Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Spiritual Chronicles (Part 1)

Spiritual Wanderer: A young man’s search for truth in confusing times 
 by Niel Goldie


“God is dead.”

Nietzsche’s infamous, grossly misinterpreted quote, still applies today more than ever. The quote refers to how the spirit of God, namely helping one’s fellow man and earth, is no longer relevant within a nihilistic, immoral world. Instead of the authority of moral codes such as generosity, fairness, acceptance and love, Capitalism reigns supreme: it is socially acceptable for businesses to pollute and exploit, and for rich nations to cripple Third World countries with debt. This greed can even lead to dehumanisation and violence, as demonstrated by the killing of striking mineworkers in Marikana in South Africa in 2012. There is the option for mankind to use its vast resources and scientific advances to implement social change and strive for sustainability for all, such as implementing changes to successfully combat world hunger, or using a portion of the massive profits of Fortune 500 companies, many of which have profits larger than the GDP of entire countries, to help end poverty and implement better and equal education systems. But of course, those are not economically viable options. To fill this void, mankind has created a substitute for God, namely, ourselves, and we have substituted morality and kindness with self-aggrandisement. This state of affairs was not only referred to by Nietzsche, but was even predicted by the Vedic scriptures, which are some of the oldest books in recorded history.

Yet, within these tumultuous times, mankind still yearns for spiritual connection; more and more people are becoming interested in yoga, meditation, vegetarian or vegan diets and other spiritual pursuits. Personally, I have always been inclined towards spirituality, and I began searching for meaning from the beyond from an early age. With the freedom which came with University, I have gradually been actively exploring a number of spiritual alternatives, in the hope of discovering more about myself and the nature of existence. I have approached all of these different spiritual practices with an open mind an an eagerness to learn and grow. My experiences with spiritual groups have been very diverse, ranging from spiritual Christians who receive messages through prayer and communicate with the dead, chanting with Hare Krishnas, learning about Chaos Magick, and using shamanic meditations to access the subconscious. I have learned through this process of discovery that not only are there many ways of connecting with the beyond, the Universe, God, energy, or however you prefer to understand the spiritual dimension, but also that all spiritual perspectives are in many ways connected, and for me they form puzzle pieces to the ultimate answer to the question: “What is the meaning of life.” This article will be the first in a series detailing my spiritual exploration, offering insight into these little-known and poorly understood practices.

My journey began when I was introduced to Shamanism by a friend who studied drama with me; he was a practicing shaman at the time, and his descriptions, as unscientific as the West might deem them, resonated with something in me. Along with this friend, more and more shamans led me into exploring this practice, including one of my current gurus, who to this day continues to teach me more techniques to further my spiritual development.

Shamanism is one of the oldest spiritual outlooks on earth. It is practiced by the majority of non-industrial tribes to varying degrees, but always follows the same aspects and guidelines. The various African tribes, Khoi-San, Aborigines, Native Americans, South American Indians, Pagans and Island tribes all follow the same ideology of living in a way that is connected with nature, and many of them use trance-like meditations involving singing, breath work, and dancing, as well as medicinal plants, in order to connect with the higher planes and entities, both within and surrounding them. Shamans were seen as the healers within tribes, tapping into higher frequencies to see the origin of disease and to rid the body of them, as well as help people to understand their higher selves, see their destiny, and be able to overcome their weaknesses. In the West, spiritual development is not always seen as being of high importance, and according to Shamanism the lack of spiritual grounding might result in a disconnect and potentially be a factor in mental health problems.

The techniques and exercises which I have undertaken with shamans have had amazing effects on my mental and spiritual development. I have had experiences which many people would find hard to believe, such as receiving visions and messages from my higher self, and receiving creative inspiration in my writing as if channeling a higher power. In breath work sessions I have seen people communicate with lost loved ones, learn how to overcome fears, and understanding their own origins. One of the most powerful experiences has been with guided “teacher plant” meditations, where one ingests hallucinogenic plants and meditates on an intention one wishes to overcome or understand as the shaman holds and regulates the space and energy. Even without these ceremonies, the effects of these plants can have powerful effects on the human mind. 

One of the most amazing experiences I have had in my life was during an Ayahuasca ceremony. Ayahuasca (translated: the vine of death), has been used in South America for thousands of years, and this practice is able to project one into the spiritual world, where one is able to find the answer to any question which ails, experience an ultimate death of ego, and gain a direct connection with the other side. One of the experiences I had during the ceremony was a visit from my spirit animal, a snow leopard, which told me about my destiny and to have courage. I also experienced a vision of my body growing old and decaying, resulting in me overcoming both of these fears, and also catching a glimpse of the ultimate truth; how all is connected and how my spirit fits in this world.

The other participants of the ceremony, all older than me, each received answers to their questions, ranging from the uncertainty of a new career, overcoming fear, and seeing where we go to when we die. The most beautiful moment for me remains the story of a woman among us: she had been abused at a young age, and she had extreme trust and boundary issues. After her journey and intense purging, she shared her experience with us by the fireside; how, through the meditation, she had understood the root and cause of the experience, and how she could objectively view her actions and finally overcome her fear of trusting others, something twenty years of counseling was unable to do. That night, sitting around a fire with those strangers, all ego-less, baring their souls to one another as children, remains one of the most visceral, connected and human moments of my life.

Shamanism will always stay with me, and I will continue to use these methods and teach them to others. Had I not been exposed to this great practice and philosophy, I would still probably be in battle with my ego, and hold on to grudges and anger. If you are curious, I recommend trying something like this that might be outside of your comfort zone, and potentially lead you to be able to connect on a deeper level.

For more information about Ayahuasca, you can visit: http://www.ayahuasca-info.com http://www.ayahuasca.com/category/spirit/experiences
and view this documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0ommNRJeMQ

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.