off over and over again, and that maintaining an open heart means getting hurt sometimes.
And so my lessons in Forgiveness - long and arduous as they have been, provided me with the following awarenesses;
Note: This is not a perfect structure and some may not resonate with this, but here is what I have noticed (more than once), and so I have this experience to share:
Phase One - The Purging - The recognition of what is - 1st level of Self-awareness
This is the part where the person who is healing allows themselves to feel and process all the sadness, anger and bitterness towards those who have done them harm (including themselves) and to have others witness their suffering and purging in a way that feels like they are seen and honored for their journey - without judgment. This is the phase where the person who is healing comes to terms with their experience of trauma and how disempowered they have felt. This purging part can take on many forms. Most often it is through verbal processing of what seems like the same story over and over again. This is the mind trying to come to terms with what actually happened and ideally, over time, there is hopefully less and less of an emotional charge with the retelling of the story.
This phase is perhaps the most important part of the healing journey and can take many years until it is completed, as the person digs deeply into their pain and can at times get lost there. For others, it can become an "unhealable" illness - whereby the anger, grief and sadness is being processed through the physical channels. While this is a powerful indicator of healing happening on some level for the person or of healing that is required, the pure emotion still needs to be released out of the body and through all the more subtle channels of the mind and spirit.
It is also the most difficult phase in these new-agey spiritual times, due to the fact that people expressing their pain and trauma often triggers the unhealed pain and trauma in those who have not come to terms with their own wounding, often due to spiritual bypassing.
If holding the space for someone is done correctly, their healing will happen much faster. But usually, friends and family are not adequately emotionally equipped or trained to deal with the pain (and trauma) of someone close to them.
The spiritual teacher Jeff Brown writes beautifully about victims saying that we need to “invite every trauma survivor to share their story, without shame”.
I have observed that anyone who dismisses a person on their healing journey as being a VICTIM, may do more HARM than good. And that the best way forward is to go back and honestly heal that part of themselves before they can move forward in their own work with others. And until that personal healing happens, no healer, medicine facilitator or therapist will be of any help to another who has come to them for assistance with this issue.
My advice to those still struggling to move out of this first phase: find a professional to talk to or a healer to assist you to move the energy, someone who fully understands and specializes in what you’ve been through. And if it feels at any time that they do not understand you, or that they seem to feel an unsatisfactory amount of empathy for you, find someone else who does.
Phase two - Regaining power - Spiritual action despite what is - Shadow Work - 2nd Level of Self Awareness