I had this wonderful idea that when I start telecommuting that I’d all of a sudden have lots of free time, and could do shamanic work to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, I’m all too good at sabotaging my own efforts. As a recovering workaholic, I’m very good at finding ways to fill up my time, and even though I’m not even working full time hours yet at my freelancing gig, I still find that I don’t really have enough time to do everything I want.
This has been a good challenge for me, though. Already I’ve managed to cut down a lot on my internet time; I’ve been staying almost entirely off of Livejournal for almost a week now, just to see how it frees up my time. And I’m trying to get better about managing free time, and not getting stressed when I find that it’s time to go to bed and there are still so many things left to do.
Historically, my spiritual life has been one of the first things to suffer when I’m overloaded. When I have physical deadlines to meet, and physical people yammering at me to get such and such done, and other physical projects to be completed, nonphysical concerns get put on the back burner. It’s not that I don’t want to be tending to spiritual matters, but my priorities have often been canted towards the material plane.
I think on some level I keep waiting for the spiritual smackdown that so many seemingly more serious practitioners speak of. It’s the idea that you can’t ignore your spiritual functions, and if you do, horrible things will happen to you. I don’t doubt that horrible things may indeed happen. However, I haven’t had things happen that I’d call horrible; I haven’t had all “my” spirits abandon me, or get in the way of things that are getting in the way of my spiritual life.
What I have had is pretty consistent pressure, both from within and without. It’s harder and harder to ignore the spirits, though on my end I’m also trying harder to stay “tuned in”. This means that I’ve slowly been increasing my reliability in my forays upstairs, as well as other things that need to be done.
Tonight I went upstairs, even though I was tired, just to touch base. I spoke with Small Wolf (the skin spirit–I am going to use these naming conventions to differentiate between totems and skin spirits of the same species). He noticed I was feeling frustrated about not doing more, not being up there dancing every night and working magic and making more connections–basically not taking advantage of every free moment I have. And you know what he told me? The same thing he’s told me several times since I started working with him more regularly: “You’re here, right now. That’s all that matters.”
And he’s right. I know that by some standards, my schedule is sloppy. I have never been able to handle a daily schedule, beyond saying prayers every night–and even then occasionally I fall asleep before I remember to say them. Despite the fact that I’ve managed to do a lot on my spiritual path, creating my own magical systems, I still sometimes feel a twinge of shame that I haven’t yet defeated my lack of a scheduled practice. It’s not that what I’ve done hasn’t been fruitful; however, I’m well aware of how much better my practice could be if I put something into it every day. It’s not about what I try–yoga stretching, various meditations, nature walks–but about my own tendencies and habits.
But I am making progress. The very fact that I am still committed to this path almost eight months after I started it says a lot for me. I’ve walked other paths for longer, but this is the most intense one I’ve had. I can look at my path since accepting the call to shamanism, though, and see that I have become better, relatively speaking. Despite my too-full life, I have managed to work with Small Wolf three to four times a week for the past couple of weeks, which is more than before. And I’m still focused on continuing this path, even though I sometimes get flustered because I see so many potential things I could be working on with it, so many tasks I could be taking on.
A lot of what I’ve been doing has been my usual manner of doing things–not on a schedule, but merely taking opportunities as they come up. Things like connecting to the Land when I go outside (or when I travel), and talking to the spirits of the plants in my garden, or remembering not to buy chemical-laden products because the Land protests at the potential effect, or my recent experiences with Water and Squirrel. However, I still make it upstairs some nights each week, and I haven’t forgotten. And each time, Small Wolf is right–each time I go up there is one more time than before. It all counts.
One thing to remember is that even in most indigenous villages, the average shaman wasn’t spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week doing shamanic work. Yes, there were things to attend to, there were people to deal with, there were rituals that needed doing at particular intervals. Many shamans also did other things — tending their homes, sewing their clothes, fishing or trapping.
Don’t feel that you have to hold yourself to some impossible standard in order to be a shaman. The reason you’re not getting the spirits tapdancing on your head is because you *are* listening to them and you’re doing what you can when you’re able. The worst difficulties come when someone refuses the call and cuts themselves out of all contact with the spirits. This has never been something you’ve done. So long as you’re working at it, they’ll work with you.