Healing from the betrayal from a spiritual adviser

Photo credit: Dollarphotoclub / aboikis

Photo credit: Dollarphotoclub / aboikis

In sharing my story, it is my wish that it may help another who has found themselves facing a long healing road, following the betrayal of a spiritual adviser. 

My story, in a nutshell, is this.  Past the 3 year mark into an extensive shamanic apprenticeship my shamanic teacher betrayed me.  It was the kind of betrayal that felt like in one fell swoop, had pulled the rug out from underneath me,  and launched me rather violently out of the nest of our student-teacher dynamic. The betrayal? A rash of unethical and unprofessional actions, some directed towrds me, that I simply did not see coming. 

My relationship with this teacher had many sides, and ultimately so did the betrayal. After witnessing a series of extreme professional and personal ethical violations on the part of my teacher, I found myself suddenly left without my teacher, who had been my primary spiritual adviser and healer. I was left holding a mix of very confusing feelings about my connection to shamanism. Complicated by my fierce desire to distance myself as much as possible from this teacher, which was a challenge, given the entanglements between her and the healing tools I had learned from her over the course of several years that I worked with daily, in my professional healing practice. 


Choosing to transform rather than blame

A betrayal from a spiritual teacher cuts deep.  The wounding touches our very spirit and our connection with source.   And in my case, the wounding was woven directly through my lively hood, throughout my blossoming shamanic healing practice as well.

Given how deep and painful a betrayal can be, it is easy and natural for our first reactions to be that of blame, anger and rooted judgment.  But I can attest, there is little healing there. For months, following the betrayal, I sat stewing and brewing at how terrible the experience had been, how terrible she was, how in the wrong she was. This anger, was helpful only in that it was lighting fires within me,  and my desire to transform, and evolve past this hurt. 

When I paired this growing fire within me, with my intent and desire to transform the experience - with every cell of my being, the healing started to unfold for me.  I wanted to turn everything I had learned from this teacher, inside out, and shake out all of the tainted tid-bits that were laced with the memories of the betrayal out of my healing basket of tools and years of training. I wanted to pull out the stitching that held together the learning I had received from her and make sure, none of the healing tools I work with in my healing practice would also hold the potential for the kind of ethical violations I witnessed from her as a teacher and healer. I wanted to wipe my slate clean, from her actions.


In trying, however, I learned we simply can not, no matter how hard we try, undo something we learned and experienced. We can only transform it. 


It is still easy to drop to despair and stew in blame and anger, but it takes a fierce courage to step forward and transform. In my ripping of stitching and shaking out all of the tools in my healing basket, I gave myself time and space to explore what I learned from the situation and my years of training and transform it piece by piece. What is now apparent to me, is that by delving into and under the the fires of my charged emotions, I was able to have a rare and humbling experience. I was able to see and experience firsthand, what does not work for me, my healing practice and what I do not want to pass along to my clients and students, that I would have never had, had I been still following my teacher. And for this I am grateful. 


The re-evaluating I was doing, day in and day out, in an effort to heal and move forward gave me the chance to really look at and explore what shamanism is, with fresh eyes, how I want to work with it and learn many ways I could weave integrity, ethical standards and loving boundaries into every ounce of my practice. And despite the cost to my pride and the loss of a teacher, peer and friend, my re-evaluating and learning that was sparked by this betrayal in hindsight, is worth it's weight in gold to me. 

I am not going to sugar coat it, transformation is not easy!

In this process of renewal, I had to dig, for every ounce of learning to transform it. I had to dig, under my own bitterness, feelings of loss, betrayal ad hurt. I had to dig into the back shelves of my closeted shadow sides, and heal, forgive and transform. 


My transformed healing practices 


With the direct help from my shamanic nature allies and power animals, after several years of working to transform the lessons from this experience and a complete shake out and metamorphosis of my shamanic healing tool kit, I feel my personal and professional is clean, clear, ethical and stronger than ever. 

Here are a few of the major changes in how I work with shamanism after this massive, multi- year remodel...


1.  A Emergence of Heart-Centered Embodiment Shamanic Practices

The basic idea behind western shamanic practices that I learned from my past teacher, is that to meet with one's spirit allies and power animals by means of separating themselves from their physical body to have an out-of-body journey.  Given that one of the key principals of shamanism is seeking wholeness, this seems down right nonsensical to me, as nonsensical as opening a physical paper-cut wider and deeper in an effort to heal it!  

In my transformation explorations, I have learned from my spirit allies that my physically is a vital component to and needs to be a part of my shamanic practices and journeys. I now, journey inward to my heart, meet with my spirit allies and navigate the shamanic realms of upper, lower and middle worlds from within my own being, and no longer need to leave my body to have spiritual experiences. This allows me to meet my allies as a whole being, an equal in collaboration. 


2. Collaboration as a Primary Principle for Healing

In exploring what needed to be transformed when in came to my healing tools, (including energy clearing, soul retrieval, energy extraction and shamanic divination), it became glaring apparent how many of the tools I had learned form my teacher utilized a power-over- others model and structure to create healing for others, rather than empowering them to be a part of their own healing.

Having had learned the deep wounding that this model of healing can create when things go south within a therapeutic relationship, it was imperative to me to strip all aspects of this kind of dynamic from my healing tool kit. My take away form this learning and exploring is what true collaboration is and means and what it takes on our part to collaborate with spirit allies, rather than passively flopping in front of them and asking for them to fill us up. As well as exploring what is needed to shift within me so I can truly collaborate with my clients to create healing rather than relying on the outdated models of power -over- others, that I simply have no interest in perpetuating.


3. What true boundaries are

I feel lucky to have had the experience of this betrayal as it forced the issue for me to explore and learn what real boundaries are and why we need them.

The boundaries I am talking about are not shields or walls, or layers of protection. But rather a deep- divine connection with our own presence. A connection that is rooted in our love and gratitude and serves us and those around us. 

Boundaries at their truest form, like the boundaries we can witness in nature, hold space for ownership of presence, with love and gratitude for our self and those around us, unconditionally. What this means is, no matter who we are with, what position of power they hold or how much we love them, we have an innate responsibility to our self and the relationship to remain connected with our own presence. And it is our connection with our own presence that allows for collaboration to occur and healing to unfold. 


4. Ethical standards, integrity & honoring my scope of practice are at the heart & the container that holds my practice

Ethics, integrity and a keen understanding of my scope of practice, and how to apply it had been with me and at the woven into the heart of my 20 year massage therapy career. In my years spent re-weaving my relationship with shamanism and shamanic healing practices, this was something that felt imperative to me to carry forward, not only to heal from what I experienced and witnessed as a lack of, but to create a container solid enough that I could learn from her mistakes and not carry them forward as an aspect of my take away from my apprenticeship. 

Shamanism, unlike massage therapy is not regulated by the state and there are no official written guidelines, outlining scope of practice, ethical standards and codes of integrity. I had to create my own, that were strong enough, left enough open spaciousness to hold the watery, ethic work of shamanism. In creating a new ethical standard and scope of practice guideline for myself, I again was giving my self the space to run through every offering and healing tool in my healing tool basket with a fine tooth comb, modifying and transforming as I moved forward. 


The layers of learning

Like all major experiences we each have, the layers of learning take time to unfold, sometimes years, or a life time! Personally, years later, I still feel I am within a healing process, as I am still uncovering bits and pieces of myself that are still bitter and holding onto anger. However, when I find them, I start digging for the learning, for the raw bits that hold possibilities for transformation. As it seems that it is in that choosing of what it is we want our take away from a challenging experience to be, and how we want to transform our self and life as a result of it that we are able to reclaim our power and spirit and create deep, powerful, rooted healing for our self and our life. 


About Joanna

Joanna, the author of Energetic Boundaries 101, is an energy-sensitive healer, writer, and teacher who brings a refreshing, playful spin to the world of  intuition shamanism and energetic boundaries.

She offers collaborative, playful private sessions and workshops to healers, teachers and sensitive adults and children all over the country.