Over the years, we have asked thousands of people what their biggest challenge is with regard to deepening their spiritual connection. Consistently the number one response is TIME.
If any of this strikes a chord, then read on.
I know what it is like to be fighting time.
At times in my life, my time has been full. At its peak, every minute was accounted for from 7.30am to 8pm. If someone wanted some of my time, I needed to look ahead two months in my diary. It took reaching to this point before I realised that there was some underlying issue. I was at breaking point and could no longer cope, so I sought help to unravel what it was.
The feeling of fighting against the clock began during my early twenties.
When I started my working life after university, I was a consultant in an engineering firm. I was trained from the age of 22 to take account of every 15 minutes of my time and record this in a timesheet. I had to continue this practice for the next decade. Every minute of my working time needed to be accounted for. I needed to demonstrate to the minute how productive I was being, and worthy of my salary. This layer of conditioning has stayed with me and takes some unravelling I can tell you.
The conditioning didn’t begin when I started my career. You probably don’t need me to explain that it started at school. I spent my childhood from aged 5 to 18 functioning within firm time boundaries structured and punctuated by a bell. Allocated slots to do things. Time-limited goals to achieve.
I have described my conditioned relationship with time at the outset here, as I believe it is important to voice. When people tell me ‘I struggle to find time for a spiritual practice’, I think the first thing that needs to be acknowledged is our relationship with time.
I sense that when people come across Shamanism as a spiritual path, they often think that they need to approach it in the same way they approach other things in their life. There is the assumption that this practice requires frequent, even daily focus.
One of the things that surprises people about the shamanic path is that it just isn’t like this. This isn’t a regimented daily practice that you need to do regularly in order to achieve results. If it was, I wouldn’t be doing it. I am hopeless at keeping to a routine. I can lose focus quickly and be pulled away or get distracted.
I know we have many in our The Way of the Buzzard community who have different relationships with time at the moment. Some of you reading this are time rich, whether you are retired, on furlough, or unemployed and trying to seek work in a very different world now.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are those of you who are parents looking after a busy family, trying to hold down your employment and working in a stressful job with no light at the end of the tunnel. We are in another lockdown at the moment so you might be trying to work and home-school your children at the same time. Or maybe you are a carer for a loved one, a husband or wife or ageing parents. Or you are bringing up a young family, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. You might even be conflicted as you are following this spiritual line of enquiry alone, and none of your family or friends understands. Perhaps they even ridicule you.
If any of these scenarios ring true this blog post is written for you. It is written for all those people out there who just don’t seem to have any time to spend on themselves.
I can relate to this. I don’t have children, and I am not a carer for a loved one. However, I can let work consume me. In the past, it has led me to burnout on several occasions and a breakdown. The most recent time was as a result of the last financial crash of 2008. I worked in a large construction firm at the time, and developers didn’t want any new buildings. It took three years for the effects to filter down to my job role, but eventually I was made redundant. During those three years, I believed that if I worked all hours as hard as I could then my job would be safe. It wasn’t. My worst fear became my reality, and I became unemployed.
So, I know what it is like to be in a situation where every minute seems to be accounted for, where there isn’t any space for me.
It was during these few years of my life that I had what I guess would be called a spiritual awakening. There was a quiet voice deep down inside me that told me that things weren’t right. When I created space to allow that voice to be heard, change happened. And I didn’t need to create very much space in order for the voice to be heard. After a ten- or twelve-hour working day, I would get home and cook my tea. Then, one or two evenings a week, instead of watching TV I took myself off to a tiny box room in my home for anything between 30 minutes and a couple of hours.
I had a bookcase there with my spiritual books and my journal and a CD player. I lit some candles and incense, snuggled up amongst the cushions on the floor and did whatever I fancied. Sometimes I would listen to a meditation, other times read my book or write in my journal. There was no set plan; I just did what I was drawn to and followed the line of enquiry which emerged in my mind and body. It was from these few snatched moments each week that my spiritual journey began.
The spiritual work
Resolving the issue of not having enough time is actually the spiritual work. What you are doing is noticing that the modern world has consumed your time. The spiritual work is to find out why this is and then look to readdress this.
The Shamanic path is well suited for this. It comes with a warning, though. It is a long game. This isn’t necessarily a quick fix. I know as I am still working on those underlying reasons why I put other things over my own health and wellbeing, all these years later.
Don’t get me wrong, I have made huge progress. I am no longer in that corporate environment where I have constant demands on my time. I have removed the external influence as I now work for myself. However, I have noticed that by turning off the external influence, the drive to fill my time with work didn’t stop. I was able to notice that there is an internal voice which is driving me much harder! Me.
One of the first things I had to work on was my No. By saying yes to people, I was saying no to me. That took four years of therapy.
I share this because before I go on to explain how the Shamanic path really doesn’t take much time to give you noticeable results, one of the first things you might need to work on in your spiritual work is saying no.
This means putting up your boundaries and ring-fencing your time, for things that nurture you.
Self-worth is another one I know many people can relate to. That you are not worthy of carving out time for things that you enjoy. Work, children and husband/wife/ partner needs always seem to take priority over you. What can you do to readdress the balance?
Of course, some people are in situations where this is so much harder. There might be unsympathetic husbands or wives or young children in your family. You might be a single parent or a full-time carer for elderly parents. But the techniques I am about to share about the shamanic path can be squeeze in around even these. If you have time to watch the TV, if you have time to scroll down and look at your Facebook feed several times a day, you have time for the Shamanic path.
This isn’t a daily practice, and it is very forgiving if you ‘get it wrong’.
So, what does a shamanic spiritual practice look like? Here are five examples of activities that you might do:
- 1Seeking the message that an animal encounter has for you. For example, an animal visits your garden that you haven’t seen before, a robin comes right up to you on a walk, or a woodpecker flies alongside you as you drive down the road. When you get home, look into its natural history to understand its behaviours and draw the meaning for you
- 2You are drawn to a particular tree when you are out walking: an oak for instance. You take some time out to sit under it, noticing the environment it chooses to make its home in. You look into its characteristics and see the relevance as to why you are drawn to its particular energy. Oaks have a particular strength about them and are able to withstand storms. You draw on this in when you need to by keeping a small twig in your pocket.
- 3You notice the days are getting longer as we approach spring. You set some time aside around the the Celtic festival of Imbolc which marks the start of Spring between 31st January and 2nd February, working with the energies of emergence and what this means to you.
- 4It’s the full moon. You put an hour aside in the evening and take yourself off to a quiet space in your home, even if your bedroom is the only place you have. You go on a shamanic journey with the intention of meeting a spirit guide who can help you with a particular issue you are challenged by. You journal your experience and set the intention under the full moon to change your course of action.
- 5You are tired after a busy day, but instead of putting on the TV, you watch a nature video instead. You light some candles, snuggle up under a blanket and immerse yourself in beautiful nature images and notice how different you feel afterwards. It gives you an idea to go and visit a particular place, either locally or further away and schedule out some time in your diary to do this, for no reason other than to go on an adventure and connect with a beautiful landscape.
If you have time to watch tv, or engage with social media, your issue isn’t having enough time for a spiritual practice. There is something else at play, and it is good to name it: resistance.
The art of resistance
Stephen Pressfield speaks of resistance in his book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Here is what he says on the topic right at the outset of this book:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life. Between us stands resistance. Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, meditation practice?
Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty and disease. To yield to resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts up and makes us less than we are and were born to be.
The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit resistance.
Author | The War of Art
If this speaks to you, take comfort that you are not alone. Resistance stood in the way of some of the greatest minds of modern history. Author Adam Grant gives some fascinating examples of how some of the greatest achievers in the world were procrastinators, in his book Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World. If Martin Luther King Jr, Michelangelo and Nicolaus Copernicus had let their resistance win then the civil rights movement in America might not have happened in the way it did, the Sistine Chapel might not have its alfresco ceiling, and we might still believe the world is flat.
If you would like to read more about these people and their inner battles, I have written about them in my blog Procrastinating to Greatness. The link is at the bottom of this page.
After years of following the breadcrumbs, I now understand what it is within me that means I resist making time for those things that are really important, including eating healthily and taking daily exercise. For me, it is my work nemesis, brought on by an ancestral fear of lack. My spiritual work has enabled me to uncover this over the years. This awareness has helped me put in measures to heal the core wounding that lies underneath my need to overwork.
Stephen Pressfield writes later in his book about Socrates. He says this:
‘Socrates demonstrated long ago that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.’
The spiritual work is to develop self-mastery. It begins by overcoming the resistance to creating space and time for a spiritual practice.
Space and time
Over the coming months, I will write a series of blogs on creating space and time for a spiritual practice and include some activities for you to follow that are time efficient!
Here at The Way of the Buzzard, we focus primarily on two techniques: shamanic journeying and nature connection. Neither take very much time, but they do require overcoming resistance. The rewards in return, are huge. You are moving from your conscious into the unconscious and the spiritual realms. It is in this place that you will find the answers you seek and the courage to move forward towards your souls calling.
Let me give you an example to illustrate what I mean.
Last summer, I started to encounter kestrels when I was out and about, both when driving and walking. At first, I didn’t think too much of it, but as I saw more and more, I thought maybe there is something in this. Then one day a kestrel flew right alongside my van as I was driving down our lane and cut across directly in front of me. A few days later, as I was parked up on the edge of the moor writing in my van, a kestrel landed on the ground right in front of me, just meters away from where I sat.
Kestrels hunt by hovering in the air, motionless, looking for their prey. They have excellent eyesight and can even see infrared light. This is useful as one of their favourite and abundant foods is the vole. Unfortunately for voles, they have ultraviolet in their urine. So, Kestrels are able to locate a voles den. They hover above, and when the moment is right, they dive down vertically at great speed crashing into the ground. This is what happened right in front of me.
It is incredibly unusual to witness this at such close range. I know from studying kestrels ( we have created a write up of Kestrel energy in The Mystery School ) that the overarching message of this animal is ‘insight’.
So now, when I need insight into something, I go on a shamanic journey to Kestrel. It is one of my animal spirit guides. This morning I saw a kestrel four times outside my kitchen window. I have never seen it before hunting at the end of our garden.
So, I journeyed to ask for insights into what to include in this blog as I have been procrastinating! In the journey, Kestrel landed on the ground right in front of me and looked me in the eye. I heard the message: “go out in nature. Use nature to still your mind, just as Kestrel uses wind to still itself in the sky. Then focus. Focus your mind to pinpoint the message.’
There was my answer and sure enough, time writing out in nature gave me the focus and inspiration that I needed. The combination of nature connection and shamanic journeying took me less than 20 minutes to get my spiritual guidance.
Shamanism, as a spiritual practice is not time intensive. In summary, my three pieces of advice to share to round of this blog are:
- 1Lower your expectations as to what is necessary for a consistent spiritual practice.
- 2Reflect whether your challenge is less about finding space and time and more about resistance.
- 3Consider what it might be within you that is causing you to stand in your own way. This is the starting point for your line of enquiry through your spiritual practice.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the themes I have covered in this blog in the comments below, if you are drawn to sharing.
If you have enjoyed this blog, you might also find these two follow on blogs interesting:
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And finally, if you wanted to explore going deeper with us, check out The Mystery School as a time-efficient and affordable way to learn about Shamanism and nature connection. We would love to share this adventure with you.