Jesus was a Shamanic Healer
Here’s a personal story:
Last year, I dated a very paranoid man who was obsessed with light and mired in darkness. As the pain of my own flare-ups interrupted my flow of life, this man fired his anger at what he perceived to be the shadows that I wove around him. (Yes, the relationship was bad.) When I spoke about preparing for the first anniversary of my brother’s death, this deeply traumatized man yelled: “Why can’t you just let him go? Why do you have to bring death energy into my life?” When I described the pain of the flare-ups, this oftentimes cruel man jeered in response, and then blamed his moods on the ghost of fire in my body, for introducing physical pain into his life.
Yes, the relationship was bad. This writing, however, is not about this particular relationship or this particular man. Rather, it is about the confusion that kept me in the relationship in the first place – a sincere confusion many people easily find themselves in when they attempt to understand their pain – any kind of pain – in the paradigms often presented by modern healing stories. There is a trend that I now recognize within alternative healing circles, and even alternative healing language, wherever I go: the language of compassion floating uneasily and insincerely on the surface of a giant ocean of ‘stay away from the darkness!’ So, have compassion for suffering people on the one hand; and on the other hand use any means necessary to cut them out of your life, because if they are suffering, they must be harboring inner darkness. For example, everyone these days gets labelled a narcissist – and we can do to narcissists whatever we want, because they don’t have real feelings, not like us, real, feeling people. We are frightened. We judge. We judge people for their illnesses. We think they have unfinished business. We blame them for the suffering they then bring into our own lives. We think that true healing means no more pain. Or owning our pain to the point of blaming ourselves. Healing circles sometimes remind me of Witch hunts, or Communist party purges – people stand up and declare to everyone how they have attracted into their life this energy or that energy, how they and only they are responsible for choosing their family before they were born, for needing to learn the cancer lesson, or the abuse lesson, or the torture lesson, or whatever else.
This arduous process is called ‘taking responsibility.’ Maybe it helps some people. I don’t know. It never helped me, anyway. I found it completely irrelevant, and, frankly, uninteresting. A true lesson learned is integrated and multi-layered. The Truth always contains self-compassion, and self-compassion does not inflict pain on any part of the self. Self-compassion holds some warmth and kindness for that part of you that was scared, or hurt, or did not want to learn in this way. (That’s not everybody, for sure. For sure, it is me.) The motivation for a public declaration of guilt seems to be the same one as the one in Communist Party Purges or Witch Hunts: if I declare that the lesson is learned then this will never hurt me again. I will never get sick again. I will never be in pain again. My body will stop being bothersome and I will ascend to the light.
It is not that we suffer compassion fatigue – it is that we are so tired of pain, so frightened of its immense capacity to destroy the fragile little good that we have collected in our fragile little corners that we run from it as soon as we feel done with our own pain. (Pain is part of life, and creativity, and birth, and love. Where can we run to, to get away from it completely? To Mars perhaps?)
I am no stranger to these thoughts, and that is perhaps why I stayed in last year’s relationship: If I myself can’t deal with the pain in my body, I reasoned, how can I expect anybody else to deal with it? If I find my sleepless nights overwhelming, then how can I expect any other person to hold my hand through them? The man I was with was a person obsessed with healing practices. None of these things he practiced gave him the thing that paradoxically eases and compounds all pain: a good heart. But because he spent so much of his time and energy pursuing his healing, I looked up to him as a person who is at least working hard to be better. I Americanized my experience – if he’s working hard, I reasoned, then I can’t hold anything he does to me against him. He reversed that logic on me: if she’s working so hard to heal, then why is her body hurting her so much? She must have some darkness that is working its way through her into me. And then, later on: if she’s working so hard to heal, then why is she not healing in any way I can recognize? If she’s full of darkness, then I can treat her badly, because it is not her light that I am punishing – it’s her darkness, the darkness she is inflicting upon me.
(It’s hard not to kick myself every time I remember how I considered and acquiesced to these kinds of sick logics. But this writing is not about that…)
Flawed thinking, I now see, inspired by a deeply sick, individualist, and heroic tradition that champions soldiers and wars, and fights the Earth as an enemy. I understand why this way of thinking would be more prominent in healing circles: after a person has survived an encounter with death, deep pain, or murderous darkness, the survival itself imprints itself into our being. The memory of the possibility of not surviving that particular encounter haunts us sometimes (because the fact that we will all die does not mean that all ways, causes, states, or processes of dying, are the same.) The Healing process leaves us with a certain amount of trauma. Yes, we do need to recover from recovering. Just as Ceremony is not something that can be done once, but must be integrated into life – so that the body and the psyche both can enfold themselves into a ring of ceremonies to forge some feeling of safety in the world again. For myself, each recovery from each episode with the ghost of fire – and in particular the one last year – necessitated a time of recuperation. My body spent a long time being afraid of me, of itself, of the pain that could or would or still can come back. What a strange feeling, this fear. Survival comes at a price, and the wounds we carry are forever.
It is no wonder then, that the wounds of the healing community rise to the surface in the language that they use, and ways of being that they practice, and why all of these things – at their most shallow – begin to feel like fear, avoidance, and a plastic rendition of a wild world.
Namely, we are afraid of the dark. We blame people for the darkness that they suffer. We want to be surrounded by spiritual, enlightened people, by people who we consider good, whose good is evidently and materially rewarded. And why not? Why would we want to surround ourselves with pain? Every honest healer tries to practice well, to not take on the weight of the burdens of those that they work with. To be a clean vessel, as it were. Is it? I wonder about that famous healer who, for better or worse, changed the world: Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have hang-ups about darkness, or bad energy. Yes, he needed to go off and be by himself sometimes, but he spent all his other time with thieves and tax collectors and lepers and prostitutes, and people who were sincere in their despair. Jesus was the one who told the famous story of the two people who came to pray in the synagogue – one of them confessed to being a sinner, and the other one thanked God that he was not like the other man. Jesus rejoiced in sincerity. Jesus was kind. Jesus was never disgusted by the sick, never warned against being infected by the energy of the desperate people around him. He did not avoid the ill, he did not condemn the fallen for not taking responsibility, he did not lecture those who did not meditate, who did not have rules for their lives, who failed miserably, or who succeeded dishonestly.
I am in awe.
What kind of love did this man have for humanity, that he was able to do this? Where did his love grow? In the desert? What healing process did he go through? What illness did he chew through? What kind of suffering did his short life squeeze through him, as a too much toothpaste through the narrow opening in the tube, that he was able to love so deeply and so well? How did his Ancestors guide him? I think, because I have not died yet, and so do not find death all that impressive (everyone does it), I find that his ability to walk with people as he did most inspiring.
Jesus discovered that Love has no boundaries, none at all. That is how he was able to heal, to transfigure. Would that we all get there. Would that we all become shamans, like Jesus. The kind of dusty-foot foot-washers whose hearts are far, far bigger than our brains, far weightier than our tongues, and far more open than our mouths.