Shamans understand that there are seven great initiations every human being must undergo. They are the initiations of birth, manhood or womanhood, first love, marriage (and sometimes divorce), parenthood, sagehood, and death. It’s possible that you won’t go through all of these passages in a biological sense or at the usual time of life. For example, some people never marry or have children. Yet each of us, regardless of gender or culture, must go through them mythically at least once.
If you have no son or daughter, you may write a book or produce some other creative project that will be your “baby,” which you must learn how to parent. You will be “born” again as you start a new life in another city or change careers, and parts of you will “die” metaphorically with the losses and changes that life brings. Initiations are inevitable. If you resist initiation, the universe will conspire to bring you face to face with the end of a stage of your life in some other way.
Every initiation presents you with the opportunity for illumination—to awaken your divine nature, identify with the realm of the creators, experience grace, and break free of the realm of scarcity and the brutish, predatory existence that most of humanity endures. If you miss one of your initiations, your health and emotional well-being will be compromised. For example, if you don’t complete the initiation of marriage, you may not be able to achieve true intimacy with a partner after the romance wears off. If you miss your initiation into manhood, you may become a puer aeternus, an eternal boy, collecting “toys” your entire life.
Psychology tells us that to fix these situations, we must understand what traumas we suffered as children, or how our dysfunctional parents taught us unhealthy behaviors. But dissecting the past is a trap. The shaman knows that focusing on our wounds will only reinforce them as we begin to believe that the dramatic personal stories—tragic or heroic—that we tell ourselves about our past are who we are today.
You can only heal fully when you successfully complete the initiations presented to you by life. Initiation offers us the opportunity to heal our emotions. All the drama and suffering in our lives is brought about by our unhealed emotions, which give rise to our beliefs about how the world works. The shaman understands that whatever beliefs you hold about the nature of reality, the universe will prove you right. If you venture into the woods for an evening walk with an uneasy feeling, you will hear the branches snapping ominously nearby. If you believe that every relationship you enter will end in disaster, it probably will. If you’re convinced that you will never succeed at work, you won’t. Conversely, positive beliefs help you to see the glass as always half full. If you believe you deserve to be happy, happiness will find you even in trying circumstances. If you believe the woods are safe and beautiful, they will be so.
Do you have the courage to heal your emotions through initiation?