The Isolated Animist: Respectful Relationships in Postmodern Individualism

As above so below, within as without, except for with other people. I've worked with others as a modern shaman since 2000, and the hardest facet of that role to impart is creating balanced relationship with All Things--especially each other--and live it in our "I" culture. It's easy to feel interrelated in trance, to idealize it in solitude, but to reach beyond the isolation of how capitalistic culture has created us and fosters us poses significant challenges. We end up living the collective experience alone. In this blog I explore new approaches to being an introverted, suburban American animist in an individualist culture, and living that connection out loud.

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Kelley Harrell

Kelley Harrell

Kelley is an author and modern shaman in North Carolina. She writes about the challenges of being a neoshaman and renegade Druid, as well as those of transforming spiritual emergency into a meaningful soul path (while still managing to show up for work every day and put food on the table). She shares The Weekly Rune at soulintentarts.com, and created the Tribe of the Modern Mystic to support and mentor spiritual emergence in community. Find more information about Soul Intent Arts at http:/www.soulintentarts.com , and her publications at http://www.kelleyharrell.com .

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dixieroadrash---flickr.jpgI've long wrestled with the concept of 'life purpose.' Foremost, it seemed limiting--just one? And it smacked of New Age woo. The true wrestling part, though, was that I felt a deep calling, always, like since I became aware that I was aware, between 5-6 years old. I didn't know what the calling was, and for most of my youth I was satisfied to just recognize that it was.
 
I came to shamanism for my own healing and deepening of spiritual connection. Typical to modern shamanists, I was on the receiving end, and thankfully so. However, about six months into that relief, my spirit guides began telling me to get off my ass and do something with it. 
 
So, I did, for about eleven years. The first couple of years I worked with others as a shaman, then the spirit of that work presented itself to me as Soul Intent Arts, and I followed where it led, working in community.
 
I never really had internal confirmation of that as my life purpose, or anything else, despite that focusing on servitude to community carried its own sort of passion. I was very close to leaving my full-time job to pursue shamanizing further. I published my first book, Gift of the Dreamtime. All the things I'd intellectualized as life purpose had come into being.
 
Then I had twins, and everything changed. I can blog about how the advent of becoming a parent deepened my spirituality in ways I'd never imagine, or how children are born animists and mine have taught me much about what I thought I already knew. I could go for days on those revelations, but the wisdom of that experience is, when my kids were about a year old, I no longer felt the calling that had been with me since childhood.
 
No one ever talks about the completion of a life purpose. The assumption in the name itself suggests it takes a lifetime to complete, which by default means the true realization of fulfillment can only happen at the end of life. I felt screwed, frankly. I settled into a raw openness of not having a life purpose, which incited low level panic all the time. Yes, I was elated to be a mom. My struggle was the math of coming through an abusive childhood to finally decide late in the reproductive game to have children, minus one calling. I decided that my life purpose was not to have one. I blessed what felt completed and greeted the openness of not knowing, the freedom of choosing my purpose, every day, every minute.
 
I sat with this for two years. It seems like a long time to stew, but when you've got two toddlers running in different directions, and sweet potatoes smeared all over your powder room light switch, it goes by pretty quickly.
 
Late last year I began to realize I didn't really care about life purpose anymore. What was more detrimental was I coudn't feel connected to my passions. Several books and one successful, though mutable shamanic practice later, I just wasn't feeling any of it. And for me, the bottom line is, if I don't feel something, the wolves come out of the walls.
 
I called in the highest aspects of myself and gave them full control of my consciousness. I asked them to write down what I'm most passionate about. The first thing that came was 'family.' That seems like a perfect sentimental no-brainer, though I can tell you with blushing certainty, I was surprised. Not because I don't love my family or because I'm not fully engaged with their total wellbeing and joy, but because that kind of emotionally cohesive concept and devotion to family just wasn't part of my childhood experience. To behold that my family lights me from within healed me and blessed me, immediately. 
 
I asked for the next thing, and the word written was 'friends.' Again, I was surprised, not because I don't value loved ones, but because I'm not much of a joiner, and anyone who knows me well knows that fact--see above 'family.'
 
The next response was 'writing.' Yes. 8,000 huzzahs to the power of infinity, yes. I get up in the morning to write. I wake up because I have something to say, and that has been true since childhood. I couldn't learn the alphabet fast enough. Now there aren't enough hours in the day to write all the words that crowd my head for expression.
 
I waited patiently then, for the next passion to come. And nothing did. The buzzing presence of All I Could Be in that moment quieted until there was only regular old me in my skin. I can't say how disappointed I was, and to a large degree, ashamed.
 
I've been on a shamanic path since I was seventeen. I've devoted years to building my practice. How was shamanism not my passion? How could it not be my heartsong? Yet, the longer I sat with the revelation of what sings in me, I knew with absolute clarity that shamanism isn't what gets me up in the morning: it's what enables me to stay up the rest of the day. It's what sustains me when the passion turns into a sink full of dirty dishes, or the fourth night in a row that I haven't slept.
 

SoulIntentArts.com

It's true that shamanism isn't my passion; it's my gift. It's the gift I bring, and the gift I receive, ongoing. It's not my job; it's what I am. It's not what I do, it's how I live.
 
I can't say that figuring those bits out fixed everything, though it was a start. The one thing with clarity that I can say is, a life purpose isn't the thing I do to fulfill some mystical calling. It's the things I do to give my life purpose, to make the time I have here meaningful.
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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Kelley Harrell
    Kelley Harrell says #
    I'm happy to hear from you, Lia. I'm glad that you are finding what you need, now. Thank you for the inspirational boost!
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    I relate to much of this. I had children early (when I was 20 and 22) and have been continually wondering where to fit in my call
  • Kelley Harrell
    Kelley Harrell says #
    Thank you, Lizann!
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you. Wise words.

As I deeply value thriving in the connection with All Things, I make an effort to live that truth. There's no one way or right way, and when you're a cyclic person, that fact becomes evident right away.

Photo by Jessie Pearl ~ flickr

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In the Betwixt series focusing on mundane support for skywalking seekers, we’ve talked about reciprocity with guidestaking the baton from guides, and finding etheric support in the life force around us. What about that of our immediate formed community, as in the people around us? How do they fit into our spiritual, if not animistic, Dream Team? How do we decide who should be on our Team?

Photo by ChinoGypsy ~Flickr

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  • singh pammy
    singh pammy says #
    yes dream team or team work

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Weekly Rune - TiwazTiwaz - Tyr/Thor/Tuisto- I always enjoy seeing this Rune come up in a cast, though I understand why some might have mixed feelings about it.  Maybe more than any other Rune, Tiwaz speaks of final hurrahs and the eleventh hour, and all the emotions that come with pulling our dreams out of the fire.

I think of Tiwaz as the "drama" Rune, in the sense that it forces us to deal with the current state of things, as they are about to be upheaved, and us with them. Moreover, it requires that the current state won't change without sacrifice.

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Hagalaz, Weekly Rune by S. Kelley HarrellHagalaz - Hail- Fitting that this Rune presents itself today, as most of my region is plunged into the bitterest cold its seen since the mid-1990s.

Regardless of where you're located, this stave speaks of being frozen metaphorically, likewise berated by the elements. Indeed, as fun as it sounds.

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Mannaz - Weekly Rune on Intentional Insights, by S. Kelley HarrellMannaz - human- Again we have another reversed Rune presenting us with an opportunity to go deeper within. As Mannaz reminds us of the strength in human connection, the power of acting with All That Is, so it's merkstave position calls us to be aware of when we are not connected, when we don't feel part of the greater flow. Note that Mannaz is pictured upright, or bright-stave.

Last week, Eihwaz encouraged us to change, and Mannaz may be asking us to sit with the effects of that change.  It calls us to put down rational thinking and go with gut feeling, which for some may be frightening to do.

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Photo by Kelly Lee-Creel @flickr The origins of our holy day icons are significant, though it's easy to get ensnared in what symbols you "should" honor, what they're "supposed to mean," who gets to claim them, and understanding what they really mean to you. For that reason, in this exploration of seasonal totems I offer the entire Internet for you to peruse and learn about the symbols that have the most meaning to you at this time of year. My hope is that through sharing the seasonal totems that mean the most to me, that others are encouraged to cull out the holiday symbols that move them, connect with their power and bring them more deeply into personal holiday celebrations.

Totems, for most shamanists, are largely revered as soul animal kindred, though those who know me recall that I work extensively with plant and elemental spirits. Bear in mind as I explore the possibilities of holiday power allies that when I refer to totems I include animals, plants, minerals and elements. Generally speaking, totems are complex symbols that move us in some way. For me, the power of totems extends through several layers. I greet them as archetypes -- collective traits found through the particular species, as spirits of nature, as an energetic manifestation specifically visiting me, which some refer to as "Unverified Personal Gnosis" (UPG), and as creatures of the wild, drawing from study of the totem's behavior, habitat and anatomy.

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