IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
It’s a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care
Well I do.
Hey, who is in charge here?
It’s a jungle out there,
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what’s in the water we drink?
Well I do and it’s amazing.
People think I’m crazy,’cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you’d be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so
It’s a jungle out there.
(Theme song from MONK)
Today, I find myself at the gym running on a treadmill. In the gym each treadmill has its own television screen and I settle on watching the show MONK. The main character of the show, Adrian Monk, sits well with my fondness for unusual characters. His crime investigations have their own unique blend of curiosity, unusual interpretation of information and profound intuition. It so happens on that day the episode is titled “Mr. Monk Sees an UFO”.
A part of the storyline is the frenzy that occurs when people believe UFO’s have been sighted in the area. A lot of people dressed up in all sorts of outer space type costumes arrive and begin to seek verification for the story they are sorely attached. In the midst of it, they are convinced that Monk is an alien and that in their story aliens don’t have belly buttons. Monk’s refusal to lift his shirt is seen as evidence he is indeed from outer space. Throughout the story, the people who are attached to the story of aliens, alien abductions refuse to believe any information that contradicts the story they want to believe.
When I was researching for Peace with Cancer, I wanted to read as wide a range of literature as I could possibly find. Along the way, I found this article written which cited a study by Jeanne Achterberg providing evidence-based research of shamans and healing. The author of this article, who is well known, was using this study to support his article’s main thesis. I immediately went to find Dr. Achterberg’s study, as the article’s claims were useful for my own writing.
When I found the study, I was quite taken by what the study showed. It was, however, not at all what was written in the aforementioned article. It was a reminder to not assume that was cited in one article made it true. Her study looked at the effect of distance healing by a variety of alternative healing modalities. Some of the healers were trained in some sort of shamanic tradition; many other types of healers were included. What the study did show in its small sampling was fascinating. In those cases, where the healers knew the client and had worked with them, Achterberg found evidence for correlations between distant intentionality and brain function. What was more striking was the lack of measurable effect when the healers did not know the client to whom they were sending healing intent. The study raises questions of the role of compassion, empathy and relationship in healing.
Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand another person’s difficulty. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate suffering and conflict, to detach ourselves from our needs and put another there, and requires a commitment to personal sacrifice that serves a larger possibility. It asks the question of “Am I willing to walk with (another person’s pain, my own illness, or something else) in order to support the possibility of healing. Compassion is our ability to imagine lives that are not our own.
It is not always an easy thing to find empathy and compassion for an illness or the seeming delusional attachment to one’s story, as is the case in the “Monk Sees A UFO” episode. After many attempts to convince otherwise, Monk gives a speech joining with the group beliefs and offers new possibility to their imagination. In the end, it is the only way he can bring influence and healing to the moment. It was his way of walking with the
Thus far, I’ve been writing about some important tenets:
1. Things are not always as they seem
2. Compassion is a necessary component of healing
3. Even in the face of information that indicates otherwise, people will stay attached to their rigid belief.
I want to share a recent healing case as it reflects these tenets and the challenges of healing:
Earlier in the year I saw a family with two adopted boys for healing and mediation. The boys were brothers and adopted together. The older of the two boys was seen as cursed by the adoptive parents. In a first meeting with the parents, the mom went into a long story about a shamanic journey she had done after having seen a psychic about her oldest son’s behavioral problems at school and home. The psychic she had seen told her that her son was cursed by the karma of his biological parents and that this karmic bond needed to be broken for him to thrive. She then went on to tell of the journey she had done where she was “frightened half to death by all the horrible and evil things around her son” and how her spirit guides had told her he was doing evil rituals trying to curse her. She went on and on about how nasty this boy is and how he will never get better. She was questioning whether they should unadopt this boy.
Later that week I did a soul retrieval for the boy and worked out some issues between the parents. It turned out she had not wanted to adopt the older boy but her husband had prevailed. Recently, I had occasion to meet the boy’s therapist. She reported that the boy had miraculously turned around since the healing work and she talked of how amazed people at his school were with his changes. A couple of days later I bumped into the mom at a local building supplies store who went on and on about how “he is just evil and horrible and he’s getting worse.” When I told her what I had heard through the grapevine (improved grades, loved by all his teachers, numerous reports of acts of kindness they had witnessed), she went straight back into the story about the psychic saying it would get worse and worse. She could not hear a word of what I was saying. Inside myself I had many questions about the psychic’s power of suggestion and how eagerly the mom embraced this direction with her son. She was incapable of letting herself look at her anger with her husband around the adoption. Her level of stress was palpable.
Lessons taught by stress
Stress isn’t stress unless there is resistance. Resistance comes when we try to make something happen or we defend against something being insisted upon us. It is the resistance that causes tension (reaction) and the tension (constriction) may become a contributor to illness forming. Stress isn’t all bad as its vital to building muscles, keeping us moving and breathing, and being awake to what is occurring around us.
The life giving solution to stress lives in our spiritual imagination. Spiritual imagination allows us to embrace whatever challenges us (illness, life stresses, earth/world events). Imagination helps us transcend the narrow, the shortsighted, the limitations, or dead ends. The purpose of spiritual imagination is to bring about possibilities not imaginable in current terms. As is so often the case, to paraphrase Bruno Bettleheim, “violence is the behavior of someone incapable of imagining other solutions to the problem at hand.”
Spiritual imagination is the realm we enter when we do a shamanic journey or other spiritual imagination practices. Spiritual imagination is mobilized towards a healing possibility when four capacities are involved. They are:
a. We embrace the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that include our enemies (or illnesses).
b. We sustain a curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on simple explanation or dualistic polarities.
c. We hold a fundamental belief in the pursuit of the creative act/power of Spirit.
d. We accept the inherent risk of stepping into the mystery of the unknown that lies beyond the too familiar landscape of violence/illness.
These four capacities allow us to move out of a stuck narrative into a process of restorying. What I mean by the word “restorying” is the capacity of our souls to move out of constriction into connection with the larger story of the spiritual realm. Our soul actualizes these capacities through three primary disciplines.
First is the discipline of stillness and patience. Before we act, we must take the time to notice what exists. Stillness allows spiritual influence to seep in. Patience brings us into relationship with the human community but also the animate and inanimate world. The sky, earth,rocks,trees, and plants, water, the animals are all talking to us. With great patience, we can observe and listen deeply to what is around us. Literally, there is much information right at our feet.
The second discipline is our capacity to live with humility. Humility asks us to find a balance between a purposeful life and the recognition of our smallness in the whole. It puts us in touch with the precarious life of meaning we live. Learning and truth seeking are life long pursuits. If one has full truth, the process of curiosity and questioning ceases. Spiritual humility accepts that we are in an ongoing quest of understanding the great mystery and understands what we learn is an unfolding with no end point.
The third discipline is the embracement of sensuous perception. Sensuous perception is our capacity to use and keep open our full awareness of that which surrounds us. We must learn to feel, smell, and hear what is occurring around us, both in the physical world and the spiritual realms. Often as we do this, new and unexpected creativity can emerge which feeds our spiritual imagination. Our senses guide our desires and each of us heals towards what we desire.
When we venture into the unknown, the creative process of the artist is at play. The artistry and poetics we bring to healing is a path of discovery and imagination. Ultimately this becomes a path of vocation i.e. a form of spiritual calling. For those who take up the journey, the possibility of healing expands beyond our desired or hoped for outcomes.
An approach for lightening the load
I want to offer a simple practice for the readers based on the concept of embracing our enemies and the possibility there is another story. In Peace with Cancer, I invite readers to journey to and learn about the spirit of their illness. Instead of treating illness as an enemy we want to get rid of, we choose to be in relationship with the illness so healing change may be possible.
Journey to the spirit of an illness or an emotional issue that troubles you. With the aid of your spirit helpers, tell the illness or emotional issue of your concern for them and how it’s your job to be of help. Let the illness know you know it has a larger purpose and it carries burdens, which undermine its purpose. Ask the spirit if it is willing to share those burdens with you. Be non-judgmental of what the spirit tells you of its purpose or its burdens. Suggest to the spirit of the illness it could unburden itself of the burdens it has been carrying. Ask the spirit if it would like to give the burdens to air, fire, water, or earth. Each element offers different ways of transforming and healing. Once the spirit of the illness names the element it would like to give its burdens to, you may need to ask what quality of the element it wants to work with. For example, it may want to bury it in the earth but you can ask what type of place it wants to do so. Or if fire, does it want a little fire or a bonfire? Or if water, is it a river, a lake, the ocean, a rainstorm? With your spiritual allies, help the spirit unburden. Once unburden ask the spirit of the illness/emotional issue what it wants to fill up with instead and to embrace that intention by standing in a beam of white light from the sky. Then simply say goodbye to the spirit, let the spirit know that you will be back, and return from the journey. Note over the coming days, what you experience.
Much of this posting reflected on the importance of compassion to healing.
I want to encourage readers to read the Charter for Compassion and consider signing the affirmation of its call for creative, practical, and sustained action to meet the problems of our times. Crafted by people all over the world, the charter seeks to embrace the concept of compassion into our daily discourse and make it clear that any ideology that breeds hatred or contempt—be it public or private discourse—has failed the test of our time. Please go to
For future postings, your responses and questions are greatly appreciated. When possible the postings will attempt to address the concerns and curiosities raised. Email me at: email@example.com
“Evidence for Correlations Between Distant Intentionality and Brain Function in Recipients: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Analysis” by Jeanne Achterberg, et al. Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, vol.11, no.6, 2005, pp.965-971