“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
~ Joseph Campbell
If you have followed me for a while, you know that I live by Teilhard de Chardin’s proposition that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and not the other way around. What may sound like pure rhetoric has drastically changed my perspective on life and my way of being with everything. I know that it has also had a profound impact on many of my clients. One direct consequence is to really embrace spirituality as an experience, not a knowledge, not even a practice. Here is what I mean.
Spirituality calls from a different kind of “knowing”
Sometimes, clients ask me for book recommendations and I don’t have a readily answer. I prefer to ask: What do you want to learn and why? What do you think that you would do with this new knowledge? What kind of book usually resonates with you? Is it science? Biographies? Novels? Poetry? Indeed, in spirituality, often times, books (or, nowadays, YouTube videos or online seminars) are important not so much for what we might “learn” through them, if anything. Their value will come from how they might help us reflect and dig deeper within ourselves. In actuality, any “learning”, if it really moves us, often feels more like a remembering or at least an echo to something deep within.
Similarly, people sometimes come to me puzzled after watching YouTube videos or listening to online events. Presenters might have used similar words with complete different meanings. Conversely, they might use different concepts to refer to what sounds like the same. Or they may have explained things of the soul so differently that one might wonder as to what is actually what. More often than not, my answer is: What do YOU feel? What is YOUR experience? In spirituality, nothing can replace your own way of connecting with your soul. Nothing will ever replace your own way to start understanding it, even if it is limited and you don’t have any word for it yet. Which explains that one particular type of teachings might resonate with you at some point, and not at a later time. In Spirituality, there isn’t ONE Truth, only YOURS, and it might keep evolving.
In the matters of Spirit, words can be limited and limiting
One specific limitation, indeed, can be related to the words we use. Words can be limited and limiting when they try to capture what we often can’t fully comprehend. As Rumi so eloquently said, there is a “voice that does not use words.” It is whispering to your soul things that your mind may not understand yet or even imagine.
Some of the shamans with whom I have worked with in different parts of the world used no word during healing ceremonies. And if they were, those were more like a whisper that nobody could decipher, not even them. Their breath and hands were the only way they communicated. This is why the act of blowing the energy of a journey into the client’s body feels both so essential to me.
The words that we use, as spiritual healers, teachers, or facilitators, are like a translation of what our eyes and minds, even our bodies can barely capture and comprehend. None of us can tell for sure. We are all searching and trying to remember. And we are doing our best at baring witness to the pains and the joys and the miracles that we see.
In Spirituality, there is value in not knowing
I truly get that you want to understand. Most of my life, I have been driven by that same urgency: to make sense of our humanity, against all odds. After all, we are also beings of “reason.” We want to understand. This is part of what helps us fully be in the world.
Many come to see me as a Shaman searching for insights or deeper knowledge. Shamans are sometimes presented as the “ones who know” (following the meaning of one of the hypothetical origins of the word shaman, the Manchu-Tungus word šaman). But we should never forget that this “knowledge” is not pre-existing. As a shaman, I need to forget everything I may think that I know in order to be able to hear what is specific to each person. I cannot rely on any previous knowledge. My job is to dive into the unknown, to forget so I can help them “remember.” And I so value it. So many more conventional doctors have told me how much they envy this.
On my own path, I have come to deeply appreciate the value of not knowing and staying in it / with it, giving a change to the Mystery to find its way through me. We live in a day and age when a question too often quickly leads to rushing to Google for an answer or a piece of information. In spiritual matters, there is value in staying with the questions, and allowing an answer to emerge from the not knowing. There is immense blessing in not immediately jumping to an answer that someone else might hand to you. One frequent example is the meaning of animals showing up in meditations or journeys, or symbols in dreams. As I often say: the most important is what it means to YOU! So seat with it, take your time, let it speak to you.
What no teacher will teach you: your experience of being alive
Ultimately, life is our best teacher. Imagine if we were able to fully experience everything in our life as a doorway to the spiritual world, as being “it”! Spirituality is not only about what happens on the yoga mat or meditation cushion, in the healing room or in the journey space. It is as much about what happens in the messiness and beauty of our lives. None is higher or better than the other. Yes, there is value in practicing but life IS our practice. You probably know by now how much I cherish rituals, but they nurture our spiritual life only if they become “integrated” with where we are in our daily lives. Because we are having this human experience, the ultimate test is how we show up in life and live our lives, today, now.
Needless to say that all of this is my (limited) understanding of things at this point of my journey, not The Truth, just mine, for now.
What is Yours?
Béatrice Pouligny | Shamanic Healer and Spiritual Mentor