The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

Interesting read from Waking Times that explains some of my experiences I wrote about in my last post. I take solace in knowing that other people have shared similar experiences, including Forrest Yoga Leader, Jose Calarco, who is currently writing a book about his story.

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

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Soul Stories

Today is Day 4 of advanced yoga teacher training with Ana Forrest. So far, this has been an incredible experience for my mind, body and spirit. Each day, we begin at 8a with a 4.5h yoga ceremony, including song, stories, intention setting, and an intense asana practice. Following the break there is lecture, teaching, partner/group work and we usually end in ceremony with dance.

Day 2 intent was connection with spirit, and for the first hour or so of the practice I found myself in tears. A lot of these tears I have cried before, so it was more healing and cathartic that my practice would bring up past trauma.

As part of the ceremony, Jose and Ana are encouraging us to share our soul stories, so for the first time in a long time I will articulate mine:

I am about to share with you an experience that happened to me about 7 years ago, when I was 25yrs old. To this date I still have no explanations as to what, or why this happened to me.

I was in Vancouver, and had recently returned from living in Beijing for a period of 10 months. I was in a phase of transition at the time, recently having graduated from university and trying to find what to do with my life.

I remember a heavy energy surrounding me, it was as if I was stagnate and nothing moved in the Universe for me. I became depressed and was searching for answers. Leading up to my experience were two events, related or not I do not know.

The first being, was that I was convinced by an acquaintance at the time to sign up for this personal development course: PSI Seminars. The course really tries to break through barriers and makes one take a deep look at life and how they operate as an individual. As I am one to be critical of myself, this course literally destroyed me. I remember being incredibly sad and angry for the entire week, and it threw me deeper into my depression.

A second event that occurred was my first ever Satsung. As some of you may know a Satsung is a practice of yoga without the Asana, so there is chanting, circle sharing, visualization and meditation. I remember vividly us standing in a circle and channelling light energy through our crown and projecting it from the heart.

The day after the Satsung is when the magic began in my life. Similar to an experience shared by Tom, another student in our intensive training with Ana, I began to see messages in all things, one that would lead into another into another. I felt as if I was being guided by synchronicity, that I was connected to all things. That night however, is also when the darkness came. I began to see dark figures that were frightening, and one that followed me home that afternoon.

The events that occurred after are extremely hard to explain, but I began to leave this reality and cycled into another.

The night after the Satsung I went to a fundraising event, where a few of my friends also attended. At this point I was seeing messages of a battle between light and dark, I would see either an extremely dark, or light energy around people. There was music and energy moving through my body that was not mine, I was still being guided by some force.

Hearing that I was acting extremely out of character and out of body, my mom and another close friend flew from Calgary to Vancouver to get me.

In Calgary I cycled deeper into a manic state, with various paranoias, psychosis, and unexplainable events. There was incredible darkness in that experience, but magic at the same time. I won’t get into all of what occurred, but am happy to speak upon this experience in detail in person.  I lost sleep for at least three days, and thought I had died three times in the course of this period.

I remember going to a physician who had no answers, they referred me to a mood disorders clinic. My family, thank God, did not medicate me – they believed that I would become dependent on pharmaceuticals. We found our answers with a Buddhist priest, who excised the energies from my body. I remember seeing a dark energy in the main priest, her eyeballs were entirely black. When she touched my rib, I felt an incredible pain stabbing through me. I don’t know how many times we went to her house, but there were also other Buddhists present.

Following, I regained sleep and my thoughts began to slow and normalize. I fell again into another depression and for at least a year it felt as if I had no spirit. I would socially isolate myself and spent a lot of days in extreme sadness.

Yoga was my first step to recovery, I flew back to Vancouver to do my first 200YTT that summer. I learned to reconnect with myself and breathe through all the hard parts in life. I spent the following year slowly climbing out of this dark place I had sunk into, I am grateful for all of my family and friends that were there to support me along the way.

Life is a strange thing. We can’t always explain what happens to us, but all I know is that it all happens for a reason, this experience gave me true empathy, it taught me resilience, and luckily it hasn’t hardened me, although I am very guarded energetically because of it. Now I can say that I have healed, it has taught me compassion and has given me a deep appreciation for life, and all of my faculties. Now life is as vibrant as ever, with the full force of Universe around me.