On Gratitude, Intent, and the Helping Spirits

Happy July, folks! I just returned from a four-day trip to Brooklyn, NY where I taught a series of workshops at Catland. It always wonderful to hold ceremony and connect with new people. As we moved through the workshops, two themes kept coming up, and I think they're worth revisiting here. These themes were gratitude and intent.  

One of the goals of Shamanism is to develop an active, working relationship with our Helping Spirits, so that we can integrate their wisdom into our lives and work towards being the best versions of ourselves. In order to develop this active, working relationship, we have to practice both gratitude and intent. What do I mean by this?

Our Helping Spirits are there to support us, whether or not we acknowledge them. But like in any relationship, the more we nurture the relationship, the more we can get out of it. When we start a practice of Shamanic journeying, we start an open dialog with our Helping Spirits. Rather than having them helping us without acknowledgement, we can now acknowledge them. But in truth, acknowledgement is the bare minimum. If the way we are showing up for our Helping Spirits is in the form of repeated demands, we are not giving them the respect they deserve. Every interaction with them should involve gratitude. 

Think of examples in your own life when others have asked things of you. Depending on how the request is made, you are likely to handle it differently. In my own interactions, I am far more likely to go the extra mile for someone who approaches me with appreciation and gratitude. When I am taken for granted, I find myself wanting to do nothing but the bare minimum. In an ongoing relationship, being taken for granted eventually breeds resentment. This is not the kind of relationship we should be cultivating with our Helping Spirits. While I generally avoid absolutes in any spiritual work, this is one aspect of Shamanic practice that I consider non-negotiable. I truly believe we cannot have fully developed and expansive relationships with our Helping Spirits if we don't practice gratitude. 

How do we practice this gratitude? The easiest way is by saying thank you. When you are in journey space, say thank you when they show up, and thank them their messages before wrapping up your journey. But I really advise you to go beyond that. Ask your Helping Spirits how they want to be honored, and then follow through with it. If they ask for dance, dance for them. If they ask for song, sing. Set up a shrine for them in your home, and leave offerings. Ask them what they want for offerings. As your relationship develops, keep asking. Just as your preferences change, so do theirs. Keep practicing constant and continued gratitude, and let this be the basis of your relationship. 

The other concept I want to address in this post is Intent. Our Helping Spirits want to help us, and they notice how we spend our time and our energy. Whatever we spend our resources on is what they will bring more of into our lives - which means we have to be deliberate in our actions. If we tell our Helping Spirits we want to spend more time doing one thing, but spend all our time pursuing another thing, they will believe our actions. It is not enough to define an intent in our minds, we need to integrate and follow through with action. 

This isn't to say we should quit our jobs and shirk our responsibilities. We live in this current world, and we need to function within it as basic humans. Shamanism is contextual, and we must practice Shamanism within the real context of our own lives. But we can choose how we spend our time and energy once our responsibilities are fulfilled. If you love your job and want to spend more of your time doing it, that's great! In that case, you should absolutely be pouring more of your time into it, and your Helping Spirits will continue to bring more of that into your life.

But if you're one of many where your job is a means for fulfilling the basic needs of shelter, food, etc, then you can only benefit by establishing healthy boundaries. If you worry and obsess over work even after work hours, your Helping Spirits will assume this is where you want to focus. Instead, if you devote time outside of work to the things that are important to you, your Helping Spirits will begin to understand where to bring you abundance. This doesn't apply just to work-life balance, but to everything we spend time on. Once we start living with Intent, we are creating the proper dialog with our Helping Spirits to draw in the things that truly matter to us. 

And on that note, thank you to my Helping Spirits and Ancestral Guides for supporting me with in work, and thank you to everyone who showed up this weekend. Many of you arrived hesitant, and were willing to honor my call to be open and vulnerable. Thank you to everyone who allowed themselves to be moved, and for those of you who came up to me afterwards to share. As one of my teachers always says, we are the ones we've been waiting for.