For years now I have been flippantly referring to ‘reality therapy’, meaning the hard thumps we sometimes get from the universe. Lately I have had occasion to think about just what reality therapy really is. So far I have come up with three answers.
First, there is the kind of knock-you-on-the-head ‘therapy’ we receive when we get things wrong in the mundane world. We goof, and the universe swats us. Sometimes we mess up for quite a while before we get thumped hard enough for it to sink in that we have not quite got it right. This can happen on either the material, the emotional, or the mental levels—or in worst-case scenarios on all three.
This kind of rough and ready therapy, sometimes called karma, that the universe offers in the mundane world is very useful. It teaches us things, often things that we would be unwilling to learn without this direct and emphatic experience. However, there is another kind of reality therapy, equally educational, but often much more fun.
When you sit on the grass at the foot of a tree and gaze out at the light on the water, your spirit is soothed, and your psyche experiences a gentle healing—if you allow it to. When we are still, reflective, just breathing and being, insights surface and our inner wisdom can come into consciousness. It’s the old thing of when we push, push, push, nothing happens, but when we relax, things flow. When we open ourselves to that flow, to the movement of light and clarity within ourselves, we can experience change, even transformation, as a gentle, healing process instead of as a thump between the eyes. All that’s required is openness and stillness and willingness.
Sometimes life is difficult, and we fall into believing only in the ‘hard knocks’ way of being. This is unnecessary once we have learned that there is a more gentle, more peaceful, more pleasurable way. And there is a third, even more interesting way of being in the world.
We can choose to see life as a shamanic training process, where everything, every experience becomes a part of our reality therapy. In this, part of the therapy is to learn to be open to the idea that reality may be much bigger, more interesting, and more mysterious than most of the authority figures of the mundane world would have us believe. Often we may need to be reminded of this over and over.
Intentional Reality Therapy
Intentional reality therapy happens when we invoke the natural magic of life consciously.
We can sit at the foot of a tree, lean back against the trunk, and ask the tree to help us to earth and center ourselves. Trees are good at this, and they are usually quite willing to help us to get our energies sorted out. It makes us, they say, much nicer to have around. But we have to ask.
If we ask the breeze to help us to breathe better, to carry away and dissipate the energy of not-truth as we breathe in truth and breathe out not-truth, it will help us with this. The wind is good at these things, and we are more pleasant to have around when the energy of the air can flow through us instead of encountering all sorts of blocks and obstacles. But we have to ask.
If we put our feet in the stream and ask the spirit of the stream to wash away the overheated, overwrought energy in us, it will do so—unless we are holding on to it too tightly. If we just ask, and then focus on our own breathing, the spirit of the stream will help us. Streams are good at this, and they enjoy our presence more when our auras and minds have been washed clean. But we have to ask.
The list of possible helpers is endless. The universe and its children want to help us to be in the flow of the creative life force with them instead of at cross-purposes to it and them. All we need to do is first to ask for what we need, and then to be still and accept the help that is available to clear and cleanse ourselves. We tend to carry a lot of rubbish around in our bioenergy field—emotional, mental, and even physical rubbish. We get hooked on the idea that it has to be hard to get rid of it, life has to be hard, big problems require heavy-handed therapy for treatment. Sometimes this might be true.
Often it isn’t.
Often we only need to ask for help, and then allow the helper to aid us in releasing some old, stuck energy—energy that would like to flow if only we would stop stopping it. We humans have so many bad habits about holding on to things, especially things that seem to be a part of us and are really only a part of what we think about ourselves. Often, when we first ask something/someone in the natural world to help us to release a block and open ourselves to it, we are astonished to wind up feeling euphoric, excited, ecstatic.
This feeling is a natural state. All of that other garbage is just our "stuff"—it isn’t us, it’s just something we’re choosing to carry around. The real us is the ecstatic, living, breathing being.
This kind of reality therapy is much more fun than the hard knocks type. And really, the first type is just the universe trying to get our attention so that we will open up and voluntarily accept the assistance that is so readily available to us. But we have to ask for it.
Mind you, you need to be clear about just what you are asking for - gentle nudges or shamanic training. Shamanic training goes much deeper and is much more likely, at times, to be mistaken for hard knocks.
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This was first published in Otherworld Arts, 1995.
Revised and expanded 2005.