As a licensed psychotherapist, I encourage people to “hear voices” and to “see” non-physical beings. No, I’m not crazy. In fact, for 12 years I was a subject-matter expert for the Board of Behavioral Science Examiners, which regulates licensing for the State of California. I am even certified by the state to provide Continuing Education Units to train other psychotherapists to help people “hear voices.”
My work fits within the framework of Psychological Shamanism, which is the branch of Shamanism most appropriate for Western culture. Shamanism is a practice of accessing the physical and nonphysical realms for the benefit of transforming and healing individuals and communities. It is also a means of communicating with the larger world we live in so that humans can be in balance with the natural world, which is why Psychological Shamanism is so important within Western culture right now.
Every culture has its unique tools to access different realities. For Western science our most valuable tool is our mind. From Descartes to Darwin, from Socrates to Freud, Western civilizations have focused on the mind as a tool to explore the world. We need to learn how to use the tool of the mind just like we would learn how to use drums, plants, crystals or other shamanic tools. Some of the guidelines for using the mind as a shamanistic tool are to be open, to practice, and to have a safe framework in which to work.
Most cultures have a tradition of talking to ancestors, nature, and animals. That practice has diminished in Western European culture through both the influence of religion and science. But that doesn’t mean that the larger world stopped talking to humans. It just means most humans in Western culture stopped listening, believing and respecting nature and spirits.
As noetic science has proven, there is much more that exists beyond material realities and we are now entering a new state of consciousness that encourages us to remember and use our innate psychic abilities again. As my Mescalero Apache teacher, Red Eagle, would say, “this isn’t a religion, it’s simply practical.” I find asking the sky if it’s going to rain next week much more accurate than the weather reports.
Red Eagle also emphasized that just because something might be a spirit doesn’t mean that it has wisdom, or can give you helpful advice. When I help people get in touch with spirits, animal guides and nature, it’s about forming a relationship, just as you would with a human. You have to get to know each other and build trust and most importantly FEEL what it’s like being with each other. Just like humans, some spirits enhance your feelings of love, safety and self-confidence. They are nice to connect and spend time with. Spirits or humans that bring a sense of dread, uncomfortableness or make you doubt yourself aren’t very nice to be around.
I have a guide who helps me with cars. I used to have an old Datsun stick shift and I’d have to meditate and get my energy just right before it would work. My spiritual mechanic identifies himself as an Irish ghost and he loves to play tricks. So when I need help with my car or I’m getting too serious he’s an excellent friend. But I don’t call on him when I’m writing my book on Psychological Shamanism. I have a guide who used to be a writer and she’s most helpful with inspiration and grammatical advice.
In addition to helping humans open up to the spirit realm, I also help spirits who are trying to contact humans. Most people think it’s easier for spirits to connect in the physical realm than for humans to access the spirit realms, but that has not been my experience. They need our help to communicate and build relationships, especially in Western cultures.
Offering workshops at EarthRise is special, because in addition to gathering together to share and encourage each other, we are able to use the research IONS has done to validate the science behind extra-ordinary realities. I encourage you to explore the work of Helané Wahbeh, director of research at IONS, who is documenting and exploring trance channeling. What I focus on is somewhat different than traditional trance channeling. It’s about forming relationships rather than inviting entities to speak through me. Most importantly, it’s about normalizing being psychic. One participant at a workshop said, “What I liked best about the workshop was meeting people with like minds and hearts and hearing these people say what I’ve been feeling myself.” For the health of our planet, and ourselves, we need to feel comfortable including all beings in the conversations humans are having about how to live on this earth.
People often ask me, “How can I tell the difference between my thoughts and spirits?” These are some suggestions on distinguishing spirits/natural energies from one’s own inner voice.
- The message comes in a form or tone that sounds different than your inner voice.
- The information is not something you could have known or were aware of.
- The information is not something you want to hear or are comfortable hearing.
- The message makes you laugh.
- The communication brings tears to your eyes.
I want to emphasize that ultimately it doesn’t matter whether the information comes from spirits, nature, your own creativity or higher self. What matters is the helpfulness and practicality of the advice and if it benefits you and your larger community. This is not a religion where spirits or animal guides get special privileges just because they are non-physical. It’s about how good a friend they are and how much you can support each other.
I recommend a documentary that was shown last year at EarthRise called CrazyWise. It looks at Western culture and our reactions to people who go beyond the limits of “normalcy.” The film notes that in other cultures when someone mentions hearing voices the question is usually, “Who are you hearing and what are they saying?” In Western culture the focus is often on how do we stop you from hearing them and how can we isolate you from “normal” people. In my workshops, I often ask how many people feel that they are really different or too unique to fit into the world. Most people raise their hands and one group even decided that feeling different was actually now the new norm, especially in Northern California.
So I encourage you to open up to the universe. But not to everything that might want to “talk” to you. Find some new “friends,” or reconnect with spirits and guides you may be neglecting. Enjoy the support, fun and healing that good relationships can offer you.
My next workshop on “Creating Healthy Relationships with Spirits and Natural Energies” is at EarthRise on Saturday June 2, 10am – 5 pm and is co-facilitated by the Guardian Spirits of EarthRise.
Jan Ögren, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist, international author and “resident shaman” at EarthRise. She has apprenticed with Native American teachers for over thirty years, learning to walk in both the “normal” world and in the mystical realms. She lives in Northern California with her partner and an annoyingly intelligent cat. For videos, books and workshops go to: www.JanOgren.net